Jose Pedraza is back in winning form…
The 31-year-old Puerto Rican boxer and former two-time world champion was in excellent form this week as he dominated Mikkel LesPierre, dropping his opponent twice in the 144-pound catchweight bout in the main event of a Top Rank card in Las Vegas.
The scorecards read 100-88, 99-89 and 99-89 in favor of Pedraza (27-3), who showed that he still has a chance to be a title contender.
“I had it all coming together for me,” Pedraza said. “In boxing you can’t have an off night. I was physically fit, I was mentally fit, spiritually fit. I put it all together this evening, I couldn’t afford not to. That’s the kind of performance you get from me when I’m 100 percent focused.”
There was some controversy in the fifth round as LesPierre sent Pedraza to the canvas with a straight left to the body. Later on in the round, Pedraza evened things up by scoring his own knockdown with a left hook-right hook combination.
But before the sixth round started, referee Kenny Bayless paused the action to check the replay in accordance with Nevada State Athletic Commission rules and decided that LesPierre had tangled his feet with Pedraza, and he overturned his original ruling.
But that moment was simply academic, because Pedraza was the dominant force throughout the fight. Boxing out of both the right-handed and southpaw stance, he darted in and out, throwing slashing punches that came from all directions. His upper-body movement made him an elusive target for LesPierre. To cap things off, Pedraza scored another knockdown in the 10th from a left hand and had LesPierre staggering. To LesPierre’s credit, he showed great heart and made it to the final bell.
LesPierre, who worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York throughout the coronavirus pandemic, fell to 22-2-1. The 35-year-old had his moments, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Pedraza’s speed and power. By the end of the night, he had a bloody nose and a cut near the corner of his right eye. LesPierre had challenged Maurice Hooker last year for the WBO’s 140-pound title.
Coming off his listless effort against Jose Zepeda last September, there were many questions about the future prospects of Pedraza. Prior to that defeat, the only boxers to beat him were Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko.
While his performance versus Zepeda left much to be desired, on this night he was quick, fast and decisive with his movements on both offense and defense. He’s now focused on another title bout in the 140-pound class, which has two unified champions in Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor.