Dan Rafael: Jose Pedraza

Barthelemy vacates 130 title

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
Rances Barthelemy (21-0, 12 KOs) has given up his junior lightweight world title and will move up in weight.

According to Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, Barthelemy's promoter, the fighter elected to relinquish his belt because he could no longer make the 130-pound division limit.

The 28-year-old Cuban defector, who lives in Miami, Florida, appeared to have won the title initially when he knocked out Argenis Mendez in the second round 13 months ago, but the KO blow came after the bell and when Mendez protested, the result of the bout was changed to a no decision.

When they met in a mandated rematch in July, Barthelemy won a unanimous decision to claim the title. Barthelemy made only one defense, scoring a shutout decision against Fernando Saucedo in October.

The IBF has ordered its two leading available contenders, Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (19-0, 12 KOs) and former featherweight titlist Billy Dib (39-3, 23 KOs) of Australia, to fight for the vacant belt.

Pedraza ready for title shot vs. Barthelemy

November, 24, 2014
Puerto Rican junior lightweight contender Jose Pedraza said he is ready for his world title shot.

Pedraza (19-0, 12 KOs), 25, won a clear-cut decision against tough Michael Farenas on Nov. 14 in a title eliminator to become the mandatory challenger for Rances Barthelemy (21-0, 12 KOs) and now looks forward to facing him.

"I'm very excited about my future and I'm very thankful to my promoters Gary Shaw, Lou DiBella and Javier Bustillo for getting me the fights I needed to become the mandatory challenger to fight for the IBF title," said Pedraza, who was a 2008 Olympian. "I've been getting a lot of support from my people here in Puerto Rico and it feels great to be loved by them. I've already started training as I'm eager to get back in the ring. I'm ready to fight Rances Barthelemy and bring home the IBF title."

Shaw came away pleased with Pedraza's performance against Farenas, who had won five in a row since a competitive loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa in an interim title bout in December 2012.

"Pedraza was absolutely outstanding in his fight with Farenas," Shaw said. "He looked fantastic. He has the rare ability to make adjustments in the ring against any style. He proved he can hang with the big boys. Farenas is a big puncher and Pedraza negated everything he brought to the table. Pedraza graduated from top prospect to world title contender in one terrific performance. I believe he is the top 130-pounder in the world, and come early 2015 will prove it when he fights for the world title."

Notes: Cleverly-Bellew II a hot ticket

October, 3, 2014
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Well that was quick. The rematch between cruiserweights Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew sold out in less than 48 hours, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced. The fight takes place Nov. 22 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, Bellew's hometown. "Cleverly versus Bellew is 48-hour box office sell out, making it the fastest selling sporting event in the Echo Arena's history," Hearn said. "We had a little taste of the action this week and with same major announcements coming next week, those lucky enough to have grabbed a ticket and those watching at home are in for a wonderful night of British boxing. The atmosphere in the Echo Arena on Nov. 22 will be breathtaking."

• While Cleverly-Bellew II sold out in two days, tickets for lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford's defense against Raymundo Beltran on Nov. 29 (HBO) at the CenturyLink Center in Crawford's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska are also hot. "In just the four hours of being on sale, we are close to selling out the ringside seats and the next highest priced tier tickets sales are not too far behind that," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said of the tickets, which went on sale Friday morning. "Terence's fans are taking no chances on missing the opportunity of seeing their world champion defend his title live. The atmosphere on fight night is going to be even more electric than his last fight."

• Representatives for Manny Pacquiao-promoted Michael Farenas (39-4-4, 31 KOs) of the Philippines and Puerto Rico's Jose Pedraza (18-0, 12 KOs), who is promoted by Gary Shaw, Lou DiBella and Javier Bustillo, have made a deal for the junior lightweight title eliminator and avoided a purse bid. The fight will take place Nov. 14 in San Juan, they announced. Contracts are due back to the IBF offices by Oct. 17.

• Dynasty Boxing promoter Dino Duva announced the signing of Fanlong Meng, a Chinese light heavyweight amateur standout, who was a Chinese national champion from 2008 to 2013 and idolized Roy Jones Jr. growing up. "Fanlong is one of the best boxers in China," Duva said. "I've had the honor and pleasure of knowing him for five years. He is a terrific boxer-puncher and will fight professionally in a very hot weight class. I believe he has as much pro potential as any boxer in China and I'm extremely excited about his signing." Dynasty Boxing also promotes Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, who turned pro in August.

• Welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (23-0, 12 KOs), who was scheduled to fight Hector Munoz (23-13-1, 15 KOs) on Sept. 27 in his hometown of Washington, D.C., but had to postpone the fight because of an ankle injury, has a new date: Nov. 1. The card will still take place at Constitution Hall in Washington although he likely will face a new opponent.

