by Cliff Rold
Late summer can be a hit and miss time for boxing. It’s the time before the fall typically heats up. 2018 is no different with scraps like Garcia-Porter and Alvarez-Golovkin II right around the corner.
It doesn’t mean August can’t have its intrigues.
Saturday’s lightweight title clash (ESPN, 10:30 PM EST) is a sort of crossroads fight. Challenger Jose Pedraza had a reign at 130 lbs. marked by inactivity, a controversial decision win over Edner Cherry, and a decisive defeat to Gervonta Davis. At 29, he needs a win here to prove he can truly be a force in the titled ranks.
For Raymundo Beltran, a long road to a belt came with the clock ticking when he arrived. At 37, any loss could be a big setback. Every win keeps the better checks coming.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBO lightweight (2018-Present, 1stAttempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 134 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
Record: 35-7-1, 21 KO, 2 KOBY
Press Rankings: #3 (Ring), #4 (TBRB, ESPN), #5 (BoxRec), #7 (Boxing Monthly)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-2, 1 No Contest
Last Five Opponents: 155-16-2 (.902)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Ricky Burns D12; Terence Crawford L12; Takahiro Ao ND2
Title: IBF super featherweight (2015-17, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 134 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 24-1, 12 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #9 (ESPN), #10 (Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-1, 1 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 119-20-2 (.845)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Tevin Farmer TKO8; Gervonta Davis TKO by 7
The Case for Beltran: Beltran, even with a failed PED test that turned a title win over Ao in 2015 into a No Decision, has remained someone a lot of fans can get behind. He’s a grinder who stays in front of opponents, takes lots of leather, and digs hard to the body and head. Beltran has subtle head movement that can make him hard to catch consistently in exchanges, the sort of inside defense that can allow a fighter to keep going as they get older. He appears to be the stronger man, both in terms of strength and punching power. If he can keep the fight at closer quarters, his heavier hands will catch the judge’s eyes and could wear on a Pedraza who was a division below him not long ago.
The Case for Pedraza: Pedraza is a little taller, a little longer, and quite a bit younger. He’s also a little more diverse offensively. Pedraza is willing to battle inside but he can also work off the back foot and counter. With Beltran really only comfortable coming forward, Pedraza can win if he keeps Beltran at the end of his jab and counters the wide assaults of the reigning titlist. Can he keep Beltran off of him? He’s going to have chances to land some nice looking combinations and could get off to a good start. If he has a lead after six, he could have the tactical advantage of playing for just enough rounds to win.
The Pick: Both fighters are good, solid pros but neither stands out as someone division leaders Mikey Garcia and Vasyl Lomachenko have a lot to worry about. That doesn’t mean one of them, particularly Lomachenko, couldn’t be in their future. Top Rank is promoting this one and works with the Ukrainian star. This could be a quasi-eliminator for a unification fight down the road. Based on recent form, Beltran looks more likely to get there. Pedraza looks more technically sound but he’s not a huge puncher and Beltran’s edge in physicality will matter in a fight that could go deep. The pick is Beltran on points.
Additional Pick: Isaac Dogboe TKO Hidenori Otake
Rold Picks 2018: 26-10
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com