Junior featherweight Elijah Pierce, who bounced back from a knockdown to knockout Arthur Villanueva in his last fight, is targeting the top contenders in his division, including unified titleholder Murodjon Akhmadaliev.

Pierce, 27, will headline OTX8, presented by OTX Boxing, in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday (June 28), facing Jose Sanmartin, 31, of Colombia, in a 10-round main event.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it a tough fight, just a test of adversity,” Pierce said, of having overcome Villanueva. “God has guided me throughout my career, helping me evolve piece by piece. The last fight was a learning experience about not being overconfident. While I’m making progress toward my goal of becoming a world champion, the work isn’t over.”

Hailing from Oklahoma City and spending time in Atlanta, not boxing hotbeds, Pierce faced a gradual ascent, underscoring the significance of his achievements despite persistent doubts.

“Where I’m from isn’t a boxing state, it’s football,” Pierce said. “Cutting to 122 pounds was challenging, but settling in there was comfortable. Despite two losses, I’ve won 10 straight fights. People once overlooked me, calling me trash, but now I’m becoming who I’m meant to be.”

Sanmartin, 35-8-1 (21 KOs), recently lost a close split decision to Shabaz Masoud, ranked No. 3 by the WBA but Pierce has his sights set on a future showdown with Akhmadaliev, the WBA’s top-ranked fighter.

“That’s who I’m targeting next,” Pierce said. “After this fight, I should move to No. 2 in the WBA. He’s No. 1. Let’s set up an eliminator.”

Discussing a potential bout with Akhmadaliev, Pierce exudes confidence in his abilities and looks forward to showcasing his full potential.

“I think I’ll stop him late,” Pierce said. “MJ is skilled, but boxing is a mental game. People haven’t seen all I can do. It’s time to unveil different sectors of my skill set and earn the recognition I deserve.”