It is being reported that veteran lightweight contender Ray Beltran will fight for the soon-to-be vacant WBO lightweight title. There is no official word from any one source, but the assumption is that Beltran will be fighting Japan’s Takahiro Ao on May 1st at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reported that Beltran’s opportunity is only possible because of a rotator cuff injury suffered by Juan Diaz during a sparring session. Diaz was originally scheduled to face off against Ao as the main event of Top Rank’s series premiere on truTV, a deal which has yet to be announced.
Beltran is now in line to get yet another shot at the WBO lightweight title, it will be his third opportunity in just under two years. Some might argue that he doesn’t deserve another shot or that this opportunity should go to someone else based on Beltran’s twice failed attempts.
However, there is an argument to be made that Beltran deserves this shot based on the fact that he was robbed of the title in his first attempt against then titleholder Ricky Burns. Beltran, who’s become a permanent “B-side” fixture in promotions, was desperate enough for the title shot that he decided to go on the road and fight Burns in his own backyard in Scotland.
I won’t hide the fact that Beltran is one of my favorite fighters in boxing, but I wouldn’t necessarily refer to myself as a fan. I am a fan of his in-ring ability and the way he is able to make exciting fights, but a fan is someone who roots for a fighter with blind adoration and lacks the insight to critique said fighter with an impartial mindset.
I, on the other hand, know exactly what kind of fighter Beltran is, and I am fully aware of how limited he is.
When Beltran received his second shot at the title against Terence Crawford, who won it from Burns in March of that same year, in November of last year I was absolutely thrilled for him because he deserved it. In fact, it should’ve been Crawford challenging Beltran for his title.
Beltran deserved that shot for reasons that extend beyond him getting robbed in Scotland. However, I made no mistake in giving Beltran a chance of defeating Crawford, although he fared much better than I initially thought he would. Beltran was chosen as the opponent because HBO and Top Rank were trying to further pad Crawford’s incredible 2014 campaign.
Now, Beltran will get to rectify any hopes of capturing a title at 135lbs, and he can absolutely do it. Ao is beatable, and Beltran has accomplished more at his time at lightweight against better opposition. This is a great chance to finally get Beltran the same title that has alluded him in prior attempts.
The cynics will point out Beltran’s flaws and highlight his limitations as an accurate accounting of his boxing worth. But I believe Beltran is one of those fighters that can’t be graded by simply looking at tape.
I said before; I am not a fan of Beltran in the traditional sense of the word, but I am a fan of Beltran from more of a personal standpoint. I admire his career and the way he has worked for everything he’s ever gotten. Beltran was never promoted as a star or given “A-side” opportunities. I don’t feel sorry for a fighter whose career is based off of being the hard-luck-loser, I appreciate a man that has never made excuses and continued to try regardless of circumstances.
Beltran defines the Mexican spirit. His career is a poetic representation of the Mexican-American struggle, and personally if find correlations between his can-do attitude and that of my own family values.
This is the first time that Beltran will go into a title fight where he didn’t have to scratch and claw his way into it. This might not be his most deserving moment, but that is only because he has always had to fight from so far behind that even a little assistance is more than he’s ever received. By comparison, this title shot resembles the kind of gifts that young and undeserving prospects with marketability receive from promoters hoping to cash in on their popularity, but that’s only when compared to Beltran’s entire career.
Maybe this is a gift from a desperate promoter trying to fill the void with a shallow stable, but it doesn’t matter because Beltran has done more than enough throughout his career to deserve a break. Besides, isn’t it more fitting for fighters like Beltran to receive these opportunities? I think so because I am a fan of exciting fights, and that makes me a fan of Beltran receiving this shot.
If this is a break, then no one deserves it more than Ray.