The WBC super lightweight elimination match ordered last week will happen a lot sooner than anyone anticipated.
BoxingScene.com confirmed Thursday that Spain’s Sandor Martin has agreed to replace an ill Jose Pedraza as Teofimo Lopez’s opponent December 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Martin was the other opponent Lopez and his handlers at Top Rank Inc. considered before they picked Pedraza for this next bout, but Martin happily replaced Pedraza on barely three weeks’ notice.
Puerto Rico’s Pedraza contracted an illness not related to COVID-19 during training camp and was forced to withdraw from a 10-round main event ESPN will televise. Pedraza is expected to return to the ring at some point within the first few months of 2023.
ESPN.com’s Mike Coppinger first reported Thursday that Martin replaced Pedraza as Lopez’s opponent.
Las Vegas’ Lopez criticized Martin, who upset four-division champion Mikey Garcia 13 months ago, for pricing himself out of their fight during an interview with BoxingScene.com on Wednesday. Now the 140-pound contenders will get the opportunity to settle their differences in an eliminator that could advance the winner toward a shot at whoever emerges victorious when number one-ranked Jose Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs, 2 NC) and second-rated Regis Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs) fight for the unclaimed WBC super lightweight championship November 26 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
The Lopez-Martin winner wouldn’t be obligated to fight for the WBC belt, but the elimination match the WBC ordered eight days ago at its annual convention in Acapulco, Mexico will give the fourth-ranked Lopez or the fifth-rated Martin some leverage.
Martin (40-2, 13 KOs) has boxed just once since he stunningly defeated Garcia by majority decision in their 10-rounder in October 2021 at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California. The 29-year-old Martin beat Mexican veteran Jose Felix (39-6-1, 30 KOs) by unanimous decision in that 10-round bout, which took place April 1 in Barcelona.
Though Pedraza is a two-division champion who has fought a higher level of opposition overall than Martin, he is 0-1-1 in his last two fights. Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) settled for a 10-round split draw with fellow former lightweight champ Richard Commey (30-4-1, 27 KOs) in his most recent action, a 10-rounder August 27 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 25-year-old Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs), a former IBF/WBA/WBO lightweight champion, knocked out Ghana’s Commey in the second round of their December 2019 bout at Madison Square Garden.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.