NEW YORK (Oct. 10, 2012) – Fans get an opportunity to watch a boxer regarded as the most promising prospect from Puerto Rico since superstar Miguel Cotto when talented lightweight and former international amateur standout Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza (10-0) faces southpaw Tevin “The American Idol” Farmer (7-3-1, 1 KO) of Philadelphia in the eight-round main event this Friday, Oct. 12, on ShoBox: The New Generation live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
The co-feature at Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Mo., is a grudge match between power-punching Dominican Jonathan “El Conquistador” Cepeda (12-0, 11 KOs), of Jersey City, N.J., and fellow unbeaten Lamar “The Boxing Que” Russ (10-0, 6 KOs), of Tallahassee, Fla. Russ lost via disputed disqualification to Cepeda in the finals of a Golden Gloves tournament in March 2007 and will be seeking revenge in the eight-round middleweight match.
Also, highlights from a fight featuring Jermain Taylor against Raul Munoz and a live interview with Taylor, a former undisputed middleweight champion, will be shown during the telecast.
The 5-foot-9, 23-year-old Pedraza is unbeaten and untested and has been brought along slowly, but he seemingly possesses the tools to oneday perhaps become as well-known – and successful — as his Puerto Rican predecessors, prolific prizefighters such as Cotto, Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez and Wilfred Benitez.
Said Cotto: “We wish the best to Pedraza on Friday night. Looking forward to a great performance on ShoBox.’’
Pedraza, who began boxing at the age of 12, fought 170 times in the amateurs and was a three-time Puerto Rican national champion. He represented Puerto Rico in the 2008 Olympic Games, and was the gold medalist at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games.
Since turning pro at 21 on Feb. 18, 2011, he has seldom lost a round.
“The next couple of months we’re going to see the present and the future of Puerto Rican boxing,’’ said ShoBox expert analyst and boxing historian Steve Farhood. “On Dec. 1, Cotto, a future Hall of Famer, will be fighting at Madison Square Garden on SHOWTIME and on Friday the fighter that has been called the best prospect since Cotto is fighting on ShoBox.’’
This will be Pedraza’s fifth fight in 2012, his sixth consecutive scheduled eight-round bout and his second start on ShoBox. In his last fight, he registered one knockdown en route to taking a unanimous eight-round decision over Jose Valderrama on Aug. 31. Three fights ago, Pedraza won his ShoBox debut with a unanimous eight-round decision over Gil Garcia on April 27.
“Judging by what we saw from Pedraza last time on ShoBox, you can be sure he’ll be punching for a knockout (on Friday),’’ Farhood said.
The versatile, ambidextrous Pedraza, who can box or slug, trains the vast majority of the time at the Albergue Olimpico Gym in Salinas. Albergue Olimpico Gym is the Olympic training center in Puerto Rico – the equivalent of Colorado Springs in the United States.
“I just want to tell all the people who are coming to the fight and all of the people watching on TV — get ready because I’m going to put on a show,” Pedraza said.
Farmer, a replacement for Allan Benitez who withdrew because of an elbow injury, accepted this assignment this past weekend.
An awkward boxer and natural counter-puncher who’ll be spotting Pedraza three inches in height, the 5-foot-6, 22-year old Farmer has won three in a row and five out of his last six. In his last start, he pitched an eight-round shutout against Rasool Shakoor on July 28.
Farmer, a pro since February 2011, is known for his willingness to fight anybody anywhere – even if it means taking a significant step up in class versus a foe he knows nothing about.
“I’m not familiar with my opponent at all,’’ the self-managed Farmer said. “I haven’t seen videos. I know my capabilities. I’m slick and fast and I know I’ve faced tougher. Fighting me will be a step up for him, not a step up for me. I don’t have a promoter backing me, I’ve done this alone.’’
Farmer feels fighting as a lightweight is significant. “I was actually struggling to make weight,’’ he said. “Look at my losses; they were all at 130 or under. So now I’m fighting at 135.”
If bloodlines mean anything, Farmer will win. He says he’s related to the legendary Joe Gans, an all-time great world lightweight champion considered to be one of the best boxers in history, pound-for-pound.
The opening bout of the telecast is a classic ShoBox matchup between unbeaten fighters at similar stages of their careers. Both feel they are elite prospects and are willing to prove it by fighting each other. The result could provide each three-year professional a good barometer of where they’re at and how close they are to taking the next step to contender status.
“If you haven’t seen Cepeda, you’re going to love him,’’ Farhood said. “He’s a pure puncher with a knockout artist’s mentality. Russ is a lanky boxer-puncher who stands in the pocket, so it should be a great action fight.’’
While a defeat wouldn’t be disastrous for either guy, the outcome may be more important to the aggressive-minded, 5-foot-9, 28-year-old Cepeda, a three-year pro who got a late start in the sport and didn’t begin to box until he was 20. He had a brief amateur career, going 24-4 (all the losses were to former world title challenger Danny Jacobs) before turning pro in November 2008.
Cepeda has won nine in a row by knockout, including a 1:42 first-round TKO over Orphius Waite last Aug. 2. He dropped Waite twice before it was stopped. This will be his second fight since walking away from a head-on collision last November on the New Jersey Turnpike.
“There was one lane open, and there was about a 70- or 80-year-old man who fell asleep at the wheel and hit me straight on at 80 miles an hour,’’ Cepeda said. “I was with a female friend. She broke her shoulder. She had a dog with her and the dog went through the windshield.”
Miraculously, Cepeda escaped mostly unscathed. “I had injuries to my shoulder and back and a couple of flesh wounds, but nothing serious,’’ he said. “I went through physical therapy. Luckily I was able to recover 100 percent. I had angels of my own that day, my Mom’s birthday.’’
Cepeda has had to overcome a lot besides the automobile accident. “I had personal problems,’’ he said. “I’m from the streets where there were gangs, violence. But I went to Florida, went to school, got an education. I saw a whole different life. Now, I’m real happy. I just want to look good and let everyone know I’m the new kid on the block and I demand my respect. I love fighting. I’m excited, happy that this opportunity came along. I’m going in there to take him out.”
Russ, a 6-foot-2, 25-year-old college graduate, is fighting for the first time since registering a career-best fourth-round knockout over previously undefeated Jose Alonzo last April 14. This will be his third fight of the year, after fighting just once in 2011. It is his eight-round debut.
Before turning pro at the age of 22 in October 2009, Russ was an accomplished, top five-ranked amateur who won the vast majority of his nearly 300 bouts. But it’s the DQ defeat to Cepeda that continues to gnaw at him.
“When I fought him in the amateurs, I was disqualified – it was just a bad call,” said Russ, who spars with WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. “We knew we’d run into him one of these days, and this is it. It’s personal, because I feel like he owes me one. As soon as we were offered this fight, we jumped on it. Jonathan is a great guy and he’s got great skills but I feel like I’m the better, hungrier fighter. I deserve this. It’s going to be an interesting fight.”
Regarding his nickname, “The Boxing Que,” he said. “I’m in a fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, at Fayetteville State University. I graduated with a business administration degree in 2011.”
Barry Tompkins will call the ShoBox action from ringside alongside Farhood. The executive producer is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.
The event is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, in association with Gary Shaw Productions, Universal Promotions and Rumble Time Promotions. Tickets are priced at $100, $75 and $40 and can be purchased through the Ameristar Casino or by calling (314) 267-2204. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 6 p.m.