WBO lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs) will be facing replacement opponent former IBF super featherweight champion Jose Pedraza (24-1, 12 KOs) rather than his previously scheduled opponent #1 WBO Roman Andreev, who had surgery for appendicitis. Beltran will be defending against Pedraza on August 25 on Top Rank Boxing on ESPN at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Pedraza is an obvious choice for the promotional company, as he’s also promoted by Top Rank. No matter who wins, the WBO title will stay with the company.
Andreev had to be replaced and the next available contender is #2 WBO Pedraza. Andreev’s medical problem gives the 29-year-old Pedraza a great opportunity to capture a second division world title. Pedraza lost his IBF 130 lb. title last year to Gervonta Davis by a 7th round knockout in January 2017. Since that fight, Pedraza has won his last two fights against Antonio Moran and Jose Luis Rodriguez since moving up in weight to lightweight.
This could be the worst possible news for the 36-year-old Beltran, as Pedraza has an excellent jab, movement and top notch boxing skills. It would have been better for the Top Rank promoted Beltran to have Andreev as his opponent for his first title defense instead of a pure boxer like Pedraza. Beltran has good punching power, but he’s not the type of slugger that Pedraza struggles against. Pedraza looked bad against Gervonta because he was facing a furious puncher with mad talent. In the past, Pedraza has handled hard punchers like Stephen Smith, Edner Cherry and Michael Farenas. Beltran is in the same category as those fighters are power-wise. If Pedraza was able to neutralize their punching power, then there’s a good chance that he’s going to be able to do the same thing to Beltran, who is getting up there in age.
Top Rank won the purse bid a week ago for them to stage their fighter Beltran’s title defense against mandatory Andreev. Now that Andreev is out of the picture, the show must go on with the equally talented Pedraza on August 25. There’s not much of a drop in talent with Andreev out and Pedraza in his place.
“Full speed ahead with Pedraza now with no impediments,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said to ESPN.com. “Stylistically, I think it’s a sensational matchup because usually when Ray Beltran fights he’s never in a boring fight. And Pedraza is extremely confident and we believe that he is a much better fight at 135 pounds than at 130.”
This is basically a toss-up fight. Beltran is a weak champion, and you can argue the only reason he recently won the World Boxing Organization 135 lb. title is because he was matched against 40-year-old Paulus Moses last February instead of one of the good contenders in the division like Yvan Mendy, Luke Campbell or Jorge Linares. Beltran defeated Moses by a 12 round unanimous decision in a one-sided decision.
Top Rank was counting on matching Beltran against WBA lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, but he suffered a shoulder injury in his recent win over Linares, and he was unable to take the fight. Lomachenko is still in the picture for Beltran to fight, but it won’t be until December for that fight to take place. The unification fight between the two Top Rank fighters Lomachenko and Beltran will still likely take place, but it won’t be until later this year, as long as there are no setbacks with the 2-time Olympic gold medal winner’s shoulder rehab.
According to ESPN, Beltran was originally scheduled to face Pedraza, but the IBF said that Ray would need to defend against his IBF mandatory challenger Andreev in his first defense of his newly won title. The medical problem for Andreev brings Top Rank back to their original plans of matching their own guy Pedraza against Beltran.
On the undercard of the Beltran vs. Pedraza fight, WBO super bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe (19-0, 13 KOs) will be defending against #6 WBO Hidenori Otake (31-2-3, 14 KOs) in the co-feature bout Dogboe is coming off a big win over Jessie Magdaleno. Dogboe had problems early in the 1st round, but then came on strong in the later rounds to stop Magdaleno in the 11th round last April in Philadelphia. This fight might overshadow the main event between Pedraza and Beltran.