Jose Pedraza knocked off a younger, undefeated fighter Saturday night to remain in contention for a junior welterweight title shot.
Puerto Rico’s Pedraza out-boxed Julian Rodriguez and won their scheduled 10-rounder by technical knockout when Rodriguez declined to leave his corner for the start of the ninth round. The experienced Puerto Rican veteran defended himself well, effectively used his jab to keep the powerful Rodriguez out of punching range and caused severe swelling under Rodriguez’s left eye.
Rodriguez winced when his cut man, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, applied pressure on the swollen area after the eighth round. He also told his father/trainer, Alex Devia, that he couldn’t see out of his left eye.
Devia then instructed referee Kenny Bayless to stop a bout ESPN televised from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
“My experience was too much for him,” Pedraza said. “I was hungrier than him, and he was just another obstacle in my journey to become a three-division world champion. That is my goal.”
The 32-year-old Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs), a former IBF junior lightweight and WBO lightweight champion, has won three straight fights since Jose Zepeda defeated him by unanimous decision in their 10-round in September 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Fighting Pedraza represented a steep step up in competition for Rodriguez (21-1, 14 KOs), whose career was stalled until two years ago by a nagging injury to his left shoulder. The 26-year-old Rodriguez, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, still hasn’t boxed beyond the eighth round of a professional fight.
“As the fight went on,” Pedraza said, “I could see him weakening, and I took advantage.”
Pedraza was ahead of Rodriguez by the same score, 77-75, on the cards of judges Glenn Feldman, Patricia Morse Jarman and Tim Cheatham when their fight was stopped.
A tiring Rodriguez, with swelling around both eyes, tried to hold Pedraza at times in the eighth round. Rodriguez landed to Pedraza’s body with just under a minute to go in the eighth round and followed up with a left hook up top.
Pedraza made Rodriguez miss wildly with power shots early in the seventh round, when he tried to pressure Pedraza. Rodriguez’s right hand knocked Pedraza off balance with about 20 seconds to go in the seventh round.
A left hand by Pedraza caught Rodriguez with just over 1:40 remaining in the sixth round. Pedraza boxed a lot of the sixth round from a southpaw stance.
Rodriguez’s right hand landed with about 40 seconds to go in the sixth round. By the end of the sixth round, Rodriguez had an abrasion beneath his left eye.
Pedraza snapped back Rodriguez’s head with a short right hand barely 50 seconds into the fifth round. Rodriguez landed a left hook with just over a minute to go in the fifth round.
A left-right-right combination by Rodriguez knocked Pedraza off balance with about 45 seconds on the clock in the fifth round.
Pedraza continued to move and box well at the start of the fourth round. A jab by Rodriguez landed barely a minute into the fourth round.
Another hard jab by Rodriguez knocked Pedraza backward at the midway mark of the fourth round. Pedraza’s jab worked well for him later in the fourth.
Pedraza landed a right hand a little less than 30 seconds into the third round. Pedraza’s left hook landed with just over two minutes to go in the third round.
Pedraza landed a right to Rodriguez’s body in the final minute of the third round. Rodriguez’s right up top connected several seconds later.
Rodriguez’s right to the body backed Pedraza into the ropes 1:20 into the second round. Pedraza caught Rodriguez with a right hand in an exchange with about 50 seconds remaining in that second round.
Rodriguez snuck in a right hand just before the bell sounded to end the second round.
Rodriguez was the aggressor as soon as their fight started, though he had difficulty landing clean shots because Pedraza defended himself well in the first round. Rodriguez landed a right hand to the side of Pedraza’s head with just under a minute to go in the opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.