This upcoming Friday Night at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, on the undercard of Emanuel Navarrete’s WBO super featherweight bout with Liam Walsh, is a match-up that could be the best of the entire weekend. Former two-division champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) will face off against top-ten junior welterweight contender Arnold Barboza Jr. (27-0, 10 KOs). The fight is a classic crossroads match featuring two men at vastly different points in their careers.
Since moving up to the junior welterweight division, Jose Pedraza has had mixed results, with a 3-2-1 record in the weight class. 2022, in particular, saw the Puerto Rican lose a competitive decision to former unified junior welterweight titleholder Jose Ramirez. Afterward, he fought to a disputed draw against former lightweight champion Richard Commey. Examining his four losses, Pedraza has been competitive in all of them. The exception was the seventh-round stoppage to Gervonta Davis, where the stocky power puncher steamrolled him.
Now, at 33, the Cidra, Puerto Rico native, is in a position where he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. As an accomplished amateur and two-time champion, Pedraza, along with Amanda Serrano, has been one of the few stalwarts representing the island nation on a consistent basis over the last decade. However, Pedraza has never reached the heights of popularity of Miguel Cotto or Felix Trinidad. Thus he hasn’t been afforded the luxury of getting title opportunities based on his name. He has had to earn openings back to a championship by taking the more arduous road.
Pedraza’s opponent, Barboza, has made headlines over the last few years as one of the fighters next in line at junior welterweight. The California fighter’s recent performances against Alex Saucedo, Antonio Moran, and the then-undefeated Puerto Rican Danielito Zorrilla have caught the eye of boxing fans. There is now a demand to see him in more high-level fights. A push to face former lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez in 2022 in the former unified lightweight champion’s debut at junior welterweight didn’t come to fruition. However, Pedraza will give Barboza a chance to test his skills against a fighter who has been in the ring with pound-for-pound level talent, such as Vasiliy Lomachenko. The Puerto Rican will undoubtedly be the best opponent Barboza has stepped in the ring with so far.
“Man, this is the toughest fight to date for me,” Barboza said to Boxingscene.com. “I have nothing but respect for Jose Pedraza. I’m excited to showcase what I can do, and I’m coming to make a statement on February 3rd.”
The results have varied throughout boxing history in bouts where former world champions take on a younger contender looking to propel themselves with a victory.
In 2007, Hall-of-Famer, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, at 35, moved back down to the welterweight division. Following a pair of wins over Fernando Vargas at junior middleweight, he would take on 25-year-old southpaw Luis Collazo. The Brooklyn, New York-based Collazo had previously lost his WBA welterweight title in a controversial decision to Ricky Hatton. At the time, despite Mosley’s victories over Vargas, it was unclear how much the three-division champion had left. Vargas was way past his prime, and Mosley’s two previous fights at welterweight in 2005 against David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz were subpar performances at best.
But, Mosley proved to be still more than viable enough for Collazo as he dropped him in the 11th round to a unanimous decision.
The victory led to a future title opportunity and a major PPV bout at Madison Square Garden against Miguel Cotto.
One of Mosley’s rivals, Ronald “Winky” Wright, made a return to the ring in 2009 following a loss to Bernard Hopkins in 2007. Wright fought Hopkins at a 170-pound catch weight. Previously he had been considered one of the top middleweights following a draw with Jermain Taylor in the summer of 2006. The landscape at middleweight changed with the emergence of Kelly Pavlik. Wright decided to take a risk in facing off against the 6’1 Paul Williams.
Williams, a former welterweight champion, was moving up in weight after not securing major fights at welterweight and junior middleweight. A bout against Wright represented an established name that could lead to more significant matches for Williams. The height and reach advantages were ever-present against Wright. Williams pummeled the former junior welterweight king to a lopsided unanimous decision. Wright was essentially sent into retirement before returning one more time in 2012.
More than likely, Pedraza and Barboza will deliver in the ring with Barboza’s volume-based attack style. While Pedraza can box on the back foot using lateral movement, he has proved on multiple occasions to stand and trade, even to his detriment.
“What I want to do is to keep moving up,” Jose Pedraza said in an interview with the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia. “As a stepping stone, I don’t know. He is a boxer (READ MORE ON HIM FROM LUCAS KETELLE Arnold Barboza) that is ranked in many organizations. He’s an elite boxer. And I haven’t come down from the elite.”
Both fighters can use a victory as a stepping-stone to a world title. The IBF title is vacant at junior welterweight, and a world champion like Regis Prograis is seemingly ready and willing to face almost anybody. Certainly, greener pastures await the winner of Pedraza-Barboza. Jose Pedraza will want to showcase that he is still a world title challenger rather than a gatekeeper. Barboza has to prove that he warrants a shot at a world title with a win over Pedraza.