Junior lightweight Jose Pedraza is a young titleholder on the rise. Edner Cherry is a seasoned, dangerous veteran getting a huge opportunity and looking for the upset.
That is the easy-to-understand storyline as they get set to square off in the co-feature Saturday night (Showtime, 10 ET) at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
Puerto Rico’s Pedraza (20-0, 12 KOs), 26, won a vacant junior lightweight world title with a virtually flawless performance in a near-shutout decision of Russia’s Andrey Klimov on June 13. He will be making his first defense and looking for an equally impressive performance.
"We train hard all the time, we are in great shape, and we prepare for every fight like the opponent is the champion,” said Pedraza, a 2008 Olympian. “Edner Cherry is a very experienced fighter. He is a strong guy and good puncher. I am in great shape and I'm ready to fight 12 rounds.
“This could very well be the toughest fight of my career. He hasn't lost in seven years, but we are very prepared, studied the fight well and are ready to go come Saturday.”
Cherry (34-6-2, 19 KOs), 33, a Bahamas native from Wauchula, Florida, is unbeaten since a 2008 decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a junior welterweight world title bout.
Cherry is 10-0 with a no contest since and will be getting his second shot at a world title. But that loss to Bradley was at 140 pounds. After the defeat, Cherry returned to the 135-pound lightweight division and will face Pedraza at 130 pounds.
"Ever since my title loss to Timothy Bradley in 2008, I've pushed myself to get back into this position and to give myself the opportunity for a title shot at the right weight class,” Cherry said.
“I'm finally in the right weight class for me. Bradley was the much bigger fighter when we fought. That was a mistake on our end. He just was the bigger guy, but I was in the ring with one of the best fighters in the world and I really learned from that fight.
"I tell people that I am so glad that I didn't win that title against Bradley because, in my mind, I would've been fighting at 140, but that wasn't my weight class. I would've been risking my life fighting at 140. I’m glad I didn't win it, but I'm also glad I hung in there and got myself back into a big fight. I've been preparing for this fight for 15 years, and it's going to show on Saturday."
Pedraza is aware of Cherry’s vast professional experience but said it does not concern him.
"Everyone says they're going to come knock me out, good luck to him. It's not happening,” Pedraza said. “He has a lot of experience as a professional, but I have been fighting for a long time as well, so I'm not worried about who he's faced.
"I'm ready for 12 rounds but I want to get him out of there sooner. I'm going to work the body hard to try to get that done. My youth will play a huge part in this fight. I'm much younger than him and, without a doubt, I will win this fight.”
In the main event, Adrien Broner (30-2, 22 KOs), 26, fighting in his hometown, will face Russian southpaw Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-1, 9 KOs), 32, for a vacant junior welterweight belt, even though they are both coming off losses and Allakhverdiev has not boxed for 18 months.