José “Sniper” Pedraza and Javier “El intocable” Molina pose after weighing each other on Friday. (top rank)
When they get into the ring this Saturday night, both Puerto Rican José “Sniper” Pedraza, and Mexican American Javier “El Intocable” Molina, will reach a turning point in their careers, because whoever comes out with his arm raised will be very well placed for a title match that could elevate or stall their respective careers, intertwined by an Olympic undertone.
Both have a lot at stake. Pedraza, 31, with a record of 27-3 and 13 knockouts, wants to rise again to the top of boxing as a monarch. Molina, 30, 22-2, 9 KOs, needs to win to open the doors to his first big starting opportunity at 140 pounds.
Pedraza, who represented Puerto Rico in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Molina, who was in the same games for the United States, will collide in the stellar match that the Top Rank company will carry out in the MGM Grand bubble in Las Vegas and that will include eight other confrontations, among those those of the Puerto Ricans Frevián González and Félix Caraballo.
The poster, which will be broadcast on ESPN +, will start at 7:30 pm, Puerto Rico time, and the main fight should rise around 11:00 pm.
In addition, on the day, González (3-0, 1 KO) will fight four rounds at 130 pounds against Carlos Marrero (2-3-1, 0 KO), from Connecticut. For his part, Caraballo (13-2-2, 9 KO) will collide in eight rounds against Cuban Robeisy Ramírez (4-1, 3 KO) at 126 pounds.
On his way to a 10-year career, with 30 fights and 220 rounds on his resume, Pedraza aims to join the club of champions in three categories as he reigned in the super featherweight (130 pounds) and lightweight (135 pounds) divisions. That's why he needs to win, no matter he only fought in July in what was his first fight of the year. On July 2, he had Mikkel LesPierre by unanimous decision.
“That was what we wanted. To be as active as possible to continue looking for a third title in a third division, ”said Pedraza, who yesterday at the weigh-in ceremony set the scale at 141.5 pounds.
Puerto Rican José Pedraza makes a sniper gesture after complying with the weigh-in of his fight on Saturday. (Top Rank)
Although it is the junior welterweight division (140), the fight had been agreed before at a middleweight.
After falling by technical knockout to Gervonta Davis in January 2017, and thus losing his super featherweight title of the International Boxing Federation (IBF), Pedraza was out for more than a year and returned to debut in the light division, crowning himself in 2018 for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) by defeating Raymundo Beltrán after just three fights at weight.
Four months later, in December of that year, he suffered the second defeat of his career when he fell by unanimous decision to Vasyl Lomachenko. In 2019 he had only two fights, in one of which he was defeated by José Zepeda, via unanimous decision, a defeat that he wanted to avenge.
While Molina, with 24 fights and less than half the rounds of experience Pedraza has accumulated, has won all four fights he has fought since returning to boxing in 2018.
They have known each other since the World Cup
He says he has known Pedraza since the 2007 Boxing World Cup in Chicago, the event they both attended. Following his Olympic debut, Molina decided to enter professionalism in 2009 and started 9-0 before suffering his first setback in 2011 against Artemio Reyes.
He rallied for eight straight wins before falling to Jamal James in 2016, a loss that saw him try to drop to 140 pounds. Nonetheless, he admitted that his head and lifestyle were elsewhere, not in boxing.
Pedraza and Molina face to face after the weigh-in. (Top Rank)
So he was inactive for almost two years, and he remembers seeing Pedraza in his fight against Lomachenko on his phone among the boxes in a Californian warehouse where he worked for a living.
Since his return he has not lost in five bouts in 140, and in the last two he knocked out Hiroki Kiroda in November last year and dominated Amir Imam by unanimous decision in February this year.
“Pedraza is a great fighter and we know that he usually changes his guard. But I can adapt to whatever style I bring. Beating Pedraza would put me in a very good position to fight for a title. So I'm ready to surprise a few, ”said Molina, who weighed 141.7 pounds yesterday.