Former junior lightweight world titlist Jose Pedraza returned to the ring for the third time in a year and defeated Javier Molina in a 10-round junior welterweight battle, then staked his claim for a junior welterweight title shot in 20201.
Pedraza put forth a strong showing in mastering Molina in the fight, which headlined a Top Rank card at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Saturday. Pedraza switched between orthodox and southpaw stances throughout the fight, and he was able to consistently beat Molina to the punch all night. By the time the fight went to the judges, it was simply a matter of how wide the gap would be; the scores were 99-91, 98-92 and 98-92
Pedraza, 31, was soundly defeated by Jose Zepeda in Sept. 2019, and at that moment, it looked like his best days in the ring had come and gone. But since that fight, Pedraza has notched lopsided victories over Mikkel LesPierre and now Molina, who had come into this contest riding a five-fight winning streak.
The early rounds were close, but as Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs) started to box left-handed and utilize quick in-and-out movements, he started to pull away from Molina (22-3, 9 KOs), who could never quite get a bead on Pedraza.
Pedraza mixed up his punches in rapid fashion to both the body and the head and capped the night by stunning Molina with a short left hand that visibly hurt him. While Pedraza tried to score an emphatic, late-round stoppage, Molina held on and heard the final bell.
Pedraza was sharp offensively and elusive on the defensive side. He landed 164 total punches out of 519, while Molina landed only 49 out of 338.
“They do name me the ‘Sniper,’ and that means I have to be patient, and when my moment comes, I have to take advantage of it,” Pedraza said after the win. “That’s what I did tonight because I was able to wear him down, break him down and make him fight my fight. It was the experience that I’ve had at the top level that helped me finally put it together. I’ve had the experience. I’ve had the talent, and it’s just on a night like this that I’m happy I could put it all together.”
Currently, the junior welterweight division is dominated by two unified titleholders in Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor, who seemed destined to collide in a full unification bout early next year. Pedraza could be in line to fight for the titles soon after that.
“I do believe I’m ready for a world title opportunity,” added Pedraza. “Whoever [wins] between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez, I want the winner of that fight. If for some reason I can’t get a world title shot against them, I do want to respectfully ask Jose Zepeda for the rematch.”
With his performance against Molina, Pedraza showed that winning a title in a third division isn’t out of the question.
Ajagba stays unbeaten with decision win
Heavyweight power-puncher Efe Ajagba defeated Jonathan Rice by unanimous decision in a slow-paced, dreary affair that dragged on for all 10 rounds. There really wasn’t much action in this fight, and at the end, all three judges had the fight for Ajagba by scores of 98-92, 99-91 and 99-91.
Ajagba, who was working with trainer Kay Koroma for the first time and made his Top Rank debut on Saturday, showed his vaunted power, and much of the fight looked like a sparring session. While Rice showed that he was durable, he never presented a serious threat to Ajagba.
Ajagba landed 131 total punches out of 406 thrown, while Rice landed a paltry 39 out of 269.
Ramirez extends winning streak
Robeisy Ramirez notched his fifth consecutive victory as he scored a convincing, eight-round decision over Felix Caraballo. At the end of the fight, the two-time Olympic gold medalist won by scores of 79-73 and two cards that read 80-72.
Under the guidance of trainer Ismael Salas, Ramirez (5-1, 3 KOs) has developed his professional style, and after a disastrous debut, he’s looking more and more comfortable inside the ring.
Caraballo (13-3-2, 9 KOs), who was knocked out by former WBO featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson in six rounds on June 9, marched forward for much of the fight and backed up Ramirez up along the ropes. But while Caraballo was the one initiating the action, Ramirez landed the cleaner, crisper punches. Whether Ramirez was landing rapid-fire combinations or accurate uppercuts down the middle, he was in control.
In the late rounds, Ramirez began to stun Caraballo with his sharp punches, but he unable to finish him. Ramirez landed 161 of 317 total punches, outpacing Caraballo, who landed just 68 punches out of 266.
Ruiz defeats late replacement Solis
Leo Ruiz was extended the six-round distance by the tough Rodrigo Solis, but he did more than enough to win a clear unanimous decision by the scores of 59-53 (twice) and 58-54.
Despite his record, Solis (4-5-1, 2 KOs) wasn’t afraid to mix it up with Ruiz, who throughout the night made an effort to go the body. But as the fight went on, Ruiz started to break down Solis with his own body attack and left hooks to the head.
Ruiz was penalized a point for low blows in the fifth round, but that point was balanced out when Solis was docked a point for spitting out his mouthpiece after absorbing a hard left hook. While Solis was getting hurt in the late rounds, he survived to hear the final bell.
Montano dominates Adams
Christian Montano remained undefeated as he outpointed Ryan Adams over six rather uneventful rounds. Two judges had Montano (10-0, 7 KOs) pitching a shutout by the score of 60-54, while the third had it 58-56.
There wasn’t much back-and-forth action between the two, but most of the rounds were relatively close. Montano landed the lion’s share of the hard punches, and while Adams (7-3-1, 6 KOs) was competitive, his attack was relatively ineffective.
Lua scores KO of the year candidate
After a 14-month layoff from the ring, lightweight Bryan Lua made an emphatic return by scoring an eye-opening, one-punch knockout of Luis Norambuena. It was a picture-perfect left hook, which struck Norambuena on the chin and had him out at 2:27 of the second round.
Lua (6-0, 3 KOs), who is part of a deep stable of fighters under the guidance of trainer Robert Garcia, was actually on his heels in the early minutes of the fight, as Norambuena stepped toward Lua and played the role of aggressor. But soon, Lua’s precise punching neutralized Norambuena.
Once Lua landed the finishing blow there was no need for the count, and the referee stopped the fight immediately.
Tucker stops Anderson in Round 1
Making his pro debut, Jahi Tucker scored a first-round stoppage of Deandre Anderson. Anderson came out of the gate fast in the opening moments of the bout, but was then overwhelmed by the long, lashing punches of Tucker. The tide turned quickly, and as Anderson was getting swarmed with punches, referee Robert Hoyle stopped the bout at 2:56.
Anderson (1-1), a short southpaw, started the fight throwing a lot of punches at Tucker, who is still growing into his body at 17 years of age. While Tucker’s technique is still a bit unrefined, he was quickly able to find a home for his straight right hand and left hook.
By the middle of the first round, Anderson’s nose was bloodied, and he quickly became more hesitant to rush in and trade with Tucker. Finally, a flurry of shots from Tucker later in the first ended the night for Anderson.
Goldston wins decision in professional debut
Junior welterweight Kasir Goldston scored a four-round decision over Isaiah Varnell in his first fight as a professional, winning by the scores of 40-36, 39-37 and 39-37.
Goldston, 17, boxed well from his southpaw stance, keeping Varnell (3-3, 2 KOs) at bay with his skills and elusiveness. There weren’t any long exchanges between the two, as the bout was fought at a measured pace, but Goldston (1-0) was effective with his punches and did enough to pick up his first pro victory.