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Homecoming: Ray Beltran to defend title vs. Jose Pedraza on Aug. 25 in ESPN main event

Fighters Network

Ray Beltran is coming home, and this time, with a title around his waist.

At 37, he’ll enter the ring as a titleholder for the first time in his career, and he’ll do in Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, the city Beltran has lived in for years. Beltran (35-7-1, 21 knockouts) will defend his lightweight belt against Jose Pedraza on August 25 in the main event on ESPN, it was officially announced Monday.

“I’m living the dream,” said Beltran, The Ring’s No.4-rated lightweight. “It feels great to be a world champion. I am very motivated to defend my title, and it’s very special to me because I’m fighting in my adopted home.

“Pedraza is a very skillful fighter and is going to bring his best to take the belt from us, but I’m not just fighting for the belt, I’m also fighting to keep it in Phoenix and my birthplace of Los Mochis, Mexico. This belt represents my family’s future, and it’s going nowhere.”

The longtime sparring partner of Manny Pacquiao grabbed a vacant 135-pound in February when he eked out a decision victory over Paulus Moses in a war. Beltran, a native of Mexico, was slated to meet mandatory challenger Roman Andreev after Top Rank won the purse bid, but the Russian recently underwent surgery to remove his appendix.

So now Pedraza (24-1, 12 KOs) steps in, himself a former titleholder, and the new matchup is far more intriguing. Andreev is unknown in the U.S., but Pedraza was a top prospect before he outpointed Andrey Klimov in 2015 to win the title.

The Puerto Rican made two successful defenses before he was stopped by Gervonta “Tank” Davis in 2017. But after Pedraza edged Antonio Moran last month, he’s now back in the title hunt.

“This is a great opportunity and a great challenge,” said Pedraza, 29. “Beltran is a veteran and is finally a world champion after trying for so long. I think for that reason it’s going to be a great fight because he will not want to lose the title. I’m 100 percent prepared for war.”

Beltran loves to plow forward and bang at the body, while Pedraza is a slick-moving counter puncher. The contrast of styles has all the makings of a great action fight.

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger