Jose Pedraza Ruins Ray Beltran’s Homecoming, Seizes World Title
This was not how Ray Beltran wanted the night to go. Not in the slightest.
It was his first title defense. He’d finally won a world title at 135 pounds after nearly 19 years as a professional boxer. He’d tried three times before and at last earned a title in the fourth.
He was fighting in the Phoenix area, his adoptive hometown after coming to the United States from Mexico, for the first time since 2005. More than 4,000 people showed up to support him, to celebrate with him, to hopefully watch him take a victory lap before moving on toward a unification bout with elite lightweight titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Beltran and his fans went home disappointed. His title reign ended barely six months after it began. There will be no Lomachenko fight.
Jose Pedraza made sure of all of that on Saturday night, boxing well while also occasionally battling in the trenches, scoring a late knockdown and coming out triumphant in a competitive fight, leaving Arizona with the unanimous decision.
Beltran is a no-nonsense pressure fighter with good power. Pedraza, just a few fights removed from a stoppage loss to Gervonta Davis, often sought not to get caught by Beltran’s shots. He utilized his jab, foot movement, upper body movement, and good boxing to try to minimize the danger. It helped that Beltran didn’t have anywhere near the hand speed that Davis does.
Pedraza landed a right hook that opened a gash near Beltran’s left eye in the second round. It was the sixth time in the last seven fights that Beltran had been cut. The wound didn’t seem to bother him, but it did embolden Pedraza. Beltran tried to seize control, wisely targeting the body of his mobile opponent, looking to slow Pedraza down.
Beltran began to close the distance more often. Pedraza spent the sixth round seemingly trying to beat Beltran at his own game, waging battle on the inside. While he had moments of success, the switch in strategy also allowed Beltran to have his best round of the night, landing 17 of 56 shots, according to CompuBox, with power punches accounting for all of those scoring blows.
Pedraza had a reputation for losing focus, which some felt was partly to blame for his loss to Davis. Before Round 7 against Beltran, Pedraza’s corner reminded him to use his legs more. He returned to the jab. He didn’t seem to have much snap on his shots, however.
Yet he was still winning rounds on the judges’ scorecards, even though he couldn’t have known that at the time. The fight seemed close. The action slowed down a bit. Beltran complained in his corner of pain in his left hand, an injury that had also bothered him in recent fights.
Beltran nevertheless kept coming forward — walking himself right into a picture-perfect counter left uppercut from Pedraza. Beltran went down, rose by the count of four and then capably dodged and blocked much of Pedraza’s onslaught.
But with the fight potentially hanging in the balance, it was Pedraza outworking Beltran in the 12th, punctuating the final moments in the final round with a good barrage on Beltran in the corner.
And when the scores were read, it was Pedraza whose hand was raised in the air. Two judges had him ahead 117-110, or nine rounds to three, with an extra point deducted from Beltran for the knockdown. The other judge had it 115-112, or seven rounds to five.
Pedraza is now 25-1 with 12 knockouts. This is his second world title. He’d dropped his junior lightweight belt to Davis a year and a half ago, took more than a year off, then came back at lightweight earlier this year, picking up two wins and regaining his confidence.
And then he got lucky.
He wasn’t originally supposed to face Beltran. When undefeated contender Roman Andreev had to have his appendix removed, Pedraza stepped in.
Luck could only take him so far, though. He earned this. And now he wants to capitalize on it. Pedraza called out the two other titleholders in the division: Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia.
Beltran is now 35-8-1 with 21 KOs. This is a tough loss for a 37-year-old fighter. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Beltran over the course of his long career, it’s that he’s not just going to give up because of another setback.
Isaac Dogboe Makes Quick Work of Hidenori Otake
Isaac Dogboe isn’t very tall — he’s somewhere between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-3, depending on what you’re reading — but what he lacks for in height is more than made up for with his hands.
He has power. Big power.
Dogboe kicked off this year by stopping contender Cesar Juarez. He came off the canvas four months ago to defeat Jessie Magdaleno by technical knockout, winning a world title at 122 pounds. And he defended that title with ease on Saturday, finishing Hidenori Otake in less than a round.
Dogboe was able to land from early on. Otake was too willing to engage. Dogboe struck with uppercuts and body shots. That brought Otake’s hands down, so when Dogboe led with a left hook that seemed set to go downstairs, it instead veered upward and found Otake’s chin unprotected.
Otake went down, but got up quickly. Dogboe continued to rock Otake, whose glove touched the canvas, leading the referee to call a second knockdown. Every punch afterward seemed to have Otake reeling. The referee rightly jumped in.
Dogboe, who’s nearing his 24th birthday, is now 20-0 with 14 KOs. He called out fellow titleholders Rey Vargas and Daniel Roman. Each has a height advantage over Dogboe, which could be useful if they decide to box at a distance and are able to succeed with that strategy. Dogboe still has those two equalizers in his hands, so long as he can land them.
Otake is now 31-3-3 with 14 KOs. This defeat ended a nine-fight win streak. He’d bounced back over the past few years after a 2014 loss to Scott Quigg. He’s 37. He doesn’t belong in there with the top junior featherweights. He may want to consider calling it a career.
Mikaela Mayer Blows Edina Kiss Away, Wants Title Fight
Mikaela Mayer says she’s ready to challenge for a world title. It’s hard to know whether that’s the case, given the opponents she’s been fighting. But what’s obvious is that she’s much better than everyone she’s beat — and it’s time for her to step up to another level.
Mayer needed just six minutes to beat Edina Kiss, coming out with a barrage of shots early, dropping Kiss with a right hand barely 15 seconds into the bout, continuing to come forward with combinations, and keeping the fight so hopelessly one-sided that Kiss’ corner called it off after the end of the third round.
Kiss is now 14-8 with 8 KOs. She’s lost three in a row, and five of her last six, all to recognizable names such as Shelly Vincent, Amanda Serrano, Cindy Serrano and Heather Hardy.
That puts Mayer in good company. But now Mayer, who moved to 7-0 with 4 KOs, wants other confirmation that she actually belongs in with top names — or that she is a top name herself.
Before Saturday, all of Mayer’s fights had seen her weigh in at less than 132 pounds, which was the division where she most recently competed as an amateur. This was her first bout below the pro junior lightweight limit of 130. The titleholders in that division are Ewa Brodnicka, Hyun Mi Choi, Maiva Hamadouche and Eva Wahlstrom.