SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 18, 2020 – During a time of social distancing, boxing cards on opposite sides of the U.S. bring together opponents who know each other well and won’t be afraid to get close and cross paths in crossroads fights.
Former two-division champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza of Puerto Rico returns after his late July victory over Mikkel LesPierre to take on his former 2008 Beijing Olympic Games teammate, Javier Molina in The Bubble at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. This card gets underway at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT on ESPN+.
At the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, super welterweights Erickson Lubin and Terrell Gausha took slightly different paths, with Lubin passing up Olympic competition while Gausha was part of the 2012 Olympic Team alongside Errol Spence Jr. and Jamel Herring. Now the two fight to move on to title fights in a competitive division on a three-fight card on Showtime starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Both fights fall in the crossroads category. The winner moves forward toward a promising future, often climbing back up the ranks after a loss. Pedraza (to Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Zepeda) and Lubin (to Jermell Charlo).
Pedraza (27-3, 13 KOs) lost to Vasiliy Lomachenko but at least went the distance, then fell to Jose Zepeda. Molina (22-2, 9 KOs) lost to Jamal James, but he’s also battled injuries. Pedraza has the momentum but he isn’t taking the fight for granted. “I know that I’m very close to a world title opportunity, but my total focus is on the fight I have in front of me,” said Pedraza. “I know Molina is a good fighter. I have never overlooked him. I have prepared with that in mind and that’s why I have trained very hard for this fight. I’m ready to send a message to the two champions and all the contenders in the division.”
Molina says he doesn’t mind being the underdog. “There is a reason I’m seen that way, and it’s because I haven’t shown my full potential. Fans haven’t seen all I can do in the ring. Like I said, I’m all right with being the underdog. I’m going to surprise a lot of people on Saturday,” said Molina.
“We have answers for anything he (Pedraza) brings. I can adapt to whatever he does the ring. If he wants to brawl, we’re going to brawl, and if I have to box and move around, that’s what I will do to win the fight. Pedraza looked good against LesPierre, but I’m not LesPierre,” said Molina.
Both men know their options become limited with a loss. Pedraza has the better resume, even with losses to Lomachenko and also Gervonta Davis in 2017, but if he’s learned from them it will help him move past Molina.
Efe Ajagba debuts in The Bubble with Top Rank
The co-main event in Las Vegas features newly signed Top Rank heavyweight Efe Ajagba. Originally from Nigeria relocated to Texas, the fearsome Ajabga (13-0, 11 KOs) had some shaky outings including a wild fight against Iago Kiladze last December where he suffered his first knockdown before stopping the Georgian. Ajagba is still young at 26 and he’ll face Jonathan Rice of Los Angeles (13-5-1, 9 KOs), another tall heavyweight with a limited resume.
Showtime tripleheader led by Erickson Lubin vs Terrell Gausha
Erickson Lubin of Orlando (22-1, 16 KOs) landed multiple picks as the 2016 Prospect of the Year, but his career stalled after a devastating first-round knockout loss to Jermell Charlo. Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) lost by decision to Erislandy Lara.
“I remember watching Terrell back in his Olympic days,” said Lubin. “Now we’re in the pro ranks though, so it’s a totally different story. He’s a solid fighter, but I feel like I’m on a different level than him. I’m planning on proving that on Saturday night.
“These are great fights to get me ready for another title shot,” said Lubin. “Fighting for a title at such a young age did a lot for my game. It helped me get to that next level. This next go-around for the title will definitely be different. I feel like I’m at my best right now.”
Gausha says both men know what’s on the line. “Whatever we have to do, we’re going to do. We can box or we can bang. We will do whatever we need to do,” said Gausha.
“Lubin is the favorite in this fight, but I’m no stranger to being an underdog. I’ve been with [trainer] Manny Robles a long time, even before I went pro and while making the Olympics. We just work really well together.
“There’s no pressure on me,” added Gausha. “I definitely want to let my hands go, but there’s no pressure. This will be my fourth southpaw in a row. So I’m more comfortable and familiar this time around.”
But for the one bad moment against Charlo, Lubin hasn’t made a mistake. Gausha’s loss to Lara was more definitive, and he lacks the power of Lubin. Gausha has an uphill climb toward the win he needs.
The winner will become the mandatory challenger for the winner of next week’s bout between Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario, setting up a possible rematch for Lubin.
Nyambayar returns against Breedy; Ennis and Abreu kick off the action
Featherweight contenders Tugstogt “King Tug:” Nyambayar of Mongolia (11-1, 9 KOs) and Cobria Breedy of Barbados. (15-0, 5 KOs) are featured in the Showtime co-main event. Nyambayar impressed a lot of people in his loss to Gary Russell Jr.
“It wasn’t my night against Gary Russell Jr., but now I’m a better fighter,” said Nyambayar. “I was waiting too much against Russell and I let him control the fight. I have to be in control of the fight from the beginning until the end … It just wasn’t the best ‘King Tug’. I would happily rematch Gary Russell Jr. I would love to fight him again because I think it would end differently.
“I have watched a couple of fights from Cobia Breedy and he’s definitely a good fighter. He’s a tough competitor, but we’ll see what happens Saturday. I’m going to bring my best. This is going to be a much better performance from me.”
Breedy says working with trainer Barry Hunter has helped him up his game. “When I was 11-0, Barry Hunter called me to spar with Rau’shee Warren and me, and my coach fell in love with the Headbangers team. Barry has come on board and given us help to get us to the next level,” said Breedy.
“I’m never under pressure because I know that I’m doing this for. I’m doing this for my people back home in Barbados. I’m doing it for my family, my wife and everybody who supports me … Being a world champion from Barbados would make history. It would be great for my people. Boxing in Barbados is not a big thing. It’s different there. Me bringing back hope for my country would be an amazing thing.”
These athletes demonstrate the international breadth of boxing – from Mongolia to Barbados, worth noting and enjoying. As with the Pedraza and Molina fight, Nyambayar has the better resume, but it should be a fun contest.
Jaron Ennis gets a test against Juan Carlos Abreu
In the opening fight, well-regarded welterweight prospect Jaron “Boots” Ennis of Philadelphia (25-0, 22 KOs) gets the step-up fight fans have waited for against veteran Juan Carlos Abreu of the Dominican Republic (23-5-1 (21 KOs). Ennis has shown tremendous promise in a competitive division as part of the next generation along with Vergil Ortiz Jr.
Both Ennis and Abreu promise to bring it. “I’m going to go out there, do my thing, be smart, have my fun, and get that stoppage at the end of the night,” said Ennis. “You’ve just got to let the knockout come. You’ve got to feel it, you can’t just go in there and go for the knockout. That’s how you get tired and lose your cool or even get hit with punches that you shouldn’t be getting hit with.” Ennis says he hopes to get a title fight in 2021.
Abreu understands his role. “I know Ennis is a good young fighter, so it’s going to be his youth versus my experience. I’ve fought a lot of younger fighters with good abilities, so we’ll see what he has on Saturday,” said Abreu, who says Ennis is a good prospect but in over his head. “I’ve never been knocked out. So he’s going to have to fight. This is going to be his first actual fight,” said Abreu.
Abreu promised not to let the fight go the distance, and says he’s motivated by the success of fellow countryman Jeison Rosario, who faces Jermall Charlo in a unification fight next week.
“One of us is getting knocked out. If it gets to where I’m behind on points, I’m just going to come forward and try to take him out, even if I end up getting knocked out … I’m not afraid of losing, but I’m coming to win,” said Abreu. It’s a winning formula for the fans either way.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Copyright © 2020 by Falcon Valley Group