<
>

IBF champ Jose Pedraza, Stephen Smith have deal to fight in NY

The promoters for junior lightweight titlist Jose Pedraza and mandatory challenger Stephen Smith made a deal and avoided a purse bid scheduled to take place on Tuesday afternoon at the IBF headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey.

Lou DiBella, who is Pedraza's promoter, and Eddie Hearn, Smith's promoter, reached an agreement under which they told the IBF that the fight would take place March 26 at a location to be determined in New York City. The date, however, is not set in stone and could move by a week or two in either direction pending a television deal, probably on Showtime or a Premier Boxing Champions card.

"It's a very solid matchup," DiBella told ESPN.com. "Smith is a highly motivated fighter, and as you saw from Pedraza [in a title defense] against Edner Cherry, engaging is not something Pedraza avoids. So it will be a pleasing fight. Pedraza is a quality fighter, but Stephen Smith is an extremely live mandatory challenger."

Pedraza (21-0, 12 KOs), 26, of Puerto Rico, won the vacant 130-pound belt by one-sided decision against Andrey Klimov in June and retained it in his first defense by split decision against Cherry on Oct. 3.

Smith (23-1, 13 KOs), 30, of England, earned the mandatory status with a sixth-round knockout of Devis Boschiero in their title elimination fight on Sept. 19.

Smith will be bidding to join younger brother Liam Smith as a world titleholder. Liam Smith won a vacant junior middleweight title in October and made his first defense on Dec. 19, when he scored a seventh-round knockout of Jimmy Kelly.

Stephen and Liam Smith are from a fighting family of brothers that also includes former super middleweight title challenger Paul Smith and rising super middleweight prospect Callum Smith, the British champion. All four brothers have held British titles.

"The Smith family has had quite a year, with Liam winning a world title and Callum winning the British title," DiBella said. "So I am quite sure Stephen is going to be highly motivated and very confident against Pedraza."

Stephen Smith is riding an 11-fight winning streak since suffering an eighth-round knockout loss in 2011 to Lee Selby, who went on to win a featherweight world title in May.

The IBF had two other purse bids scheduled on Tuesday, and they were also called off.

The promoters for a junior welterweight title elimination match between Japan's Keita Obara (15-1-1, 14 KOs) and Nicaragua's Walter Castillo (26-3-1, 19 KOs) received permission to postpone the purse bid until Jan. 5, but it is expected to be canceled. According to the IBF, they have made a deal but asked for a delay to settle on the location of the fight.

The fight will be a rematch of their Nov. 7 title eliminator that ended in a draw. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for 140-pound titlist Eduard Troyanovsky (23-0, 20 KOs).

Also, the promoters for bantamweight contenders Rodrigo Guerrero (24-5-1, 16 KOs), a former junior bantamweight titlist from Mexico, and England's Stuart Hall (19-4-2, 7 KOs), a former bantamweight titleholder, made a deal and scheduled the title elimination bout for April 16 in Leeds, England.

The winner of the fight will become the mandatory challenger for 118-pound titlist Lee Haskins (32-3, 14 KOs), of England, who was promoted from interim titleholder to full titleholder when Randy Caballero failed to make weight and was stripped of the belt the day before he and Haskins were scheduled to fight on Nov. 21 on the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez undercard in Las Vegas.