Former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza has set his aim on another title. Pedraza, from Cidra, Puerto Rico, will take on the undefeated Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez in a 10-round junior welterweight tilt Saturday, June 12 at The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Pedraza-Rodriguez will serve as the co-feature to the WBO interim junior lightweight title bout between Shakur Stevenson and Jeremiah Nakathila. Both bouts will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (simulcast on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The undercard will showcase the return of undefeated Puerto Rican welterweight prodigy Xander Zayas (8-0, 6 KOs) in a six-round bout. Zayas is coming off a first-round knockout on April 24 in Kissimmee, Florida.
Promoted by Top Rank, tickets priced at $200, $100, $75 and $50 go on sale Friday, May 14 at 12 p.m. PT, and can be purchased by visiting Etix.com.
“This is a classic matchup featuring a former world champion in Pedraza against a young kid in Rodriguez, who is eager to prove he belongs at the world level,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “I am also excited to see Xander Zayas, who has grown so much as a young man and a fighter since Top Rank signed him as a 16-year-old.”
Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs) is 2-1 since moving up from lightweight, where he won the WBO world title over Ray Beltran before falling short in a unification matchup against Vasiliy Lomachenko. He had an inauspicious junior welterweight debut when he lost a one-sided decision to Jose “Chon” Zepeda, but he has since notched unanimous decisions over Mikkel LesPierre and Javier Molina. Ranked No. 6 by the WBO, Pedraza hopes a win over Rodriguez leads to another crack at world title glory.
“It has been almost a year without fighting. I can’t wait to get back in the ring, to bring home another win that will bring happiness to my people,” Pedraza said. “I like that this fight is against a hungry contender like Julian Rodriguez. I always like the idea of facing the best opponents because they bring the best out of me. I know that with a big win on June 12, I will get closer to a world title shot. That’s what we are fighting for.”
Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), from Bergen County, New Jersey, turned pro in 2013 following a storied amateur career that included a 2013 National Golden Gloves title and victories over the likes of former world champion Robert Easter Jr. He is 5-0 with four knockouts since returning from a nearly two-year layoff in July 2019, including a first-round knockout last August over the previously undefeated Anthony Laureano. Rodriguez has long called for a step-up bout, and if he beats Pedraza, he’ll immediately enter the ranks of the top 140-pound contenders.
Rodriguez said, “I know what I bring to the table. There’s not one thing in his arsenal that’s sharper than mine. He brings the experience, but he’s been broken a few times. This opportunity is a long time coming. I’m focused. It’s hard to look at my two children and not be determined to go in there and break that guy’s ribs.”