Ray Beltran had every reason to quit boxing.
Last September at the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, Beltran should have had his arm raised in victory against then-WBO lightweight titleholder Ricky Burns.
To his shock (and to the shock of many boxing fans and media), his reward for giving Burns a beating during a majority of the rounds was a split-decision draw.
The loss Beltran suffered is not the first time a fighter has been wronged, nor will it be the last time. But the outcome stuck out like a sore thumb due to the fact that the fight was one-sided in Beltran’s favor and someone as likable as Beltran was screwed over.
But no good deed goes unnoticed. Beltran was rewarded so to speak with a fight on a major pay-per-view card with a possible world title bout in the near future.
Beltran will face late-sub Arash Usmanee in a 12-round lightweight bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The fight will precede the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
The bout will be part of the HBO Pay Per View telecast.
While the “loss” to Burns hurt Beltran emotionally and psychologically for a short period of time, it is not the first time Beltran has had an outcome come under scrutiny. Beltran lost 10-round unanimous decisions to Shariff Bogere and to Luis Ramos that quite a number of media members thought Beltran did enough to win.
“This is not the first time I’ve dealt with a robbery (in the ring),” Beltran said in a recent interview with RingTV.com. “I’ve stayed positive and ready. I feel this is the best training camp of my career. I’m excited and anxious to take care of business on Saturday.
“I know that the decision was unfair and I took it hard. But the loss made me stronger and it gave me more motivation. I stayed positive and I was able to get another opportunity with a fight on HBO.
Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KOs) was scheduled to fight Roman “Rocky” Martinez on Saturday night. Less than a week ago, Martinez claimed he was feeling ill and withdrew from the fight. Beltran will now face Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KOs), who fought to a 12-round majority decision to Argenis Mendez on Aug. 23 in Verona, N.Y.
While Beltran repeatedly landed vicious right hands to Burns’ head or left hooks to the body, one has to wonder what his psyche will be when he fights Usmanee. Will he be more aggressive against Usmanee? Will he box and counter the Afghan fighter?
While so many aspects could play out on Saturday night, Beltran believes he will have to be more aggressive and assertive. It is the only way a decision will not be in doubt, should the fight go 12 rounds.
“There’s no perfect fight, but I’ve learned that I can’t waste any time,” said Beltran, who has lived in the Los Angeles and Phoenix areas. “I believe that I have to be psychologically and physically more aggressive. I’m ready for any situation. I can box or brawl. With my experience, I know even a brawler could expect anything.”
Beltran is coming up on 15 years as a prizefighter. At age 32, he knows lucrative opportunities will be hard to come by, especially if he loses.
But losing is no longer in his vocabulary. Just when he was on the cusp of being a gatekeeper for prospects or contenders, Beltran has been able to prove detractors wrong. That was evident almost two years ago, when he won a 10-round majority decision over Hank Lundy. Since the loss to Ramos, he is unbeaten in his last four bouts.
It is with that energy, momentum, and confidence Beltran believes he can make a run at a world title belt. In his eye, he did not just give Burns a run for his money; he did enough to beat him and is capable of beating anybody on a given night.
A win against Usmanee could give him a shot at fighting Terence Crawford for Crawford’s WBO title (which the undefeated Nebraska native won from Burns on March 1).
“I know I can beat a world champ. Look at what I did in my last fight. I want to keep making a name for myself. As long as I keep working hard, I know the results will be there. I would love a world title and for people to know about what I went through to get there.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing