Over 4 years in the past, Miguel Cotto stepped contained in the squared circle for the ultimate time, shedding a unanimous resolution to Sadam Ali at Madison Sq. Backyard.
For over a decade, Cotto was the premier boxer from Puerto Rico. Not simply on the field workplace but additionally within the ring as he put collectively a hall-of-fame profession, turning into the primary Puerto Rican to win titles in 4 weight courses. Cotto’s stoic and reticent persona took a while for followers to heat as much as, notably when following arguably the most well-liked fighter within the island’s historical past in Felix Trinidad. In lots of respects, Cotto was Larry Holmes to Trinidad’s Muhammad Ali.
Since leaving the game, Cotto’s absence has left a large hole within the boxing panorama of Puerto Rico. The lone exception is seven-division girls’s boxing champion, Amanda Serrano. She is rated as top-of-the-line on this planet pound-for-pound and has primarily been a world champion since 2011, shedding just one combat during the last ten-plus years.
This isn’t to say that there haven’t been any male world champions from Puerto Rico within the final 5 years. Fighters comparable to Alberto Machado, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Angel Acosta have all held titles since Cotto’s retirement with various success. Most lately, Wilfredo Mendez misplaced his WBO strawweight title to Masataka Taniguchi in December 2021, leaving Puerto Rico with only one male world champion in WBO junior flyweight titleholder Jonathan Gonzalez.
Having simply two world champions throughout girls’s and males’s boxing is alarming for an island with such a wealthy historical past in boxing with over 60 world champions and 11 fighters within the Worldwide Boxing Corridor of Fame. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico has had one fighter that has gone considerably underappreciated.
Whereas for a number of years, the highlight stayed on the now notorious Felix Verdejo, Cidra, Puerto Rico’s Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) has been the island’s most constant pugilist since Cotto’s retirement. Pedraza was a profitable novice fighter for the island, successful a gold medal on the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Video games, a gold medal on the 2008 2nd America’s Olympic Qualifier in Guatemala, a silver medal on the AIBA World Championships in Italy, and a bronze medal on the 2007 Pan American Video games from Brazil.
Pedraza has gained titles at junior light-weight and light-weight as an expert, garnering victories over fighters comparable to Tevin Farmer, Ray Beltran, and Andrey Klimov. The Puerto Rican stylist has misplaced thrice in his profession however to elite competitors. After coming off the longest layoff of his profession and promotional points with then promoter Premier Boxing Champions, Pedraza misplaced his IBF 130-pound title to Gervonta Davis in January 2017 in what many would nonetheless name Davis’ greatest efficiency.
After taking a break for the remainder of 2017, Pedraza made a profession change signing with promoter High Rank. Uncharacteristically for this period, he got here again to combat 4 occasions in 2018. That yr, Pedraza gained the WBO light-weight title towards Raymundo Beltran, scoring a knockdown within the eleventh spherical and placing the victory’s exclamation level.
He ended 2018 towards Vasiliy Lomachenko in a aggressive light-weight unification match, however finally Pedraza misplaced a unanimous resolution to the Ukrainian technician. After the bout with Lomachenko, Pedraza bounced again with a ninth-round stoppage over Mexico’s Antonio Lozada earlier than shifting as much as the junior welterweight division.
In his first combat at 140-pounds, Pedraza fought towards Jose Zepeda, shedding an in depth 10-round resolution. Rematches with Davis and Lomachenko are extremely unlikely for the Puerto Rican, however a rematch is believable with Zepeda. “I would love a rematch against Zepeda because when I moved up to 140, I had my first loss in this division to him,” said Pedraza. “It is something that could be made. I would like them to put us in title fights separately; we become champions, and then we fight to unify.”
Throughout the pandemic period, Pedraza has stayed energetic, preventing twice in 2020, scoring two dominant victories over Mikkel LesPierre and Javier Molina. In 2021, Pedraza continued his streak of domineering performances stopping then-undefeated New Jersey native Julian Rodriguez after eight rounds. Following these three wins, Pedraza will likely be going through one of many hardest assessments of his profession, heading to Save Mart Enviornment in Fresno, California, to tackle former unified junior welterweight champion Jose Ramirez.
The match was lately postponed from February fifth to March 4th resulting from Pedraza testing optimistic for COVID-19.
Ramirez, from Avenal, California, only one hour away from Fresno, is trying to rebound after shedding an undisputed championship battle towards Josh Taylor. The frequent opponent between Pedraza and Ramirez is Zepeda, whom the previous unified champion gained a majority resolution towards in 2019 in a combat that might have gone both manner. Whereas a victory over Ramirez gained’t win Pedraza a world title, it should put him in line for one more title alternative. Many critics will maintain him in greater esteem, as it will be essentially the most vital victory of his profession.
Within the historical past of Puerto Rican boxing, solely seven fighters have gained titles in three weight courses. The record of fighters consists of Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez, Hector Camacho, Wilfredo Vazquez, Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto and Amanda Serrano. This group of fighters consists of a few of the best to have ever come out of the island.
Pedraza has by no means been essentially the most loquacious fighter or one which scores highlight-reel knockouts, however his mixture of expertise, approach, and general sturdiness has gone under-appreciated. A victory over Ramirez will put him below a brand new highlight and power those that have doubted him to acknowledge that he is among the higher fighters to return out of the island within the final decade.
“I want all the big names at 140 pounds,” Pedraza stated to Boxingscene. “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.”