Jose Pedraza only loses to the best so, Derek Bonnett decides, will Jose Zepeda join that elite group?
A great measure of boxing’s depth is the number of talented fighters who have not yet been able to win a world championship. Jose “Chon” Zepeda is a strong lightweight contender who, in spite of two title tries, has failed to reach the summit of Mount Boxing. Persistency may lead Zepeda there eventually, but right now it has led him to Puerto Rico’s former two-division world champion, Jose Pedraza. The two lightweight contenders clash in a significant 10-round bout on the undercard of Tyson Fury vs Otto Wallin on September 14 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Misfortune as much as depth has held Zepeda back from the peak of a world championship career. In his first world title try, a dislocated shoulder kept Zepeda on his stool after two rounds against Terry Flanagan back in 2015. The bout was young, but the Mexican-American had a strong opening few minutes. In his return bout versus Jose Alfaro three months later, a clash of heads produced a cut under his left eye and the bout was stopped and ruled a No Contest before the first round could even be completed.
In his next outing, Zepeda delivered one of his career-best victories, stopping Ammeth Diaz in the first.
After a successful run of seven bouts, Zepeda, 30-2 (25), found himself inside the ring with a world champion in WBC super-lightweight king Jose Carlos Ramirez, now a unified title-holder. Zepeda, 30, put together a strong start to gain a lead on the champion. His finish was in no way weak, but the second-half surge by Ramirez impressed the judges enough for him to retain his title by majority decision. Three months later, Zepeda found himself back in No Contest territory after another head clash ended his night early, this time due to a cut to the eye of his opponent Eleazer Valenzuela.
Zepeda has the opportunity to make-up serious ground and launch himself into another world title bout if he can get past Pedraza.
After Ramirez, Pedraza, 30, is arguably the greatest challenge of his 10-year ring career. Pedraza’s only defeats came in surrendering his super-featherweight and lightweight titles to Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko respectively. His resume, 26-2 (13), includes impressive victories over Tevin Farmer and Ray Beltran among other top fighters.
The two lightweights are carbon copies in terms of age, height, and reach. However, Pedraza uses his 5ft 8in frame to box while Zepeda will opt to pressure his way to the inside with quick one-twos in search of some work to the body. Pedraza has struggled with fast, athletically gifted boxers. Zepeda will not present the same speed or movement as Davis or Lomachenko, so fans can expect a high-contact contest with multiple ebbs and flows. Also, since Zepeda is a southpaw, the chances of further head- clashes are not unlikely if the action becomes heated.
Pedraza has reached the peak of his division as a titlist, but he wants to get back there soon or he would not have signed to face Zepeda. Zepeda, coming off a loss and a No Contest, needs another career-high performance to deliver his biggest win as a professional.
The Puerto Rican-Mexican rivalry is bound to be discussed, but Zepeda is a bilingual Mexican-American born in Long Beach, California. However, his Mexican roots hold strong in terms of his style and grit. Expect a memorable battle with the ultimate winner being the boxing fans.
The bout itself may mirror Zepeda’s challenge of Ramirez at times and Pedraza’s victory over Ray Beltran at others. Pedraza has excellent skills, but he is not one to exclusively hang on the outside. I expect to see Zepeda more successful coming forward against Pedraza’s power. I’d be shocked if the verdict were decisive, but think we’ll see Zepeda’s hand raised in the end by split decision due to greater volume of punches thrown and landed on the inside.