Jose Pedraza spoils Ray Beltran’s homecoming, takes WBO World Lightweight championship
By Nick Aguilera for Somos Sports
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Pedraza is your new WBO World Lightweight champion.
The Puerto Rican fighter defeated hometown hero Ray Beltran via unanimous decision in Saturday’s Top Rank Boxing main event at Gila River Arena. Pedraza found late life in the final rounds and knocked down Beltran with a minute left in the 11th round in what may have been the turning point of the fight.
“This fight was all about the focus and I maintained that focus and that was the key to victory tonight. We won every round, round by round, staying focused, staying with the game plan and that was the key to victory tonight,” Pedraza said through a translator in an interview with ESPN.
Pedraza started out strong after causing Beltran to bleed above his left eye in the second round, which continued to be an issue for him for the rest of the bout. While there was good action early, Pedraza looked lethargic in the middle rounds, allowing Beltran to get back in the fight.
Beltran, who was born in Mexico and lives and trains in Phoenix, was the favorite entering the match, both by Vegas and by fans. While the crowd was behind Beltran all night, he couldn’t capitalize and use it to his advantage.
“Pedraza fought a really good fight. I think it was a very close fight. I’m sorry [to the fans] that I failed today,” Beltran said in an interview with ESPN.
Beltran, who is now 37, won the WBO World Lightweight title in February in his fight against Paulus Moses. It was the first time in Beltran’s 19-year career that he had held the title. Now, his career is up in the air.
“I don’t know [about my future in boxing]. We’ll see,” he said.
Pedraza stormed late and pestered Beltran with a flurry of punches to end the final round in what looked to be a sure late knockout. Beltran held on and finished the fight, but it did not matter in the end. All three judges scored the fight heavily in Pedraza’s favor with two cards of 117-110 and one of 115-112.
Pedraza was not only the better fighter, but also the more effective fighter in the end. He landed 29 percent of his 556 punches thrown and 33 percent of his jabs. Beltran landed 27 percent and 13 percent respectively.
“We followed the game plan. I knew how tough Ray Beltran was going to be. That was no surprise. We planned it out in the corner and I didn’t deviate from that tonight,” Pedraza told ESPN.
Pedraza will defend his title against arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and fellow Top Rank boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko this winter. The unification fight will most likely headline Top Rank’s Dec. 1 event at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
“Now it’s all about unifying this belt. I accomplished my mission tonight. I’m a new champion and I want all the big names. I want all the big fights. I want to unify and beat Lomachenko, beat Mikey [Garcia]. I want all the big names,” Pedraza said.