Jose Pedraza made it two straight wins in the Top Rank “bubble” tonight, looking extremely sharp in a clear decision victory over Javier Molina in tonight’s ESPN+ main event.
Pedraza (28-3, 13 KO) looked as focused and dialed in as he has at any point in his career, as the 31-year-old “Sniper” out-boxed Molina (22-3, 9 KO) rather handily over the 10 rounds, winning on scores of 98-92, 98-92, and 99-91. Those were all closer than we had it, even, as our card was a clean shutout for the Puerto Rican, 100-90.
Pedraza fought southpaw a lot in this bout, switching pretty early from his natural orthodox stance, and was able to catch the 30-year-old Molina clean consistently, while Molina, a former Olympian, had a terrible time doing much of anything with Pedraza. Molina was hurt in the seventh and 10th rounds, and Pedraza definitely tried to finish in that last round, but Molina was able to survive that charge. The loss ends a five-fight win streak for Molina, all coming since he moved down from welterweight in 2018.
Pedraza, who has won titles at 130 and 135, moved up to 140 in 2019 and didn’t look great in a loss to Jose Zepeda, though he did hang around in that fight and it wasn’t a complete wipeout or anything. The loss to Zepeda, a solid contender but not a special fighter, opened up big questions for Pedraza at junior welterweight, but with dominant wins over Mikkel LesPierre and Molina in his last two fights, his name will be back in the mix in the division, and he definitely wants a title shot.
Barring a crack at one of the four belts — two apiece held by Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez — Pedraza would
“I was able to wear him down, break him down, and make him fight my fight,” Pedraza said after the bout. “I believe I’m ready for a world title opportunity. I want the winner of Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez. If for some reason I can’t get a fight with them, I do want to respectfully ask Jose Zepeda for a rematch. I think I can do better.”
Efe Ajagba UD-10 Jonnie Rice
This was not the Top Rank debut Ajagba (14-0, 11 KO) probably wanted, and probably not what they were hoping to see from him. This was an absolute snoozefest, as the 26-year-old Nigerian, now based in the States, just jabbed and jabbed and jabbed, came with nothing behind it, and threw a little less than 41 punches per round, which is a huge drop from his previous average of 74 per round, which was really high for a heavyweight. 41, for the record, is slightly below heavyweight average.
To be fair, Ajagba apparently hurt his right hand at some point, which would at least give a reason he wasn’t throwing it much at all. But he also hurt Rice (13-6-1, 9 KO) in the second round on a right hand, staggered him, and did absolutely nothing to follow that up. It was mentioned on the broadcast that Rice took this fight late after actually sparring some with Ajagba, and didn’t really want to take it, but the money was too good to turn down. With that in mind, there also seemed to be a bit too much mutual respect here, as if Ajagba wasn’t trying to blast Rice out, and Rice wasn’t trying all that hard to do anything but not get blasted out.
This was also Ajagba’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma, who replaced Ronnie Shields, so we’re keeping that in mind, too. Trainer changes and matchups like this can lead to a bit of an underwhelming performance. But we’ve now got three possible reasons that Ajagba didn’t really impress much here, and the bottom line for fans will be that he wasn’t that impressive. But it also probably wasn’t watched by very many people, to be honest, so it likely won’t stick long with anyone but nerds.
Robeisy Ramirez UD-8 Felix Caraballo
If you’re comparing Ramirez (5-1, 3 KO) to what Shakur Stevenson did against Caraballo (13-3-2, 9 KO) in June, it’s hard to make the argument that Ramirez looked as good as the younger Stevenson did. And the two are going to be linked for at least a while longer, as Ramirez beat Stevenson in the gold medal fight at Rio 2016.
I was as high as anyone on Ramirez, 26, coming into the pros, and I didn’t write him off after the pro debut loss last year. But I think Tim Bradley’s assessment of Ramirez is spot-on: Ramirez is very talented, but he seems to rely fully on that talent and gift, and it’s not hard to make the observation that he sometimes fights in a lazy manner, doesn’t press, doesn’t try to do more than he needs to do to cruise. Bernardo Osuna offered the thought that you watch what Ramirez does, and it looks good, but you think about what he seems very capable of doing, and he leaves you wanting more.
None of this is to say that Ramirez won’t still have a really good, maybe even great career. Maybe he’s just more an Erislandy Lara than a Joel Casamayor, to compare him to a couple of successful fellow Cubans of the more recent era(s). But I, too, can’t shake the feeling that there’s a little extra “oomph” missing in his game, as obviously talented as he is.
- Leo Ruiz UD-6 Rodrigo Solis: Ruiz, a 21-year-old junior middleweight from Mexico, now living in Californa, won here on scores of 58-54, 59-53, and 59-53. Ruiz (8-0, 5 KO) had a point taken for a low blow, and Solis (4-5-1, 2 KO) had one taken for spitting out the mouthpiece, which was a move that may have let him survive the six rounds. Solis took this on very short notice and probably earned himself another “bubble” fight in Vegas, because he was tough, game, and took a beating while hanging in and giving rounds.
- Christian Montano UD-6 Ryan Adams: A super middleweight fight. Rugged and tough but not much to watch, really. Adams (7-3-1, 6 KO) got rocked a couple times, but the 21-year-old Montano (10-0, 7 KO) wasn’t exactly showing the best gas tank considering age and length of the fight. Not sure there’s a big future here for Montano, in all honesty, but we’ll see.
- Bryan Lua KO-2 Luis Norambuena : Lua, a 22-year-old who was a teenage amateur contemporary of Ryan Garcia, Shakur Stevenson, and Devin Haney, had been out since May 2018 due to a left hand and wrist injury, but he looked sharp and focused here against a solid prospect checker in Chile’s Normabuena (4-7-1, 0 KO), who had just fought last week. The Robert Garcia-trained Lua (6-0, 3 KO) definitely has more power than his early KO% might lead you to think, and he absolutely smashed the tough Norambuena for the KO in this one.
- Jahi Tucker TKO-1 Deandre Anderson: Tucker was the second 17-year-old debut on the card, and the far more animated and lively. While friend Kasir Goldston was pretty clinical in the opener (more on that below), Tucker came out ready to swing if he had to, and Anderson (1-2, 0 KO) definitely made him have to do it, coming to brawl with the wild eyes. Tucker’s punches weren’t the prettiest here, but he sure threw a bunch of them, and he tagged the hell out of Anderson en route to the stoppage at 2:56.
- Kasir Goldston UD-4 Isaiah Varnell: Goldston is a 17-year-old New Yorker, made his pro debut here and won on scores of 39-37, 39-37, and 40-36. Probably the most interesting thing was Varnell (3-3, 2 KO) talking some trash during the pre-fight instructions, but after that Goldston pretty handily out-boxed him. There was nothing flashy about Goldston, a 5’10” southpaw who will settle at 140 or 147 for a while, he just got the job done. He’s also clearly a young, raw fighter who will have to adapt to the pro style step by step. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but that’s the review I’d give after fight one for him.