CABAZON — With the vacant United States Boxing Assn. junior lightweight title on the line, bigger fights in the future at stake and an undefeated opponent across from him, Gabriel “The Ghost” Tolmajyan rarely took a step back Friday night.
But after 10 hard-fought rounds, his budding career took a stumble, as he was on the losing end of a unanimous decision to undefeated Jose “Sniper” Pedraza at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon in the co-main event of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
All three judges scored the fight 97-93 for Pedraza (14-0, nine knockouts), who used a stiff right jab throughout to lead to the victory.
“Always just a little bit off,” said George Bastmajyan, Tolmajyan’s manager and cut man, as his fighter lost for the third time to an undefeated foe, all via decision. “This time around, he was strong, he wasn’t tired. We lost because we weren’t active enough.”
Tolmajyan (14-3-1, three KOs), an Armenian native who fights out of Glendale and trains at the Glendale Fighting Club, was fighting an undefeated opponent for the sixth time in his career and the second fight in a row. Trying to follow up his defeat of the previously unblemished Jorge Maysonet Jr. in April, Tolmajyan was unable to find the same magic, although the two put on an exciting, back-and-forth action fight.
“I know Gabe landed the cleaner punches, the harder punches,” Bastmajyan said. “[Pedraza] was pop-shotting him and running away.”
Much of the story of the fight was Pedraza using his range and popping out a stiff right jab that he began employing after losing the first round while fighting right-handed. Pedraza contested the remainder of the fight as a southpaw.
“He threw us off,” said Bastmajyan, who, along with lead trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan, brought in both right- and left-handers to spar with Tolmajyan. “We knew he switches, but you can’t spar a guy who switches. We sparred with guys from both sides, but it’s different when a guy switches.”
One surprise to Tolmajyan’s camp was Pedraza’s approach. Riding a string of three consecutive knockouts into Friday’s bout, Pedraza didn’t come out as aggressive as predicted, Bastmajyan said.
“We thought he was gonna come out and try to get the knockout,” Bastmajyan said. “He boxed.”
And with a reach advantage, Pedraza’s boxing was key, along with aggression. When it became a fight, Tolmajyan often got the better of it, landing the more effective power punches throughout. In the end, Bastmajyan believes the biggest factor was simply aggression and activity.
“That’s it, that’s it,” Bastmajyan said. “When Gabe was initiating action, he was catching the guy.”
The fighters opened slowly in the first, with Tolmajyan getting the round, as he was more active and landed more. Pedraza landed the best blow of the stanza though, connecting on a straight right counter and nicking the bridge of Tolmajyan’s nose.
Action opened up in the second round, with Esparza landing the better shots, though both had their flurries. Pedraza once more landed the most effective blow of the round, coming on a counter left hook as he switched to southpaw after fighting the first round from an orthodox stance.
Working behind a stiff right jab, Pedraza looked to take the third round, putting together two good flurries and ducking under the majority of Tolmajyan’s offense.
Tolmajyan came out aggressively in the fourth round and used his right hook well throughout. Pedraza’s output waned and a mouse began to form under his right eye, as well.
In the fifth, Tolmajyan’s right hook was once again his best weapon, but Pedraza fought with renewed aggression and worked his right jab well, also scoring with uppercuts and flurries in tight.
Highlighted by a terrific left cross in the waning seconds, Tolmajyan looked solid in the sixth, slipping Pedraza’s punches well and landing effectively on offense, as Pedraza had blood running down from his nose into his mouth by round’s end.
The seventh round was close, but Tolmajyan dictated the pace and landed the better power punches, as Pedraza’s activity regressed.
The back-and-forth feel continued with the eighth, as another tight round saw Pedraza work his jab well again and increase his output, landing more than Tolmajyan, though the latter landed three solid lefts, one a hook and two straights.
An all-action ninth round went back and forth with Pedraza landing more, but Tolmajyan landing the more powerful shots.
Pedraza closed the fight well in the 10th round, dancing and boxing well, sticking and moving as he appeared to be the much fresher fighter.