Former two-division champion Jose Pedraza scored two knockdowns in dominant Junior Welterweight debut against Mikkel LesPierre live from The Bubble at MGM Grand on ESPN
Undefeated Junior Lightweight Albert Bell fought 10 poised rounds to outclass Mark Bernaldez for a clean-sweep 17th victory
(LAS VEGAS, July 2, 2020) — Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre climbed the stairs to enter the ring inside Top Rank’s Bubble at MGM Grand Conference Center — Grand Ballroom with some serious matters to settle. Pedraza, a two-division champion, was moving up to the Junior Welterweight max limit of 140 pounds to see what a new field could hold for his future. LesPierre suffered his first loss trying to take the division’s WBO crown from then-champion Maurice Hooker. He needed to turn back Pedraza in order to reposition himself among the contenders.
The met two weeks later than originally scheduled due to a positive COVID-19 test in LesPierre’s camp. And, for added difficulty for the Pedraza camp, the bout was actually fought at 144 pounds.
No problem for 31-year old Puerto Rican! From the start of bout he found it easy to strafe with LesPierre with an array of shots from his arsenal. Pedraza’s movement allowed him to attack from outside and mid-range, and later in the fight he moved inside at points to display his comfort there as well. Junior Lightweight is an extremely loaded division, and boxing is one of only games in town in terms of live sports. The field could be watching.
In case the division’s others were watching, Pedraza scored knockdowns at the midpoint, and then again in the final round. Despite the importance of the fight to LesPierre’s future and his history at the weight, he was unable to accomplish much against the former two-division champion who ran away with decision with scores of 100-88, 99-89 and 99-89 again.
LesPierre (22-2-1, 10 KOs) appeared to score a knockdown earlier in the fifth round with a left hand to Pedraza’s body. Replay was utilized to determine that a tangling of the feet was more of the culprit for Pedraza’s trip to the canvas. LesPierre sustained a great deal of punishment, finishing the bout with a cut on his right eye to go along with a bloody nose that was present in several rounds.
Pedraza improved to a record 27-3 and flirted with adding his 14th knockout. With the division’s two unified champions likely tied up for a while, Pedraza likely moves into a holding pattern until there is more known about the return of pre-coronavirus pandemic conditions in boxing.
At the first bell Pedraza started quickly, easily settling into the new weight. Blood trickled from LesPierre’s nose seconds under the final minute.
Pedraza dominated the first two-thirds of round two. For several seconds he unleashed a barrage of punches that went with without response as LesPierre sat on the ropes behind ear muffs. Moments later, with action moved into the center of the ring, Pedraza stood in the pocket banging on LesPierre’s body and placing some uppercuts. Pedraza was credited with 43 landed power shots for his effort.
Into round three, LesPierre sustained enough damage in the previous round where he was unable to capitalize on Pedraza appearing to take some time to recharge. The Puerto Rican managed to catch LesPierre with a counter left hand right before the bell that briefly wobbled the Brooklyn native.
LesPierre seemed to find his stride in round five, following a slower fourth round for both men. LesPierre struck first by scoring a flash knockdown in the fifth. The punch was a straight left to Pedraza’s torso. Pedraza beat the count and responded with a left hook to the crown and a follow-up right hook to score his own knockdown. One that truly hurt LesPierre.
However, replay official Robert Byrd intervened prior to the start of the sixth round to allow referee Kenny Bayless to review footage that appeared to indicate LesPierre’s knockdown was actually the result of the fighters feet becoming tangled. Bayless determined a trip was the cause of the knockdown and the scoring was corrected.
Headed into the final two rounds Pedraza continued to apply pressure and snipe away at LesPierre. The body language of the New Yorker suggested that the stoppage was there for the taking at any moment, but a second knockdown for Pedraza didn’t come until a short shot connected in the 10th. The Puerto Rican dropped a left hand over the top as LesPierre moved inside uncovered.
LesPierre stood up before Bayless reached ten, but the remainder of the round went without any further fire fights.
Albert Bell vs Mark Bernaldez
Undefeated Toledo, Ohio native Albert Bell and Mark Bernaldez, a Junior Lightweight from General Santos City, Philippines, faced off with different motivations driving the two. Over the past 24 hours Bell had probably spent a moment encouraging or consoling fellow Toledoan Sonny Fredrickson who dropped a rugged 10-round decision to Alex Saucedo just two days prior on ESPN.
Bernaldez, he was surely aware that a General Santos City neighbor, Mike Plania, upset top-ranked Bantamweight contender Joshua Greer Jr. in The Bubble two weeks ago.
Bell needed to get a victory and take a step closer to a shot at a world title to upgrade his WBC Continental Americas title he lifted off of then-undefeated Andy Vences last June.
In the end the 6-foot undefeated 27-year old coasted through the 10 rounds, and picked up his 17th win in clean-sweep fashion. Bell fought calmly and focused, rarely making a mistake to allow Bernaldez (20-4, 14 KOs) to complicate matters for him. The major differences were Bell’s legs, stamina, positioning and jab but made his presence felt in a couple of moments where he sent a halo of sweat flying from Bernaldez’ head.
During the telecast Albert Bell Sr. told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna the eighth round was designated as Bell’s attack mode. He never fully walked his opponent down according to the Bell Sr.’s remarks, but after prolonged grimace by Bell after landing a flush right hand in the ninth round, the Ohioan’s boxing quickly returned for the balance of the fight.
Bernaldez stalked Bell at times and challenged the taller fighter’s ring IQ, but Bell’s anticipation allowed him to avoid most of the Filipino’s bigger shots. Bell maintained his distance and rarely got caught where Bernaldez didn’t have to over reach. After 10 rounds he was credited with a landed punch advantage of 125-46, and his accuracy more than doubled Bernaldez’ 14 percent connect rate.
Robeisy Ramirez vs Adan Gonzales: The Rematch
Featherweight instant rivals Robeisy Ramirez and Adan Gonzales bounced around and posed in the first round before mixing in some single shots. In the second round the tension escalated. Enough so that Gonzales was knocked flat onto his back after the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist upended him with his shoulder.
Gonzales upset Ramirez via split decision in the decorated amateur’s pro debut in August. The absence of a jab from Ramirez indicated his true intentions in avenging the embarrassing loss, but it also kept him from catching Gonzales with more than single left hands. Most counter punches.
Ramirez’ streak of three KOs since the pair’s first meeting was snapped, but his upgrades since that time resulted in a score of 60-54 on all three cards. Ramirez improved to 4-1, and Gonzales dropped to 5-3-2.
Elvis Rodriguez vs Danny Murray
The Freddie Roach guided Super Lightweight Elvis Rodriguez made short work of opponent Danny Murray (5-4). A flash right jab on the button, following a sharp left hand to the chin, dropped Murray in the first round at :47. Murray never got up off of the bottom rope, and Rodriguez smiled at his trainer as he improved to 7-0-1 with his seventh KO.
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank