Jose Pedraza was content in the early going to let his jab get the best of gritty lightweight champion Ray Beltran.
And when it came time to close, Pedraza shifted into power mode, landing an 11th-round knockdown on a left uppercut to Beltran’s chin, then pummeling him in a neutral corner to end the 12th.
Because of the thoughtful, complete display, judges made Puerto Rico’s Pedraza (25-1) the new World Boxing Organization lightweight champion by scores of 117-110, 117-110, 115-112 Saturday night at Gila River Casino Arena.
The victory moves Pedraza to a Dec. 1 title-unification bout at the Forum against three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“The style he has is not a style Lomachenko is used to, and [Pedraza] told me after, ‘My style is the one that can beat Lomachenko,’” Pedraza promoter Bob Arum said.
Beltran, 37, was done in during his champion’s homecoming by the effects of time and his fragile face. Pedraza piled up early rounds by peppering Beltran’s face with crisp jabs, leaving Beltran to swipe away flowing blood under his left eye in the second round.
In his first title defense, Beltran answered in the middle rounds with power as Pedraza made a puzzling decision to skirt away from the jab and seek an inside fight.
“We did everything we needed to do to win this fight,” Pedraza said after experiencing swelling by the left eye. “I knew how tough this fight was going to be and at moments it got very difficult, but thanks to focus and the guidance from my corner, we were able to … get the win.”
Beltran, with the home advantage, had every right to believe the scores were close after he smacked Pedraza with consecutive punches to the body early in the 11th.
Then, Pedraza unleashed the hard uppercut, sending Beltran (35-8-1) to the canvas. He wouldn’t yield to Pedraza’s furious attempt to finish him on the ropes, but the decisive damage was done.
“The knockdown made the difference. I got caught with a really good shot,” Beltran said. “Pedraza fought a great fight, and all the respect to him.”
Pedraza ensured his edge with the flurry that rattled Beltran’s head in the 12th, and Puerto Rico’s newest champion celebrated with his cornermen at the final bell as Beltran was left to console one of his crying children inside the ring.
In the co-main event, Isaac Dogboe made a dominating first defense of his WBO super-bantamweight belt with a first-round technical knockout of Japan’s Hidenori Otake (31-3-3).
Ghana’s Dogboe (20-0, 14 knockouts) began hammering Otake with left uppercuts and body shots to set up the first of two knockdowns that preceded the stoppage by referee Chris Flores at 2 minutes 18 seconds.
Otake was first dropped by a thunderous left to the nose.
“When I hit him with that powerful hook … I felt the holy spirit,” Dogboe said.
Otake arose, only to touch his right glove on the canvas after being rocked by a straight right.
“I knew he was very strong so we made our mind up that we were coming in hot, bringing the heat, and we were able to take him out,” Dogboe said.
Woozy and wobbled, Otake was then subjected to a flurry of punches closed by a right to the head that inspired the referee’s mercy.
Dogboe aspires to become a boxing superstar and he made a point to call for fellow champions Rey Vargas, Daniel Roman and TJ Doheny to meet him in the ring.
“Let’s make this happen. They should come forward. I’m looking to get a lot of titles, one here [over the left shoulder], one here [over the right shoulder] and one here [around the waist],” Dogboe said. “I believe we are on the right course.”
Earlier, Mikaela Mayer repeatedly landed heavy shots that hurt Edina Kiss, leading the Hungarian to quit on her stool after three rounds.
Mayer (7-0, four KOs), of the San Fernando Valley, scored a first-round knockdown on a straight right and her following blows repeatedly backed Kiss (14-8).
“I could sense that I was hurting her when I looked into her eyes,” Mayer said. “Once my jab lands clean, I knew she’d back up.”
Following the third round, Kiss informed her trainer her right side hurt and the cornerman told the referee the fight was over.
Although Kiss had been through more pro bouts, 2016 U.S. Olympian Mayer said, “The amateurs gave me experience that a lot of these girls don’t have. I have a coach who’s been in this for years. He tells me to relax and stay behind the jab.”