The second time looks to be the charm for Top Rank's attempt to place Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre in the ring together in Las Vegas. The two men were set to face off in the early weeks of Top Rank's return to action during the COVID-19 pandemic when LesPierre's manager tested positive for the virus, delaying the fight to Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Pedraza (26-3, 13 KOs) is a former two-division world champion, though he was never truly "the man" at junior lightweight or lightweight. Pedraza has a quality resume, however, with solid wins over Stephen Smith, Edner Cherry and Ray Beltran. He has also been in with elite fighters Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko, coming up on the losing side of both fights.
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Pedraza's most recent fight was a move up to 140 pounds this past September to face off with Jose Zepeda in what was supposed to be a competitive but successful move to the division. Instead, Pedraza struggled to deal with the crafty southpaw, losing a decision and looking out of place having moved up from lightweight.
Thursday's clash sees Pedraza return to 140 pounds for a second attempt to fit into the bigger weight class when he takes on LesPierre (22-1-1, 10 KOs). LesPierre's record is glossy, but there's little depth on his resume beyond a March 2019 battle with Maurice Hooker.
Hooker physically destroyed himself to make the 140 pound limit to defend his WBO junior welterweight belt against LesPierre, but despite being drained and hardly at his best, Hooker won nearly every second of the 12 rounds.
In the co-main event, Albert Bell will take on Mark Bernaldez in a junior lightweight contest. Bell is undefeated at 16-0, but has just five knockouts to his name. He's coming off a unanimous decision over Frank De Alba in October 2019. Bernaldez, meanwhile, is 20-3 with 14 KOs in his career. He went 3-1 in 2019 with two knockout wins.
Pedraza vs. LesPierre card
Pedraza vs. LesPierre prediction
While there have been some impressive upsets on recent Top Rank cards, there's little to suggest that LesPierre has it in him to keep up with Pedraza. That remains true even if junior welterweight is too high of a weight for Pedraza, or if he is simply an "old" 31 on the decline. LesPierre's inability to showcase anything of note against a quality opponent in Hooker suggests Pedraza -- who, admittedly, is not of Hooker's quality -- will also be able to cruise to a fairly wide decision win. Pick: Pedraza via UD
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