Teofimo Lopez to battle Sandor Martin on December 10

Junior welterweight contender Teofimo Lopez will have a new “Heisman Night” foe. Jose “Sniper” Pedraza contracted a non-COVID-related illness, and Lopez will now face former European champion Sandor Martin on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Madison Square Garden.

Lopez-Martin, scheduled for 10 rounds, is a final eliminator for the WBC world title.

Brooklyn native Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs), the former lightweight king, made his junior welterweight debut in August with a seventh-round stoppage over Pedro Campa. He hopes to become a two-weight world champion in 2023, but the WBO No. 1 junior welterweight contender must first defeat the slippery Spanish southpaw. Martin (40-2, 13 KOs), who hails from Barcelona, authored the 2021 Upset of the Year when he stunned Mikey Garcia by majority decision and sent the four-weight world champion into retirement. Martin, ranked in the top 15 by all four major sanctioning organizations, followed up the Garcia triumph with a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Felix in April.

“We wish Jose Pedraza a speedy recovery, but we look forward to facing Sandor Martin. He was the opponent we originally wanted for Heisman Night at Madison Square Garden,” Lopez said. “I will continue to silence the doubters as I take over the 140-pound division. I look forward to giving my hometown fans a special night of boxing.”

Martin said, “I’ve dreamed of fighting in a main event at Madison Square Garden. This is my time. I’ve taken the risk, and I will take control against Teofimo Lopez on December 10th. I will give the fans what they want to see.”

Lopez-Martin tops a televised quadruple-header airing immediately after the Heisman Trophy Ceremony at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+. Heavyweight sensation Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson aims for his 13th straight knockout against the battle-tested Jerry “Slugger” Forrest, Puerto Rican junior middleweight star Xander Zayas steps up in class against 28-fight veteran Alexis Salazar, and 2020 Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis looks to jumpstart his world title ambitions in a lightweight duel versus Juan Carlos Burgos.

Top Rank announces complete undercard for Lopez-Pedraza

Rising junior welterweight Tiger Johnson, who starred for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, intends on capping his 2022 campaign with a standout performance at The World’s Most Famous Arena.

Johnson steps up in his first scheduled eight-rounder against Mike O’Han Jr. on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Madison Square Garden. Johnson-O’Han joins a loaded fight card headlined by the junior welterweight main event between former lightweight king Teofimo Lopez and former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza.

Johnson (6-0, 4 KOs), from Cleveland, Ohio, has established himself as one of the sport’s top prospects since turning pro last November. A quarterfinalist in Tokyo, Johnson is 5-0 in 2022, a year that began with a four-round decision over Xavier Madrid in January. In August, he became the first fighter to stop Massachusetts native Harry Gigliotti. Johnson returned on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jamaine Ortiz card last month and shut out Esteban Garcia over six rounds. He moves up to the eight-round plateau against O’Han (16-1, 9 KOs), a native of Holbrook, Massachusetts, who has won seven straight bouts.

Johnson said, “Madison Square Garden is the biggest stage in boxing, and I plan on making a huge statement against a tough opponent in Mike O’Han. I am ready to put the 140-pound weight class on notice. I’m going to close out 2022 strong and start climbing the rankings in 2023.”

Lopez-Pedraza tops a televised quadruple-header airing immediately after the Heisman Trophy Ceremony at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+. Heavyweight sensation Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson aims for his 13th straight knockout against the battle-tested Jerry “Slugger” Forrest, Puerto Rican junior middleweight star Xander Zayas steps up in class against 28-fight veteran Alexis Salazar, and 2020 Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis looks to jumpstart his world title ambitions in a lightweight duel versus Juan Carlos Burgos.