Verdejo returns to Orlando

September, 7, 2014
Blue chip lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo, a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian, will be back in action on Oct. 4 in Orlando, Fla., promoter Top Rank announced.

Verdejo (14-0, 10 KOs), 21, will face Sergio Villanueva (26-4-2, 13 KOs), 23, of Mexico, in an eight-round bout that will headline a “Solo Boxeo Tecate” card on Spanish-language network UniMas. The card will take place at the Bahia Shrine Auditorium and Events Center.

The fight will be Verdejo’s third in Orlando, where there is a large Puerto Rican population and where he has had great fan support for his previous bouts there.

“I am very happy to return to Orlando,” Verdejo said. “This will be my third fight there and feel like I am home with all my fellow countryman in the audience and they make me feel very welcome and I want to give them a great fight.”

In his last fight on Aug. 16, Verdejo went the eight-round distance for the first time -- in his first scheduled eight-rounder -- as he scored a shutout of experienced Oscar Bravo in Puerto Rico.

Although Villanueva lost his last fight, dropping a 10-round decision, he went the distance with the experienced junior lightweight contender Rey Bautista in the Philippines in May.

“I don’t know anything about Villanueva but I know that Mexican fighters give everything in the ring and I will prepare well for this bout,” Verdejo said. “My work in the gym will be very important as I truly believed that to win in the ring you must put in the work in the gym.”

Three fights ago Villanueva was stopped in the seventh round by Jose Pedraza, who is viewed by many as Puerto Rico’s second-best prospect behind Verdejo. Undoubtedly, many will be looking to compare their performances against Villanueva.

The card will also include featherweight Gamalier Rodriguez (24-2-3, 16 KOs) in the eight-round co-feature against Charlie Serrano (16-4-1, 5 KOs). Also on the undercard, will be super middleweight Esquiva Falcao (4-0, 2 KOs), a 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Brazil, and junior bantamweight Jantony Ortiz (2-0, 2 KOs), a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian.
50 Cent-Yuriorkis GamboaChris Farina/Top RankPromoter 50 Cent, left, hasn't been able to secure an interim title fight for Yuriorkis Gamboa.
A few updates on some upcoming fights:

• Former unified featherweight titlist and interim junior lightweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa has never fought at lightweight, but when he makes his debut in the 135-pound division he will be fighting for another interim belt.

Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs), the Miami-based 2004 Olympic gold medalist, meets 2008 Colombian Olympian Darleys Perez (28-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at Bell Centre in Montreal. He will be on the undercard of light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson’s defense against Quebec’s power-punching Adonis Stevenson. But what was originally scheduled as a 10-round nontitle bout became an interim title bout after Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the rap star and Gamboa’s promoter, paid a recent visit to WBA headquarters in Panama and got the bout sanctioned.

Also on the card, prospect Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (12-0, 8 KOs), a 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian, will face Sergio Villanueva (25-2-2, 13 KOs) of Mexico in a scheduled 10-rounder that HBO Latino will air on tape delay at 12:15 a.m. ET.

• East Los Angles junior welterweight prospect Frankie Gomez (15-0, 11 KOs), who is just 21, should gain valuable experience when he faces former titleholder (and now division gatekeeper) DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (39-20-1, 23 KOs) of Washington, D.C., in a scheduled 10-round main event of a “Golden Boy Live” card (FSN/Fox Deportes) on July 20 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. Corley is coming off a decision loss in his previous fight, when he traveled to Russia to face Viktor Postal in October, but in his previous two bouts Corley pulled upsets. He outpointed Gabriel Bracero and then stopped Paul McCloskey in the 10th round in Northern Ireland in a stunner. In the co-feature, junior featherweight prospect Randy Caballero (18-0, 10 KOs) will face Puerto Rico's Miguel Robles (12-2-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Caballero, who is from Coachella, Calif., is a crowd favorite at Fantasy Springs, where he has fought 11 of his 18 pro fights.

• Former featherweight titlist Orlando Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs), who got dropped four times and lost his title via lopsided eighth-round technical decision to Mikey Garcia in January, will be back Aug. 16 in his hometown of Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, manager Sean Gibbons told ESPN.com. Salido, 32, suffered a right broken orbital bone in the fight, one of the reasons for the extended layoff. Gibbons said there is no opponent yet, but that Salido will be fighting at junior lightweight, possibly in a title eliminator that would put him in line for a crack at titleholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez.

