Jose Ramirez remains one of the top 140-pound boxers in the sport.
The former WBC and WBO champion, admittedly shaken by his first professional defeat to Josh Taylor nine months ago, adjusted to Jose Pedraza’s skill and intelligence during the second half of their 12-round fight Friday night and won a unanimous decision in Fresno, California. When the final bell sounded, the 29-year-old Ramirez won by the same score on all three cards, 116-112, in the main event of a nine-bout card at Fresno State University’s Save Mart Center.
Judges David Sutherland, Steve Weisfeld and Zachary Young scored eight rounds apiece for the hometown hero. Ramirez (27-1, 17 KOs) entered the ring as almost a 6-1 favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook, and proved the oddsmakers correct.
“Jose Pedraza is a smart, experienced fighter,” Ramirez said. “He was going to find a way to survive and put up a fight. He was there boxing towards the end of the fight. My hat’s off to him and his team. He was well prepared. It was a great fight. I got to see where I am right now.”
Puerto Rico’s Pedraza (29-4, 13 KOs) boxed well at times, particularly from a southpaw stance. The former IBF junior lightweight and ex-WBO lightweight champion still lost for the first time in four fights since the 32-year-old contender dropped a 10-round unanimous decision to Jose Zepeda in September 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ramirez made good on his promise to return to his winning ways before an adoring hometown crowd. The 2012 U.S. Olympian grew up in Avenal, California, just outside of Fresno.
“I was a little tense coming into this fight because of my last fight,” Ramirez said. “Fighting at home, last minute, I got a little more tense than I thought I was going to be. I went out there and just boxed, had fun in there. I played it smart, used my jab, and I think I won more than eight rounds.”
Ramirez fought for the first time since he was knocked down twice, once apiece in the sixth and seventh rounds, and lost a 12-round unanimous decision to Taylor last May 22 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The two knockdowns were the difference on the scorecards of all three judges, as Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld all scored the Scottish southpaw a 114-112 winner.
Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs) became boxing’s fifth fully unified champion in any division during the four-belt era.
On Friday night, Ramirez closed his show strong by connecting with three hard right hands during the middle minute of the 12th round. Pedraza landed a straight left 40 seconds into the 12th round, but Ramirez made him wary of his power.
Ramirez landed four right hands in the final 15 seconds of the 11th round. Earlier in the 11th, Pedraza drilled Ramirez with a straight left with 1:06 remaining.
With swelling underneath his right eye becoming problematic, Pedraza took a cautious approach to the 10th round. Ramirez, meanwhile, kept pressuring Pedraza
Ramirez landed a left hook with just under 1:40 to go in the ninth round. Pedraza landed a straight left with just over a minute remaining in the ninth round.
A straight right by Ramirez connected with just over 20 seconds left in the ninth round.
Pedraza connected with multiple left hands in the opening minute of the eighth round. With just over 30 seconds remaining in the eighth round, Pedraza drilled Ramirez with a left hand.
Referee Jack Reiss warned Ramirez for hitting Pedraza after landing a body shot after the bell sounded to end the eighth round.
Barely 10 seconds into the seventh round, Pedraza drilled Ramirez with a left hand that snapped back Ramirez’s head. Pedraza landed another straight left with just under 1:45 on the clock in what was a strong seventh round for him.
Pedraza’s right hook connected with just under 50 seconds to go in the seventh round.
Pedraza’s jab was effective during the sixth round. He also kept Ramirez at a safe distance for most of those three minutes and occasionally landed left hands.
Ramirez’s right hand landed with just over a minute to go in the fifth round. Pedraza’s overhand left landed just before the bell sounded to end the fifth round.
Pedraza stopped Ramirez’s momentum with a stiff jab just before the midway mark of the fourth round.
Ramirez’s right hand caught Pedraza with 20 seconds to go in the fourth round. He landed two more solid right hands before the fourth round ended, the first of which knocked Pedraza off balance.
Pedraza landed multiple straight left hands with just under two minutes on the clock in the third round. Ramirez again had difficulty landing flush punches on the agile Pedraza during the third round, when Pedraza continually turned him.
Ramirez’s left hand snapped back Pedraza’s head about 15 seconds into the second round. Pedraza boxed from a southpaw stance for most of the second round, in which he defended himself well and landed occasional shots as he stayed on his toes.
Pedraza landed a stiff jab with just over 1:20 to go in the first round. Ramirez’s right hand connected with a little more than 50 seconds on the clock in the opening round.
Ramirez was the aggressor and was busier during the first three minutes of their fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.