Johnson-O’Han and additional undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. In other undercard action, “Irish” Joe Ward (7-1, 4 KOs) will battle Frederic Julan (12-1, 10 KOs) in a six-round light heavyweight tilt, undefeated Polish heavyweight Damian Knyba (8-0, 5 KOs) steps up against Emilio Salas (7-3-1, 3 KOs) in a six-rounder, Brooklyn-born featherweight sensation Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (5-0, 3 KOs) takes on Juan Tapia (12-4, 4 KOs) in an eight-rounder, and Long Island-born welterweight Jahi Tucker (9-0, 5 KOs) aims for win number 10 against Ivan Pandzic (14-2-1, 8 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

Lopez-Pedraza set for December 10 at MSG

Former lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez makes his second appearance at junior welterweight in the 10-round main event against former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza on Saturday, December 10 at Madison Square Garden.

In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson aims for his 13th straight knockout against the battle-tested Jerry “Slugger” Forrest.

Puerto Rican junior middleweight star Xander Zayas steps up in class against 28-fight veteran Alexis Salazar in a scheduled eight-rounder special feature. And, in the televised opener, Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis looks to jumpstart his world title ambitions in an eight-round lightweight duel versus Juan Carlos Burgos.

Lopez-Pedraza, Anderson-Forrest, Zayas-Salazar, and Davis-Burgos will be broadcast LIVE on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT immediately following the Heisman Trophy Ceremony.

“Four of boxing’s mega talents, headlined by the great Teofimo Lopez, will be in action December 10 at the iconic Madison Square Garden. This will be a special evening,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Lopez is targeting a junior welterweight title shot in 2023, and Jose Pedraza is a Puerto Rican warrior hungry for another world title opportunity. With Jared Anderson, Xander Zayas, and Keyshawn Davis, this card features three additional fighters who will one day be headlining superstars.”

Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs) toppled pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko in October 2020 to become the lightweight champion. Thirteen months later, he lost his titles via split decision to George Kambosos Jr. He returned August 13 as a junior welterweight and stopped Pedro Campa in the seventh round. Lopez is no stranger to “Heisman Night,” as he’s authored two of the most indelible Top Rank on ESPN moments on that platform. In 2018, he knocked out Mason Menard in 44 seconds, donned the jersey of Heisman winner Kyler Murray, and topped things off with the Heisman pose and a backflip. One year later, he stopped Richard Commey in the second round to win the IBF lightweight world title and immediately put on the jersey of that year’s victor, LSU’s Joe Burrow. He didn’t forget the pose or the signature backflip that time, either.

Lopez said, “It’s Heisman Night at Madison Square Garden. I’m born for this stage. Once I beat Jose Pedraza in front of my hometown fans, I am coming for all the junior welterweight belts in 2023. The Takeback is in full effect, and I am on a mission to become a champion again.”

Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs), from Cidra, Puerto Rico, won world titles at junior lightweight and lightweight before moving up to the 140-pound ranks in 2019. Despite a competitive decision loss to Jose Ramirez and a draw against Commey in his last two fights, Pedraza still ranks among the most accomplished junior welterweight contenders. Ranked No. 10 by the WBO and WBC, Pedraza can earn another title opportunity with a win over Lopez and move closer to his goal of becoming the first male Puerto Rican boxer since Miguel Cotto to capture world titles in three weight divisions.

“I am here to face the elite fighters of the division, and to me, that is what Teofimo represents,” Pedraza said. “I have come to show that I am still one of the best fighters at 140 pounds. I’m still a threat to everyone in the division, and on December 10, I’m going to prove it. For me, the goal doesn’t change. I want to be crowned world champion in a third division, and I know I’m going to achieve it.”

Anderson (12-0, 12 KOs), the fighting pride of Toledo, Ohio, has seen his stock skyrocket since turning pro in October 2019 following a decorated U.S. amateur career. He has prototypical heavyweight size at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and he’s stopped nine of his 12 foes in two rounds or less, including four straight second-round stoppages. In August, he returned from an eight-plus month layoff to knock out Serbian veteran Miljan Rovcanin.

“I’m happy to finally be getting a step-up fight,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, this solidifies my place as a contender and confirms that I’m not a prospect anymore.”

Forrest (26-5-2, 20 KOs) is the ultimate heavyweight litmus test, a 6’1, 230-pound southpaw who has mixed it up with some of the division’s most notable names, including Carlos Takam, Michael Hunter, and Zhang Zhilei. His only stoppage loss came nearly 10 years ago, and he held Hunter and Zhilei to 10-round draws in 2021. Forrest returned in May and dropped a 10-round decision to two-time world title challenge Kubrat Pulev.

“I’m in camp now. I’m excited and motivated to make a big statement. Jared is the up-and-coming fighter, and all the pressure is on him,” Forrest said. “After my last performance, I feel everyone has forgotten how good I am. I’ve been in the ring against top fighters, and I know that I can compete at the top level. The question is, what can he do against an experienced veteran like me? I am coming to send the ‘Big Baby’ home crying after his first loss. This will be a great fight for the fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden and those watching nationally on ESPN.”

Zayas (14-0, 10 KOs), the youngest signee in Top Rank history, turned pro as a 17-year-old in October 2019 on the same card as Anderson. Since that debut, he’s developed into Puerto Rico’s newest sensation and has knocked out three of his past four foes. He received the co-feature spotlight on the Lopez-Campa card, knocking out Elias Espadas in five riveting rounds. In March, Zayas shined at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden with an eight-round drubbing over Louisiana-born spoiler Quincy LaVallais. Salazar (24-4, 9 KOs), from Guadalajara, Mexico, has won 16 of his last 17 bouts, the only defeat coming via third-round knockout to rising middleweight contender Carlos Adames. He has not fought since January 28, an eight-round decision over Valentin Martinez Guzman in Tijuana, Mexico.

Zayas said, “I am very happy to be part of another amazing card at the legendary Madison Square Garden, and as always, I’m grateful to Top Rank for giving me these opportunities to showcase my skills on such a big stage. Salazar is a strong Mexican veteran, and with this performance, I’m looking to close the year strong and set the tone for a big 2023.

Davis (6-0, 5 KOs) hopes to open the ESPN telecast with his blend of in-fighting and precision that has already made him a lightweight contender to watch. The 23-year-old phenom from Norfolk, Virginia, fought three fought pro fights in 2021 before becoming one of the standouts of Team USA’s boxing team at the Tokyo Olympics. He stopped 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sofiane Oumiha before dropping a tight decision to Cuban sensation Andy Cruz in the gold medal match. Since signing with Top Rank last November, he’s scored a pair of knockouts, most recently a fifth-round drubbing of Omar Tienda on the Shakur Stevenson-Robson Conceição bill in Newark, New Jersey. Burgos (35-6-3, 21 KOs), from Tijuana, is a three-time world title challenger who has fought the likes of retired four-weight world champion Mikey Garcia and undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney. He has never been knocked out and has experienced a career renaissance of late. In March, he held highly regarded prospect Angel Fierro to a draw.

Davis said, “I will send another message to the lightweight division to end the year. Burgos is a veteran who demands respect, and I can’t overlook the man in front of me on December 10. It’s an honor to fight on ESPN after the Heisman Trophy Ceremony, and I plan on representing Norfolk while putting on a show for all the fans tuning in.”

Undercard action — streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ — is highlighted by featherweight prospect Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington and welterweight standout Jahi Tucker. Carrington (5-0, 3 KOs), the latest prodigy from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, steps up in his first scheduled eight-rounder against Texas native Juan Tapia (12-4, 4 KOs). Carrington, a 2020 Olympic Trials gold medalist, shut out Jose Argel on the Stevenson-Conceição undercard. Tapia, who has battled the likes of Stevenson and Olympic bronze medalist Vladimir Nikitin, has never been knocked out.

Tucker (9-0, 5 KOs) looks go 10-0 in an eight-rounder against Ivan Pandzic (14-2-1, 8 KOs). Tucker, from Deer Park, New York, is 4-0 in 2022, including a near-shutout decision over Jose Luis Sanchez in his last outing.

Jose Ramirez defeats Pedraza by unanimous decision

Jose Ramirez returned to the friendly Central Valley confines and got back on track. Ramirez defeated former two-weight world champion Jose Pedraza by unanimous decision (116-112 3x) Friday evening at Save Mart Center in the junior welterweight main event.

Ramirez (27-1, 17 KOs) returned to the win column following last May’s decision loss to Josh Taylor in a showdown for the undisputed title. Pedraza (29-4, 14 KOs) had some success in the middle rounds, picking Ramirez off at range and rolling off shots against the ropes. Ramirez was ahead by two points on all three judges’ cards entering the 11th, and he amped up the pressure in the final two rounds, outlanding Pedraza 28-14.

The fight served as a WBC title eliminator, giving Ramirez a clear path to a title shot if Taylor, as expected, vacates all four titles and campaigns at welterweight.

Ramirez said, “Jose Pedraza is a smart, experienced fighter. He was going to find a way to survive and put up a fight. He was there boxing towards the end of the fight.  My hat’s off to him and his team. He was well-prepared. It was a great fight. I got to see where I am right now.

“I’m going to go back, work and stay focused and stay active. That’s one thing that’s affected me these last couple of years. I’ve trained so many times for a little bit of fights. My inactivity, my discouragement throughout training camps, it really took a big toll on me. I’m ready to stay active and stay motivated. There’s a lot of really great fighters coming up to 140. There’s a lot of really good fighters at 140 right now.”

Undercard:

Torrez Jr. KOs Melson in Pro Debut

Heavyweight prospect Richard Torrez Jr., the U.S. Olympic silver medalist from Tulare, California, made his professional debut in front of the home region fans with a second-round knockout over Alabama native Allen Melson (6-4, 3 KOs).

Torrez knocked down Melson three times, once in the first and twice in the second. A clash of heads opened up a cut along Torrez’s right eyebrow late in the first round, but the youngster came out swinging in the second. The second knockdown of the round, a short left hand, laid out Melson.

Torrez landed 15 of his 40 power shots.

Torrez said, “After the cut, I knew I had to get back to basics, and that’s what I did. I made sure to avoid additional head clashes, and I got the job done in the second.

“Sure, the cut is frustrating, but I’m not going to let it ruin the celebration. What a night. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to make a good first impression, especially in front of my home fans. They brought the energy, and I fed off the energy they gave me. The Central Valley is home, and I am proud to represent my people.”

Gonzalez KOs Santisima in 9

It was a sudden, stunning finish as two-time world title challenger Joet Gonzalez stopped Jeo Santisima in the ninth round to pick up the WBO International featherweight belt. Gonzalez (25-2, 15 KOs) landed a crisp right hand that backed up Santisima (21-4, 18 KOs), and referee Edward Collantes immediately waved off the fight. Santisima’s corner was stunned at the turn of events, as it did not appear as if the Filipino contender was seriously hurt.

For Gonzalez, it was a much-needed victory, as he was less than six months removed from a decision loss to WBO featherweight world champion Emanuel Navarrete.

Junior Lightweight: Gabriel Flores Jr. (21-1, 7 KOs) MD 10 Abraham Montoya (20-3-1, 14 KOs). Scores: 95-95 and 96-94 2x Flores. The young star from Stockton, California, Flores had a tough night at the office coming off his first career defeat. While Montoya landed many of the heavier punches, it was Flores who built the early lead and swept the final round on the judges’ cards to earn the nod. After the fight, Flores told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel that he planned on moving to lightweight.

