The Jr. Welterweight bout between two-division world champion Jose Pedraza and former world title challenger Mikkel LesPierre would under normal circumstances be a compelling encounter between one fighter, who is seeking an opportunity at a world championship in a third weight class after successfully winning world championships as a Jr. Lightweight and Lightweight, against a fighter who’s lone career defeat came in a failed bid to win a world championship. As many Boxing fans know however, the sport and the world as a whole are in far from normal times and circumstances due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.
A seemingly well-matched encounter between the two top Jr. Welterweight contenders would serve as a reminder of that fact as the bout, which was originally scheduled to take place on June 18th at the MGM Grand Convention Center was cancelled on the morning of the closed-door event when it was revealed that a member of LesPierre’s team had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and under the protocols set by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), the bout was immediately cancelled. Despite so much uncertainty regarding the virus and how various sports are going to be able to resume activity and the potential of activity being halted at any time because of the ongoing epidemic, Pedraza-LesPierre also served as an example of how a setback in fights taking place can be rectified in a relatively short time.
After the fighters and their respective teams all tested negative for the virus, the fight finally took place on July 2nd at the same MGM Grand Convention Center. Despite how this fight appeared on paper, it was logical to question what effect the temporary cancellation would have on both fighters in addition to wondering how both fighters were able to prepare for the bout. After all, the current circumstances the world finds itself in because of this virus has caused stress, anxiety, and worry for many, the same holds true for fighters as well. It should also be noted that in the case of LesPierre, he has been combating the virus on the front lines as one of many hospital workers throughout the United States. Although most fans could assume that a fighter in LesPierre’s position as a top contender would be able to devote themselves full time to Boxing, it is not always the case. Nevertheless, it was curious to see how LesPierre would be able to balance his status as an essential worker under circumstances of an epidemic with his ongoing efforts in the Boxing ring and how the cancellation would factor into how he was able to prepare for this fight.
It became clear from early on in the fight that it would be Pedraza, who was less impacted by the circumstances, which this fight took place. The former world champion established the tempo of the combat by throwing consistent combinations, but also changing levels in mixing his attack of LesPierre to the body and head. Pedraza, as he has done in previous fights, also switched between an orthodox and southpaw stance throughout. Such tactics made it very difficult for LesPierre to get into a consistent offensive rhythm . This does not mean however, that LesPierre was not competitive as he and Pedraza traded flash knockdowns in the fifth round off the scheduled ten round bout.
Pedraza would reestablish control of the fight following the fifth round and would score a second knockdown of LesPierre in the tenth and final round to seal a convincing unanimous decision victory. Although this was a dominant performance by Jose Pedraza and at times fights that are fought in this way do not lend much in the way of thorough analysis beyond a summary of what took place, it was still an impressive performance by Pedraza and really both fighters under the circumstances.
While this observer would love to provide some thoughts regarding what both fighters might do coming out of this fight, it is important to stress once more as I have done in previous coverage of Boxing cards that have taken place over the last month since the sport began the process of attempting to resume under the circumstances of COVID-19 that these are far from normal circumstances and the reality that some may not want to hear or accept is any and all activity in the sport of Boxing as well as all sports and entertainment ventures will continue to be largely dictated by the ongoing situation of the COVID-19 virus. It thus becomes a seemingly impossible task to speculate on what potential fights could be made and when they might take place.
It is important for any cynics/critics however, to remember that the fighters who are competing are doing so not only for the opportunity the circumstances of this virus has presented in a round about way, but are also doing so knowing the potential risks involved. Although Mikkel LesPierre came out on the short end of this fight, it should not be overlooked that the initial cancellation of his fight against Jose Pedraza as well as his status as an essential worker in helping to administer medical care to patients battling the COVID-19 virus as well as the uncertainty of everything, he would have been fully within his rights to decline rescheduling the fight so soon and in the eyes of yours truly, would have been justified in doing so if that were his choice. While we are glad to see Boxing resuming in some form, there are more important things in life than the pursuit of world championships and becoming an all-time great in any sport. The fact that LesPierre chose to get this fight in the ring as soon as possible as well as Jose Pedraza being willing to do so as well when all too often when circumstances prevent fights from taking place for one reason or another can lead to both gamesmanship and further delays, deserves the utmost respect from everyone involved in the sport of Boxing. An example that one can only hope others follow even after the COVID-19 epidemic ends, whenever that might be.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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