ESPN results: Jose Pedraza outboxes Ray Beltran to claim WBO lightweight title
Jose “Sniper” Pedraza captured the WBO lightweight title from Ray Beltran on Saturday night, after receiving a deserved unanimous decision win (117-110 twice, 115-112) after 12 rounds. The fight was the main event of an ESPN card from Glendale, Arizona.
There was a good crowd of 4,502 at the Gila River Arena in support of Beltran, 37, who was looking to make the first defense of a world title that eluded him for most of his eventful career. A Mexican immigrant living in nearby Phoenix, Beltran had the fans in his back pocket but Pedraza’s graceful boxing put him in position to take what was there.
Pedraza, Caguas, Puerto Rico, boxed beautifully to maintain control of the fight, often switching to southpaw to give Beltran another dynamic to deal with. In the opening round, it was already apparent that Pedraza’s jab could keep Beltran at bay, often times snapping his head back, as he crept to the inside. In the second, Pedraza started mixing in power shots, sometimes leading with left and right hooks to the body and head. Pedraza’s lateral movement also gave Beltran another thing to deal with, besides his precise punching, and a right hand in the second forced a cut near Beltran’s left eye, which leaked the rest of the night.
Beltran, 35-8-1 (21), was out of rhythm to start and was missing badly until the fourth round, when he started focusing on the body. Pedraza answered back in the fifth by pumping his jab rate back up but began having lulls in his performance, at the fight’s midway point, giving Beltran time to find his feel for the fight. For much of the sixth, Pedraza leaned on Beltran on the inside, where the latter found opportunity to land several clean uppercuts. There was no room for Pedraza to throw the uppercut but he remained there, perhaps trying to tire his counterpart’s legs. With Pedraza abandoning the jab for long stretches, Beltran was starting to inch closer and create good offense in round seven, prompting very close rounds in which the crowd may’ve swung them fully in his favor. Pedraza went back to the jab in the ninth to stop any momentum Beltran had built, until the 11th round, in which the Puerto Rican punctuated his performance.
A left uppercut to the chin rocked Beltran to the canvas for the fight’s only knockdown and, once getting up, Beltran was walked down to the ropes for the remainder of the round. Pedraza, 29, proceeded to further his vindication in the final round, in which he boxed circles around Beltran and trapped him in a corner for the fight’s final moments. There, Beltran was badly hurt, as the final bell neared, and referee Tony Weeks even came close to stopping the bout.
“We did everything that we needed to do to win this fight. We followed the game plan perfectly,” Pedraza said. “I knew how tough this fight was going to be and, at moments, it got very difficult but thanks to the focus and the guidance from my corner, we were able to win round by round and get the win.”
Pedraza, 25-1 (12), who once held the IBF junior lightweight title, capped off the convincing win emphatically to earn a second chance at a title run. In the post-fight interview, Pedraza proclaimed his desire to unify the title and there were signs within the broadcast that showed its likely that he will do so with the WBA champion and fellow Top Rank stablemate, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
In the ESPN co-feature, Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe made a statement in his first defense of the WBO junior featherweight title, knocking down Hidenori Otaki twice before referee Chris Flores waved it off in the first round.
Dogboe, 20-0 (14), was too strong for the 37-year-old fringe contender from Japan, who met the Ghanaian in the center of the ring to start the fight. They stood toe-to-toe trading hooks but, once Dogboe mixed in some uppercuts Otake wasn’t seeing, he started taking control. Near the midway point of the round, a rapid left hook from Dogboe flattened Otake to the canvas.
Otake, 31-3-3 (14), got up on compromised legs but never really recovered, once Dogboe unleashed a hellbent attack. Dogboe knew he had him hurt and bit down on some ripping hooks that didn’t miss. Soon enough, a right hand caught Otake’s head for another knockdown, after his glove touched the mat. Flores looked closely, once the fight resumed, and, after a four-punch combination that peppered Otake backward, he rightfully stepped in to end the massacre, which was the first time the Japanese veteran had ever been stopped.
“This was a great performance. I’m glad I got to showcase my skills on ESPN,” Dogboe said afterward. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I have a lot of respect for Otake for standing up after getting dropped. When I hit him with that powerful hook and dropped him the first time, I felt the Holy Spirit.
“Now I want to face all the champs. Lets do this. I’m ready to unify all the titles.”
Filling out the TV card after the quick Dogboe win, Mikaela Mayer earned a TKO victory over Edina Kiss, in her ESPN debut, once her opponent had enough after three full rounds. The female junior lightweight contest was scheduled for six two-minute rounds.
Mayer, 7-0 (4), landed a perfect right hand in the first round to score a knockdown and everything went downhill for the over-matched 28-year-old Hungarian. Kiss, 14-8 (8), fought to survive, once feeling the shot from Mayer, and never offered much of a threat going forward. Mayer proved to be the better technical fighter overall and didn’t have a hard time landing her power right hand often, prompting Kiss to quit before the fourth round began.
The Top Rank undercard was streamed live on ESPN+, and offered a handful of well-matched fights that delivered in every way.
Highlighting the eight-fight non-televised portion of the show, Francisco “El Panchito” De Vaca earned a unanimous decision (78-73 twice, 79-72) victory over Jesus Serrano, after eight rounds of tremendous featherweight action.
De Vaca,19-0 (6), a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant now fighting out of nearby Phoenix, may’ve earned wide scores from the judges ringside but they didn’t nearly tell the story of the fight. The prospect was given a great effort from Serrano, 17-6-2 (12), a fellow Mexican from Nogales, who was willing to go toe-to-toe and game every step of the way. Between the first and final bell, the two willingly partook in violent exchanges that were laced with bad intentions. Both took each other’s flush shots and that helped sustain some great rallies of back-and-forth action that furthered the drama in every subsequent round.
Helping widen the gulf in scores was a faux knockdown in the fourth round, in which Serrano clearly slipped on the mat, popping right back up during the count from the referee and a round of boos, in what was seemingly the only pause in action. Both seemed to enjoy the fight they were in and, with plenty of truly close rounds, there was an urgency for them to one-up each other. There was no doubt De Vaca earned the victory, having out-landed Serrano, but both young Mexicans made it the fight of the night in Glendale.
“I’m happy with the win but I felt I could’ve done better,” admitted De Vaca. “I look forward to my next fight soon. Fighting in front of my hometown fans was really special. Serrano was a tough guy and we put on a great fight for the fans.”
Another well-matched fight took place in the junior welterweight division, in which Antonio Lozada Jr., 40-2-1 (34), and Hector Ambriz, 12-7-2 (6), fought to an eight-round split-draw (78-74, 73-79, 76-76), and opening the card was another good fight, in which junior middleweight Sagadat Rahkmankul, 3-0 (1), out-dueled a game Christian Aguirre, 7-3 (3), to earn a unanimous decision win (59-55 twice, 60-54).
Local junior featherweight prospect Carlos Castro, 21-0 (9), got good experience against veteran Diuhl Olguin, 13-11-3 (9), earning a unanimous decision victory (80-72, 77-75, 79-73), to remain unbeaten, and bantamweight Breenan Macias, 3-0 (2), an 18-year-old Arizonan, from Goodyear, handed in a second round, one-punch knockout of Philip Adyaka, 7-12 (4).
Rounding out the card, Brazilian junior lightweight standout and 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Robson Conceicao, 9-0 (5), remained unbeaten after outboxing and dropping Edgar Cantu, 7-5-2 (1), once, over the course of eight rounds to earn an easy unanimous decision (80-71 on all three official scorecards). Light heavyweight hopeful Trevor McCumby, 24-0 (19), made his return to the ring, looking explosive and forcing a third round stoppage of Jessie Nicklow, 27-9-3 (9), after a 21-month absence, that included an 18-month suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.