Lightweight: Hector Tanajara Jr. (19-1-1, 5  KOs) Draw 8 Miguel Contreras (11-1-1, 6 KOs). Scores: 78-74 Tanajara, 77-75 Contreras and 76-76. In a battle of lightweights coming off their first career defeats, Tanajara and Contreras thrilled the fans with a phone booth battle that left the judges split. In the eighth round, the two exchanged vicious right hands, but neither man was seriously hurt.

Lightweight: Karlos Balderas (12-1, 11 KOs) KO 2 Aelio Mesquita (20-7-1, 18 KOs), :38. Balderas, from Santa Maria, California,  ran through the overmatched Mesquita, punctuating the fight with a right hand that knocked his foe into the neutral corner.

Middleweight: Javier Martinez (6-0, 2 KOs) UD 6 Donte Stubbs (6-4, 2 KOs). Scores: 59-56 and 58-55 2x. Milwaukee native Martinez tasted the canvas in the third round but controlled the rest of the fight to earn the wide points verdict. Stubbs was behind in the fight when he landed a right hand to Martinez’s jaw, but he could not capitalize on the temporary momentum.

Lightweight: Charlie Sheehy (2-0, 2 KOs) KO 1 Johnny Bernal (2-1, 2 KOs), 2:33. Sheehy shined in his Top Rank debut, dropping Bernal with a right hand and following up with an assault that prompted the referee to step in.

Heavyweight: Antonio Mireles (3-0, 3 KOs) KO 2 Brandon Hughes (2-1, 2 KOs), 1:02. The Robert Garcia-trained Mireles, a 6’9 puncher, prevailed in the battle of unbeaten big men. Mireles scored three knockdowns in less than two rounds and ended the fight with a combination that left Hughes wobbly and on the deck.

Photo:Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

Pedraza: ‘My goal since moving up to 140 pounds has been to win a world title’

Jose “Sniper” Pedraza has reached boxing’s pinnacle twice before. A former junior lightweight and lightweight world champion, Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) hopes to join an elite list of Puerto Rican fighters to win world titles in three weight classes.

He can take a giant leap towards that goal when he battles former unified world champion Jose Ramirez in a 12-round junior welterweight main event Friday, March 4 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. The winner will be positioned to fight for a world title later this year.

The entire Ramirez-Pedraza card will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+.

Here’s what Pedraza had to say:

“We have the title in our sights, and at this point, only the best are left standing on the road to the world championship. March 4 against Ramírez will be a very important fight, since the winner will be ready to challenge for a world title. That’s why I feel like this is a world title match. March 4 against Ramírez, this is all or nothing.”

“Facing a Mexican warrior like Ramírez and being part of the historic rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico is something very important and a great responsibility. At the same time, it’s a great thrill to give the fans a legendary match that they will remember forever. I want to put up a great fight. I want to give the fans a war.”

“My goal since moving up to 140 pounds has been to win a world title to add myself to the select group of Puerto Rican champions in three weight divisions. I want to be in that group along with ‘Tito’, Cotto, Gomez, Camacho, and Vázquez, among others. I already feel that my body is acclimated to the division, and now I am ready to achieve my goal.”

“Representing Puerto Rico means a lot to me. Since the beginning of my boxing career, I have always felt the support of my Island, and that is why every single time I get in the ring, I have my people in my heart. I always feel the good wishes and good vibes of my people, and that is why I always dedicate my fights to my island.”

Ramirez vs. Pedraza headlines a stacked card that includes featherweight contender Joet Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) against Jeo Santisima (21-3, 18 KOs) in a 10-rounder, the six-round heavyweight professional debut of U.S. Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr., Gabriel Flores Jr. (20-1, 7 KOs) coming back in a 10-round junior lightweight matchup against Abraham Montoya (20-2-1, 14 KOs), rising junior lightweight Karlos Balderas (11-1, 10 KOs) in an eight-rounder, lightweight prospect Charlie Sheehy (1-0, 1 KO) in a four-rounder, 6’9 heavyweight Antonio “El Gigante” Mireles (2-0, 2 KOs) in a four-rounder, and middleweight prospect Javier “Milwaukee Made” Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) in a six-rounder.

