Jose Pedraza’s performance Saturday night moved him into position to land a higher-profile fight within the 140-pound division.
Bob Arum, Pedraza’s promoter, considers him a potential opponent for Teofimo Lopez’s fall fight, tentatively scheduled for October 2. If the heavily favored Lopez beats the IBF’s mandatory challenger, George Kambosos Jr., on Saturday night in Miami, the undefeated, unified lightweight champion might move up to the junior welterweight division for his following fight.
That’s exactly the type of opponent Pedraza wants to face after stopping previously unbeaten Julian Rodriguez in a co-feature ESPN televised from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
“I want all the big names at 140 pounds,” Pedraza said. “With this performance, I sent a message to those big names. ‘The Sniper’ is on the hunt. I want to make history for Puerto Rico.”
Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) has won world titles in the 130-pound and 135-pound divisions. The former IBF junior lightweight champion and ex-WBO lightweight champ still was listed as a 2-1 underdog against Rodriguez, a younger puncher who hadn’t fought anyone as experienced or skilled as Pedraza.
The 32-year-old Pedraza out-boxed Rodriguez and was ahead by the same margin, 77-75, on the cards of judges Tim Cheatham, Glenn Feldman and Patricia Morse Jarman through eight rounds. Rodriguez (21-1, 14 KOs), of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, didn’t come out of his corner for the ninth round because he suffered an injury around his left eye.
Rodriguez pulled away when his cut man, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, applied pressure to the swollen area beneath Rodriguez’s left eye following the eighth round. That’s when his father/trainer, Alex Devia, instructed referee Kenny Bayless to stop their scheduled 10-round bout.
The 26-year-old Rodriguez revealed later Saturday night on Twitter that he suffered fractures to his orbital bone.
“My experience was too much for him,” Pedraza said. “I was hungrier than him, and he was just another obstacle in my journey to become a three-division world champion. That is my goal.”
Pedraza has won three straight fights since junior welterweight contender Jose Zepeda (34-2, 26 KOs, 2 NC) beat him by unanimous decision in their 10-rounder in September 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. He is ranked sixth among the WBO’s contenders for one of undisputed champ Josh Taylor’s titles, but Pedraza isn’t rated in the top 15 by the IBF, WBA or WBC.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.