by Sergio L. Martinez
On October 12, 2012, the Ameristar Casino in Saint Charles, Missouri, will host a night of boxing: the complete card, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, will feature nine bouts with the main and co-main events scheduled to be televised on Showtime’s Shobox fight series. Headlining the card is 23-year-old, undefeated, super featherweight Puerto Rican prospect Jose “Sniper” Pedraza. Pedraza (10-0-0 with 6 KOs) is scheduled to face the once-beaten Allen Benitez (7-1-0 with 1 KO) over eight rounds.
Pedraza is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered young man that views the world in a philosophical way. He is respectful, engaging and demonstrates an appreciation of his life and the opportunities that are before him. It is hard to imagine that a person as affable as Pedraza chose to fight for a living, and he readily admits that pugilism was not his first choice.
Speaking to Boxing Insider from his training camp in Puerto Rico, Pedraza said, “To be honest with you, I had no interest at all in boxing when I was a young boy. I’ve been boxing for 11 years now, but before I began to box I was a long-distance runner. I loved to run and wanted to do running as a profession. My father, who is my manager and trainer, introduced and encouraged me to box and I really liked it.”
“The passion and desire to run is always with me,” Pedraza continued. “Last year, I ran three marathons and I’m always running long distances. It really helps me with my conditioning for boxing as there is nothing more intense than a boxing training camp. A person has to be in top physical and mental shape and running long distances really helps me prepare to endure the rigors of boxing training, as there are a lot of similarities. Being a successful runner takes a lot of discipline and very strict diet guidelines just like in boxing. I am fully dedicated to boxing and I believe that I am finding success.”
As an amateur, Pedraza won multiple tournaments and medaled in several international competitions including bronze medals in the 2007 Pan American Games and in the 2008 Boxing World Cup. He also captured a silver medal in 2009 in the World Amateur Championships and won gold in 2010 in the Central American and Caribbean Games.
With so much accomplished as an amateur and so many places visited during his career, Pedraza, like most other former Olympians, holds 2008 as the year he had a life-altering experience.
“I had the honor and privilege to represent Puerto Rico in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and it was an unforgettable experience for me,” he says.
“It was the pinnacle of my amateur travels and just an unbelievable memory. I can honestly tell you that there has been nothing like it in my life up to this point. I just took in all of the experience and truly enjoyed.”
When the decision was made to transition into the paid ranks, Pedraza realized that he would be entering a fraternity where the expectations are high and the demand to always represent with pride and honor is unrelenting. Being from and living in Puerto Rico his entire life, Pedraza understood that simply being a good fighter may be enough for most places but being from Puerto Rico, he was going to have to prove himself every time he stepped into the ring.
Pedraza described the Puerto Rican boxing scene: “It is like a religion. It’s a culture and a way of life to fight in Puerto Rico. We are a race of people that are not easy in any way and I believe that the fight is in our blood.
“Boxing and all combat sports are natural to Puerto Ricans because we are a fighting people and culture by nature. This gives me a lot of confidence and I feel no pressure. I understand that a lot is expected of a Boricua fighter and I feel that I am ready to live up to expectations. It is an honor.”
As he prepares to enter the eleventh fight of his young career, Pedraza is headlining a major boxing show on a premium network. This can often be a daunting task for anyone as the stakes are high and can easily rise with a great performance. Still, a bad showing can also lead to a significant drop in stock. DiBella Entertainment is at the helm of Pedraza’s career, and is showing a lot of confidence in the young pug. This is something that is not lost on Pedraza.
“I feel that the way that my promoter is progressing my career is the right path,” he explained.
“I understand that my grand amateur experience sets high expectations and I have been fighting on television since my third fight. Being able to fight on Showtime in my eleventh contest is an honor and I understand what is at stake. I know that many great Puerto Rican fighters like Juan Manuel Lopez, Miguel Cotto, and Tito Trinidad have fought on Showtime, so it is inevitable that those great champions will be mentioned.
“It is a privilege for me to be a Puerto Rican fighter and I am definitely ready to step-up and be showcased more often. I am looking forward to the challenge and I aspire to be a world champion just like all of the great champions from Puerto Rico.”
With so many current and former Puerto Rican greats, it would be easy to understand if the young Boricua would choose to tailor his style after one of his idols. This is something that Pedraza has consciously chosen not to do.
“I do not try to mimic anyone’s style as I like to be my own person,” he says.
“But I do understand the path and expectations that have been set by my predecessors which is a very high standard. I fight with passion, commitment and pride because I am from Puerto Rico. I will box when it calls for it and I will war when is needed too.”
Regarding his upcoming opponent, Allen Benitez, who is trained by famed boxing coach Robert Garcia, the young Puerto Rican is not focused on his rival as much as he is focused on his own training and preparation. Pedraza reported not having spent time analyzing his opponent as he has chosen to concentrate on the details of his daily routine.
“I really do not know much about my opponent except that I believe he is a durable fighter and is right-handed,” says the boxer.
“I really am focused on training and being ready and my preparation has been perfect . . . I can’t wait to hear the fanatics cheering (as I draw strength from that) and the fact that I am from where I am. My family, my pride of being from Puerto Rico and the fans are the reasons that I fight and give my all.”
In closing, Pedraza offered this message: “It’s important for people to support not only boxing, but all sports because sports lead to unity. People unite like family because of sports and we forget about racial differences, political differences and we all behave like family supporting each other. This is how things should be always and sports makes that happen.”