Photo: Top Rank

Jose Ramirez: ‘I am ready to return to the top of the division’

Former unified junior welterweight Jose Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) is ready to turn the page. Last May, he lost a competitive decision to Josh Taylor for the undisputed title. The road to redemption begins Friday, March 4, at Fresno’s Save Mart Center in a 12-rounder against Puerto Rican two-weight world champion José Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs).

Ramirez, from Avenal, California, returns home to the friendly confines of the Save Mart Center. In five headlining events at the venue, Ramirez has drawn more than 65,000 of his most devoted Central Valley fans through the turnstiles.

This is what Ramirez had to say after a recent training session at Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Riverside, California.

“The loss against Taylor taught me a lot. It was the first of my career, and I feel like it brought back my hunger for boxing again. I’ve really enjoyed this training camp preparing to get back on the winning path. I’ve had a lot of fun training with Robert Garcia in Riverside. I have corrected the mistakes that I made in that fight against Taylor. Maybe I had been making them for a long time, but when you are winning all your fights, you do not always look at the mistakes. I had a hard time accepting it, but I’ve already turned the page. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

“I am ready to return to the top of the division. I know that I am one of the best fighters at 140 pounds. I want to regain my titles and win all of the belts. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a rematch against Taylor, challenging another champion, or in a vacant title match against another top contender. I want my titles back.”

“José Pedraza is a tough test. He is a very good fighter and has looked good since he adjusted to the 140-pound division. I want to earn another shot at the title. I am not one to talk much. I come to face the best and let my performances in the ring speak for themselves.”

“I hope that Pedraza comes well prepared. I want to face the best version of José Pedraza so we can give the fans another classic fight between Mexico and Puerto Rico.”

“Coming back to fight again in front of my people in Fresno makes me very happy. I am training very hard because I want to bring joy and happiness to my fans again. I want them to feel proud, and that is why I am here to leave everything inside the ring on March 4 at Save Mart Center.”

Ramirez vs. Pedraza headlines a stacked card that includes featherweight contender Joet Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) against Jeo Santisima (21-3, 18 KOs) in a 10-rounder, the six-round heavyweight professional debut of U.S. Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr., Gabriel Flores Jr. (20-1, 7 KOs) coming back in a 10-round junior lightweight matchup against Abraham Montoya (20-2-1, 14 KOs), rising junior lightweight Karlos Balderas (11-1, 10 KOs) in an eight-rounder, lightweight prospect Charlie Sheehy (1-0, 1 KO) in a four-rounder, 6’9 heavyweight Antonio “El Gigante” Mireles (2-0, 2 KOs) in a four-rounder, and middleweight prospect Javier “Milwaukee Made” Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) in a six-rounder.

Pedraza: ‘I do believe I’m ready for a world title opportunity’

Jose Pedraza’s second appearance in the MGM Grand “Bubble” resulted in yet another victory, as the Puerto Rican former two-weight world champion bested fellow 2008 Olympian Javier Molina via unanimous decision (99-91 and 98-92 2x) in the junior welterweight main event.

Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs), who won a decision over Mikkel LesPierre on July 2, returned to Las Vegas and authored his most significant junior welterweight victory. Molina (22-3, 9 KOs) entered the evening on a five-bout winning streak, a career-reviving run that included an upset over Amir Imam back in February.

Pedraza, who switched from orthodox to southpaw, hurt Molina in the seventh round and widened the gap as the bout reached its conclusion. He has won two bouts since dropping a decision to Jose Zepeda last September in his junior welterweight debut.

Pedraza said, “They do name me the ‘Sniper,’ and that means I have to be patient, and when my moment comes, I have to take advantage of it. That’s what I did tonight because I was able to wear him down, break him down and make him fight my fight. It was the experience that I’ve had at the top level that helped me finally put it together. I’ve had the experience, I’ve had the talent, and it’s just on a night like this that I’m happy I could put it all together.

