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

Hooker: ‘It would mean so much to me to fight in Dallas as a champion’

Maurice Hooker hopes to land a big homecoming fight in Dallas next as he defends his WBO World Super-Lightweight title for the second time against Mikkel LesPierre at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York on Saturday March 9, live on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports in the UK.

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Hooker (25-0-3 17 KOs) won his title on the road by ripping it from champion Terry Flanagan in Manchester, England in June and then packed his bags again for his first defense, a thrilling win over local favorite Alex Saucedo in Oklahoma City in November, Hooker climbing off the canvas in the second round to stop Saucedo in the seventh.

Hooker hits the road again to put his belt on the line against Brooklyn’s LesPierre (21-0-1 10KOs) but ‘Mighty Mo’, who has predicted a devastating KO win over the challenger, wants to come home in his next fight – and believes he can do so in a major fight that will stake his claim to being the best in the world at 140-pound.

“It would mean so much to me to fight in Dallas as a champion,” said Hooker. “I want to show the kids in my neighborhood that don’t have anyone to look up to that they can look at me – I’m a champion that they can follow and look up to.

“I wasn’t a disciplined kid so boxing taught me a lot. My attitude was bad so boxing taught me to keep calm no matter what. When you look at what I’ve achieved, that’s the example I want to show the kids where I am from.

“My kids are my motivation – I want to give them the life that I didn’t have growing up, give them everything they want and be there for them.

“I am my biggest opponent. Sometimes you can think ‘I’m a World champion, I don’t need to train.’ I know that can backfire on me in the gym so I am working harder than ever because i want to stay a champion and achieve more in the future.

“It’s an open division, and one I think I can take over. There’s a lot of good fighters in there making a name for themselves and a lot coming up.

“I’m a champion and I want to fight the best. I feel I am the best. My long arms, my chin, my skills and my hard work will put me on the top – I think that sets me apart.

“Dallas is my home and in my heart, but there’s too many distractions to train there. In San Diego, I wake up thinking about boxing and go to bed thinking about boxing, and just train in between. The weather is great, I just love it.”

Hooker’s clash with LesPierre is part of a huge night of action at Turning Stone Resort Casino with a second mouthwatering World title fight on the bill in the shape of Dmitry Bivol (15-0 11KOs) defending his WBA World Light-Heavyweight title against Long Island’s Joe Smith Jr (24-2-0 20KOs).

Callum Johnson (17-1-0 12KOs) and Sean Monaghan (29-2-0 17KOs) will both have a keen eye on Bivol’s clash as they battle in a crunch fight in the 175lbs division, World-ranked heavyweight contender Sergey Kuzmin, (14-0 11 KOs), of St. Petersburg, Russia will battle Philadelphia based veteran Joey Dawejko, (19-6-4 11 KOs) and Otha Jones III makes his pro debut on the card.

Photo: Matchroom Boxing