Jose Pedraza fought Thursday for the second time in the junior welterweight weight class.
It went a whole lot better than the first fight.
Pedraza, a former super featherweight and lightweight world champion, claimed his first victory is the new weight class via a unanimous decision over Mikkel LesPierre inside MGM Grand’s Grand Ballroom, ending Top Rank’s fourth week of activity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The fight was supposed to happen on June 18, but LesPierre’s manager tested positive for the virus to force a postponement.
“Mikkel was a tough,opponent, but I stuck to my game plan,” said Pedraza, who won on the card 100-89, 99-89, 99-89. “I wanted the knockout, but he stayed strong in there. I give him a lot of credit.”
Pedraza, 31, won the first 22 fights of his professional career and captured the IBF super featherweight title from Andrey Klimov in June of 2015. But he lost the belt to Gervonta Davis in January of 2017, triggering a move to lightweight, a WBO title victory over Raymundo Beltrán and a subsequent loss to Vasyl Lomachenko in December 2018.
He moved again up to junior welterweight last September and lost a unanimous decision to Jose Zepeda on the undercard of Tyson Fury’s fight against Otto Wallin at T-Mobile Arena. Meaning the fight against LesPierre (22-2-1, 10 knockouts) was especially pivotal for Pedraza (27-3, 13 knockouts), who hails from Puerto Rico and hopes to claim a third title in a third weight class.
“That’s my goal. That’s what I’m striving for,” Pedraza said.
Pedraza set the tempo as the aggressor in the early rounds and outlanded LesPierre, 46-9, in the second round. He knocked the 35-year-old American down with a straight left in the fifth round, and continued to pelt him with punches throughout the remainder of the fight — adding another knockdown in the 10th.
Pedraza landed 168 punches to LesPierre’s 68, including 129 power punches, per CompuBox. He also connected on 41 percent of his attempts to 16 percent for LesPierre, who once challenged for the WBO junior welterweight belt.
“I would like to fight any of the world champions, but we have to see what happens next” Pedraza said. “I proved I belong with the top guys in the 140-pound division.”
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.