• Puerto Rican junior middleweight Jorge Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KOs), a Miguel Cotto protege, is on his third opponent for his “ShoBox: The New Generation” main event Friday night (Showtime, 11 ET/PT). Melendez was due to face Mexico’s Luis Grajeda (14-1, 10 KOs) in the scheduled 10-rounder. When Grajeda dropped out -- for no reason other than he decided against taking the fight, according to Showtime -- Lanardo Tyner (30-8-2, 19 KOs) stepped in. However, even though Tyner is coming off a 12th-round knockout win on May 9 in Dallas, he was suspended under the normal Texas rules that say a fighter must be off three days for every round he fought in his most recent fight, which keeps him out until after Friday. So now it’s Nick Brinson (14-1-2, 6 KOs) stepping in on short notice. Puerto Rican bantamweight Jonathan Vidal (17-0, 9 KOs) faces Mario Munoz (13-0-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico in the eight-round co-feature.

• Japan’s Koki Kameda (30-1, 17 KOs) will make his seventh title defense when he faces the Philippines’ Mark John Apolinario (17-2-3, 4 KOs) on July 23 in Tokyo. Odd stat about Apolinario: He’s got three draws in his past four bouts, including back-to-back draws with Roberto Vasquez in interim title bouts.

Jose Pedraza gets new opponent

October, 8, 2012
Blue-chip lightweight prospect Jose Pedraza, a star amateur and 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian, on Monday got a new opponent for his main event on "ShoBox: The New Generation" at Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Mo., on Friday night (Showtime, 10 ET/PT).

Allan Benitez dropped out because of an elbow injury suffered in training and was replaced by Tevin Farmer, promoter Lou DiBella announced.

Pedraza (10-0, 6 KOs) will face Farmer (7-3-1, 1 KO), a Philadelphia southpaw, in a scheduled eight-round bout.

The co-feature will pit Jonathan Cepeda (12-0, 11 KOs) against Lamar Russ (10-0, 6 KOs) in an eight-round middleweight bout.

The telecast is also scheduled to include highlights of former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor (30-4-1, 18 KOs) as he continues his comeback from a head injury in a scheduled 10-rounder against Raul Munoz (21-15-1, 16 KOs).

Oosthuizen making U.S. TV debut

April, 27, 2012
One of the more intriguing fighters in the super middleweight division is Thomas Oosthuizen of South Africa. He's a tall southpaw with good power and a fan-friendly style.

He has fought only once so far in the United States -- when he outpointed Aaron Pryor Jr. on an Andre Berto undercard in September 2011 -- but he'll have his second fight in America on Friday night. That's when he will also make his U.S. television debut in the main event of a tripleheader on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" (11 ET/PT) at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla.

Oosthuizen (18-0-1, 13 KOs) isn't in an easy fight, either. He will face Houston's Marcus Johnson (21-1, 15 KOs), a very talented but so far underachieving former amateur standout.

This is an excellent matchup because the winner could be going places.

Oosthuizen, whose nickname is "Tommy Gun," is now co-promoted by Lou DiBella, which means opportunities to fight in the United States will be plentiful.

"Yes, that's the goal," Oosthuizen said of fighting more regularly in the U.S. "[I want to fight at] MGM Grand in Las Vegas and [in] the main events at the big arenas. If you want something bad enough, nobody can take it away from you. So at the end of the day, I just have to keep on winning fights and get more attention in the States and worldwide."

Because few in the U.S. have seen Oosthuizen, he was asked whose style his most resembles. He wasn't shy about answering, comparing himself to a couple of all-time greats.

"I would say I'm a mix between a Bob Foster and Tommy Hearns," he said. "Bob Foster could fight very well on the inside, and Tommy Hearns was great from the outside. And I'm always training hard, so I would say a mix between those two."

If Oosthuizen can finish Johnson the way Foster and Hearns drilled so many of their opponents, that would be impressive. It would also accomplish one of Oosthuizen's goals for the fight -- to not only win, but to look impressive.

"I won't be satisfied with a 'W'. I'm here to make an impression," he said. "I have to look good. Every fight is an important fight to my career, and I have to show the people that I've got that something special."

If he wins, Oosthuizen would like to fight one of the big names in the 168-pound division.

"There are a few guys that I would really like to fight; all the guys that were in the Super Six and [Lucian] Bute. All of them: Mikkel Kessler, Andre Ward and Carl Froch. To be the best, you have to beat the best. It's easy to say, but it's going to be a tough challenge."

Also on the card, Puerto Rican junior featherweight prospect Orlando Del Valle (15-0, 11 KOs) will face Christopher Martin (23-1-3, 6 KOs) of Chula Vista, Calif., and junior lightweight Jose Pedraza (7-0, 6 KOs), possibly Puerto Rico's best prospect, will open the card against Gil Garcia (5-2-1, 1 KO) of Houston.