Champion Jose Pedraza out to prove he’s at the head of the talented 130-pound weight class

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If you came upon a roundtable gathering of boxing aficionados and the discussion turned to the best 130-pound fighters in the world today, you’d likely hear a variety of answers.

Jose Pedraza

Unbeaten 130-pound champion Jose "The Sniper" Pedraza returns to the ring for the first time since October when he risks his title against once-beaten Stephen Smith on Saturday in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

There probably would be a passionate argument in favor of Takashi Uchiyama, the unbeaten knockout savant from Japan. Others might prefer undefeated Mexican Francisco Vargas, while some might side with twice-beaten Puerto Rican fighter Roman “Rocky” Martinez.

All three currently hold world titles, and so all three are worthy of receiving votes. But if you happen to ask Jose “The Sniper” Pedraza whom he believes is the top dog at 130 pounds, he’ll tell you the debate begins and ends with one person: himself.

“Rocky’s a real strong guy with many skills who comes forward every time and fights hard for 12 rounds,” Pedraza says of his fellow countryman. “But I think I’m the best in the world at 130 right now.”

A switch-hitting 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian, Pedraza (21-0, 12 KOs) will have another opportunity to prove his point Saturday when he battles Stephen Smith (23-1, 13 KOs) at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut (Showtime, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT). The fight for Pedraza’s 130-pound crown will precede the main event, where Gary Russell Jr. will attempt to defend his 126-pound title against Patrick Hyland.

Pedraza was a highly decorated amateur, having competed for Puerto Rico in the 2008 Olympics before winning a silver medal at the 2009 World Boxing Championships and a gold medal at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. Since making his pro debut in February 2011, Pedraza has picked off every opponent he has faced, most recently defeating Edner Cherry by split decision in October.

The fight against Cherry was Pedraza’s first defense of the title he won four months earlier when he beat Andrey Klimov by unanimous decision.

Pedraza’s most impressive victory to date, though, was a lopsided unanimous decision over veteran Filipino southpaw Michael Farenas in November 2014. Prior to facing Pedraza, Farenas had stopped five consecutive opponents since suffering his only pro loss to then-unbeaten Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Now Pedraza is set to face another difficult foe in Smith, a native of Liverpool, England, who is 10-0 with seven knockouts since being stopped in the eighth round by current 126-pound titleholder Lee Selby in September 2011. In his last outing in September, the 30-year-old Smith dropped Italy's Devis Boschiero four times in gaining a sixth-round TKO.

Smith, who will be fighting on U.S. soil for the first time, will be giving up two inches in height and 4½ inches in reach when he squares up against the 5-foot-8½-inch Pedraza.

“Smith is a strong fighter with a good defense, but I know I can beat him,” Pedraza says. “I’m going to take this fight round by round and not go into it looking for a knockout. But I’m going to continue to prove that I’m the best fighter at 130.”

For more coverage of Pedraza vs Smith, visit our fight page.

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