“I do believe I’m ready for a world title opportunity. Whoever it happens to be between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez, I want the winner of that fight. If for some reason I can’t get a world title shot against them, I do want to respectfully ask Jose Zepeda for the rematch.”

Ajagba Goes the Distance

The knockout didn’t come as expected, but Efe Ajagba’s Top Rank debut ended with his hand raised. Ajagba (14-0, 11 KOs) notched a 10-round unanimous decision over Jonnie Rice (13-6-1, 9 KOs) in the co-feature, controlling the distance with his jab as he cruised to victory by scores of 99-91 2x and 98-92.

Ajagba hurt his right hand in the fight, only the second time he’s gone the distance in his career.

In undercard bouts:

Featherweight: Robeisy Ramirez (5-1, 3 KOs) UD 8 Felix Caraballo (13-3-2, 9 KOs). Scores: 80-72 2x and 79-73. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ramirez pitched a near-shutout over Caraballo, a native of Puerto Rico who lost via sixth-round stoppage to former featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson in June. Ramirez has now won five straight since a shocking split decision defeat in his professional debut.

Junior MiddleweightLeo Ruiz (8-0, 5 KOs) UD 6 Rodrigo Solis (4-5-1, 2 KOs). Scores: 59-53 2x and 58-54. Ruiz laid a beating on Solis, a native of Cancun, Mexico, who accepted the fight on four days’ notice. Solis, however, lasted the distance against top prospect Ruiz, who has sparred the likes of unified junior welterweight world champion Jose Ramirez and top welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz.

Super MiddleweightChristian Montano (10-0, 7 KOs) UD 6 Ryan Adams (7-3-1, 6 KOs). Scores: 60-54 2x and 58-56. Montano, in his first fight in nearly 18 months, returned with a workmanlike decision victory.

Lightweight: Bryan Lua (6-0, 3 KOs) KO 2 Luis Norambuena (4-7-1). Lua had not fought in more than two years and made up for lost time, knocking out Norambuena with a left hook late in the second round.

Welterweight: Jahi Tucker (1-0, 1 KO) TKO 1 Deandre Anderson (1-2). Tucker needed only 2:56 to prevail in his pro debut, stopping Anderson on his feet following a flurry of punches. Anderson, also a pro MMA fighter, was coming off a split decision win against a previously unbeaten fighter.

Welterweight: Kasir Goldston (1-0) UD 4 Isaiah Varnell (3-3, 2 KOs). Scores: 40-36 and 39-37 2x. The 17-year-old Goldston, from Albany, N.Y., had to go the distance in his first pro outing and swept the fourth round on all three judges’ cards to secure the win.

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Boxing

Pedraza dominates LesPierre; Ramirez gets revenge

Former two-weight world champion Jose Pedraza’s quest for a title in a third weight class is alive and well. Pedraza, from Cidra, Puerto Rico, toppled Mikkel LesPierre via unanimous decision (100-88 and 99-89 2x) Thursday night in a junior welterweight bout.

Pedraza and LesPierre were scheduled to fight June 18, but the bout was postponed after LesPierre’s manager tested positive for COVID-19. Pedraza returned to the MGM Grand “Bubble” in fine form, blunting his southpaw opponent’s offense.

Pedraza (27-3, 13 KOs) knocked down LesPierre (22-2-1, 10 KOs) in the fifth round and showed his class down the home stretch. Another knockdown the 10th was the exclamation point on a nearly flawless performance. For Pedraza, it was a much-needed win, as he was coming off a decision loss to Jose Zepeda last September on the Tyson Fury-Otto Wallin undercard.

“Mikkel was a tough opponent, but I stuck to my game plan. I wanted the knockout, but he stayed strong in there. I give him a lot of credit,” Pedraza said. “I would like to fight any of the world champions, but we have to see what happens next. I proved I belong with the top guys in the 140-pound division.”

— Revenge was officially served. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez (4-1, 3 KOs) dominated Adan Gonzales (5-3-2, 2 KOs) over six rounds in a featherweight rematch of their August 2019 bout, won by Gonzales via split decision. All three judges scored the bout 60-54, as Ramirez officially closed the chapter on his nightmarish professional debut.

“I wanted to put our first fight behind me, and I did that. Ever since our first fight, I wanted the rematch. I am glad this chapter of my career is behind me now,” Ramirez said. “A couple more rounds and I could’ve scored the knockout. But I’ll take the win and continue to work hard on my craft. I have the best trainer in Ismael Salas.”

— Toledo native and junior lightweight contender “Prince” Albert Bell (17-0, 5 KOs) outboxed Mark “Machete” Bernaldez over 10 rounds, claiming a unanimous decision by scores of 100-90 3x.

— A straight right hand was all she wrote, as Dominican sensation Elvis Rodriguez (7-0-1, 7 KOs) knocked out Danny Murray (5-4) at 2:17 of the opening round of a junior welterweight bout.

— In a six-round heavyweight rumble featuring a pair of 280-plus-pound heavyweights, Kingsley Ibeh (5-1, 4 KOs) won his second “Bubble” bout in a week, edging Patrick Mailata (4-1, 2 KOs) by majority decision (57-57 and 58-56 2x).

— In a 10-round featherweight slugfest, Jose Enrique Vivas (19-1, 10 KOs) defeated Carlos Jackson (16-1, 11 KOs) by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 97-93, as Vivas swept the last three rounds on two of the judges’ cards to clinch the win.

Photo: Top Rank Boxing/Mikey Williams

Pedraza-LesPierre set for July 2

Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre will give it another shot. The junior welterweights will face off in the 10-round main event Thursday, July 2 from the MGM Grand Conference Center—Grand Ballroom. Pedraza-LesPierre was originally scheduled for June 18, but the bout was postponed after LesPierre’s manager tested positive for COVID-19.

Week 4 of the Top Rank on ESPN summer series begins Tuesday, June 30 at the MGM Grand, when top junior welterweight contender Alex Saucedo faces Sonny Fredrickson in a 10-round showdown.

The Pedraza-LesPierre and Saucedo-Fredrickson cards will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

“Mikkel and Jose deserve this opportunity, and I commend both camps for agreeing to reschedule this fight on short notice,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Alex Saucedo is destined to be a world champion, but he has an incredibly tall task in Sonny Fredrickson. We have another great week in store at MGM Grand.”

Pedraza-LesPierre canceled; LesPierre’s manager tests positive for COVID-19

Tonight’s Top Rank on ESPN main event between Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre has been canceled after LesPierre’s manager, Jose Taveras, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this morning. The Gabriel Flores Jr.-Josec Ruiz lightweight bout has been elevated to the main event (ESPN & ESPN Deportes, 8 p.m. ET).

Said LesPierre: “My manager, Jose Taveras, tested positive for COVID-19. Due to the rules and regulations set forth by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, I will be unable to fight tonight as scheduled against Jose Pedraza. I understand the severity of COVID-19 because I have been working on the front lines of helping treat this virus at Mount Sinai Beth Israel—Petrie Division in Manhattan.

“I am devastated. This was my opportunity to showcase my talent to the world, but everything happens for a reason. This is just another roadblock in my story.

“I apologize to Jose and his team for any inconvenience this caused. He is a great boxer, and I hope we can reschedule the fight as soon as possible.”

Said Taveras: “I apologize for the inconvenience this caused. I am not exhibiting any symptoms. I am looking forward to hopefully rescheduling this fight as soon as possible. I am devastated for Mikkel.”

Photo: Top Rank Boxing/Mikey Williams