There is an old axiom in boxing that an above average boxer becomes substantially better once he wins a world title. Eusebio Pedroza was a perfect example of this, as he wasn’t considered anything special when he won the WBA Featherweight Title on April 15, 1978. He would hold that title for seven years, successfully defending the title a record 19 times, making the Panamanian great the fourth greatest Featherweight of all time.
Pedroza was considered an easy defense for defending champion Cecilio Lastra when they squared off on April 15, 1978 in Pedroza’s backyard of Panama City. Pedroza was able to take advantage of a four inch height advantage and keep the aggressive champion at bay with a powerful jab. At 5’9”, Pedroza was one of the tallest 126-pound champions who ever existed. When he fought tall and kept the fight in the middle of the ring, he was extremely difficult to defeat. He also had incredible stamina, as he would be as fresh in the 15th round as he was in the opening stanza. This resulted in an electrifying 13th round stoppage of Lastra to begin his record breaking reign as champion.
Pedroza, as was the case for many great world champions, defended his title all over the world. Pedroza defended his title in his native Panama, Venezuela, South Korea, Italy, the United Kingdom and United States. His two most controversial title defenses occurred in the United States.
Although most effective as a counterpunching boxer on the outside utilizing his superior reach and height advantage, Pedroza was an excellent fighter inside for a tall fighter. Unfortunately, he also had a tendency to be a very dirty fighter on the inside as well. His October 4, 1980 title defense against Rocky Lockridge saw Lockridge cut off the ring and batter a listless Pedroza throughout the first half of their encounter. Pedroza didn’t have his legs in this fight, so he began to hit Lockridge low several times and hammer him with elbows as well. Referee Stanley Christodoulou did not once penalize Pedroza for his blatant fouls. Due to being the recipient of several fouls, Lockridge was completely spent for the last five rounds of the bout, causing him to lose via split decision.
A little over a year later, Pedroza would employ similar tactics against Juan Laporte, resulting in referee Guy Jutras deducting two points from Pedroza. Laporte, like Lockridge, was completely spent the last five rounds of the fight and barely survived until the 15th round ended. Pedroza won a close decision and once again exhibited that he would do anything to remain champion.
Pedroza’s reign as champion finally came to an end on June 8, 1985 when he traveled to London to face the popular Irishman Barry McGuigan. McGuigan handily defeated Pedroza over 15 rounds. Pedroza showed no signs of the skills that made him the fourth greatest 126-pound fighter of all-time in this fight. On the outside, he wasn’t able to box and use his vaunted jab. On the inside, he was outmuscled by the younger, stronger Irishman. It would be the final fight at 126 for Pedroza. Pedroza was a fierce competitor in the ring who found ways to win, even if some were unethical. Despite sometimes using questionable tactics, there was no denying his greatness and legacy at 126 pounds.
Greatest Featherweights in Boxing History
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