- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Junior lightweight Jose “Sniper” Pedraza, a former standout amateur and one of Puerto Rico’s best pro prospects, is stepping up a bit in competition.
The 24-year-old Pedraza (15-0, 10 KOs), in his first scheduled 12-round bout, will face former featherweight title challenger Alberto Garza on March 22 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The fight is for a minor 130-pound title.
Garza (26-6-1, 21 KOs), of Mexico, is coming off a Jan. 24 victory against a low-level opponent. In the fight before that, Garza, 28, was stopped in the fourth round challenging 126-pound titlist Nicholas Walters on Nov. 9.
Pedraza hopes the fight with Garza is the beginning of a big 2014 in which he aims to go from blue-chip prospect to serious contender.
"I feel 2014 will be another great year for me," Pedraza said. "Against Garza it will be Puerto Rico versus Mexico, a rivalry I always look forward to. With every fight I'm getting better and better. Most of my fights have been against rough challengers who come to fight. That's why I feel I'll be more prepared for the next level of competition. I'm ready to challenge any of the top fighters in my division. First I need to take care of Garza.
"I want to make Puerto Rico proud every time I step in the ring. I fight for my countrymen and I want them to know how much I appreciate their support. I'm happy to carry the weight of my people on my back. I want to bring prominence back to Puerto Rico."
Gary Shaw, Pedraza’s co-promoter, said the plan is to keep Pedraza busy this year. He fought four times in 2013.
"The objective is to keep him fighting on a regular basis as he marches up the rankings,” Shaw said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Pedraza, that he will make great progress in 2014. There are many big fights right around the corner."