NEW YORK — Eusebio Pedroza, a Panamanian boxer with a sharp jab and a reputation for dirty tactics who successfully defended the World Boxing Association featherweight title 19 times over seven years, died Friday in Panama City. He was in his 60s, but his exact age was uncertain.
His death, from pancreatic cancer, was revealed by the WBA.
Mr. Pedroza was one of Panama’s best boxers, but he fought in the shadow of Roberto Durán, his flamboyant and world-famous countryman, who won titles in various weight classes. Mr. Pedroza — a smart, brawling attacker nicknamed El Alacrán, or The Scorpion — had a reputation for getting stronger in the fight’s later rounds.
“Everyone knew that rounds 11 through 15 was Pedroza’s turf,” Lee Groves, a boxing historian, told Ring magazine last year. “He seemed to draw strength from his opponents’ weaknesses, and once he sensed that weakness, he put the hammer down.”
Mr. Pedroza — who at about 5 feet, 9 inches was tall for a featherweight — won the WBA title in 1978 with a 13th-round technical knockout of Cecilio Lastra in Panama City. He did not lose it until he faced Irishman Barry McGuigan in June 1985 at Loftus Road Stadium, a soccer pitch, in London.
By then Mr. Pedroza was a major figure in Panama, a seemingly unbeatable champion who had been elected a senator in the country’s Legislative Assembly (now the National Assembly) a year earlier. “I had to go to the Assembly to do a different type of fighting,” he told Sports Illustrated shortly before the McGuigan fight. “I must fight for my people, the things they need and want in my district.”
Mr. Pedroza was dogged by accusations that he routinely elbow- and head-butted his foes and punched below the belt.
“They say I’m a dirty fighter,” Mr. Pedroza told the British newspaper The Observer. “McGuigan is a dirty fighter, especially with his elbows. They have compared McGuigan with a hero. They say he is a superman. I do not say much. I just do what I have to do in the ring.”
McGuigan knocked Mr. Pedroza to the canvas in the seventh round and won the fight in a unanimous decision. Mr. Pedroza fought only five more times over the next seven years, losing his final bout to Mauro Gutierrez in a high school gymnasium in Detroit in 1992.
Overall, Mr. Pedroza compiled a record of 41-6-1, which included 25 knockouts. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.
Eusebio Pedroza was born in Panama City on March 2 in either 1953 or 1956, depending on the source. He shined shoes and sold newspapers in the street as a youngster and credited Ismael Laguna, a world lightweight champion from Panama, with taking him to a boxing gym when he was 8.
He started his professional career in 1973 as a featherweight — meaning he could not exceed 126 pounds — but he also fought in the lighter bantamweight and super bantamweight divisions. He got his first chance at a title when he fought Alfonso Zamora for the WBA world bantamweight championship in a bullring in Mexico. Zamora knocked him out in the second round.
On the day Mr. Pedroza died, McGuigan praised his former opponent and recalled their bout nearly 34 years ago.
“Eusebio gave me my greatest night in boxing,” he wrote in an article in the British newspaper The Mirror. Mr. Pedroza had won the first five rounds, McGuigan noted, but “I had to set a pace that he couldn’t cope with.
“He was better technically, but I had the better engine and punched harder.”