By Jake Donovan
Camps for Jose Pedraza and Stephen Smith were able to come to terms for a mandatory super featherweight title fight, thus avoiding such a bout going to a purse bid.
A hearing was scheduled to take place Tuesday morning at the International Boxing Federation (IBF) headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey. However, the session was called off after both sides came to an agreement for a bout tentatively scheduled to take place on March 26 at a location to be determined.
“The hearing was canceled after both parties informed the IBF that they reached an agreement,” IBF spokesperson Jeanette Salazar informed BoxingScene.com on Tuesday.
Pedraza will make the second defense of the title he claimed with a 12-round win over Andrey Klimov this past June in Birmingham, Alabama. His most recent appearance proved to be the toughest fight of his young career, as the unbeaten champ from Cidra, Puerto Rico eked out a split decision win over veteran Edner Cherry this past October in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Both title fights aired live on Showtime. It is not immediately yet known whether the network will secure rights for this bout. Showtime is part of CBS Corporation, with free-to-air CBS airing live coverage of the Elite Eight round of the 2016 NCAA College Basketball tournament on that evening.
There exists the possibility of the fight airing on a special Saturday afternoon telecast on any of the free-to-air network as part of a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) telecast. Pedraza is advised by PBC creator Al Haymon, who has a working relationship with Eddie Hearn, Smith’s promoter. The time slot would also maximize primetime viewership in Smith’s home base in the United Kingdom.
Smith (23-1, 13KOs) contends for his first major title, looking to become the second member of his fighting family to claim championship status. His younger brother Liam won a vacant super welterweight title with a 7th round knockout of John Thompson this past October, while older brother Paul came up short in a pair of title shots versus reigning super middleweight champ Arthur Abraham.
Earning his way to the title stage, Smith – who has won 11 straight - turned a one-sided 6th round knockout of Devis Boschiero this past May. The 30-year old from Liverpool scored four knockdowns in delivering a tour-de-force performance in their title eliminator.
Talks were ongoing between the respective camps for Pedraza and Smith for the past several weeks in looking to avoid a purse bid. At one point, a deal was believed to be reached, but based on the false perception of a planned Showtime-televised tripleheader in Puerto Rico that was rumored to include the third fight between Orlando Salido and Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez.
In efforts to get a firmer grip on his fighting future, Smith reached out to Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn, who assured his charge that the fight was not heading to Puerto Rico.
It now looks as if the fight is heading to either Manhattan or Brooklyn, which will carry the suggestion of Pedraza boasting the edge in a region boasting a heavy population of Puerto Ricans and Nuyoricans. The 26-year old – who represented Puerto Rico in the 2008 Beijing Olympics – has yet to establish a firm stateside base, although that could change pending the marketing strategy for this bout.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox