It’s fitting that respected lightweight contender Raymundo Beltran will face WBO champion Ricky Burns in his first attempt to win a world title, because both of these fighters have traveled hard roads to get to the top of the 135-pound division while being thousands of miles apart.
Raymundo Beltran will enter the ring in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sept. 7 having spilled blood, sweat and tears throughout an arduous 14-year professional career. No promoter has created a hype machine on Beltran’s behalf and the 32-year-old veteran has simply been a soldier in search of the next battlefield.
Burns, 30 years of age, turned professional two years prior to Beltran and clawed his way through the ranks without any favors asked or given. The proud Scotsman suffered two learning-curve losses early in his career but steadily improved and emerged, against the odds, as a two-weight world titleholder who is currently THE RING’s No. 3-rated lightweight.
An ESPN favorite, Beltran has faced solid opposition in Sharif Bogere, Luis Ramos, Henry Lundy and Ji-Hoon Kim. The Mexican slugger has won plenty and lost a few but rarely has he been outclassed and the upset win over Lundy was particularly impressive.
Burns will be looking to rebound from a sub-par performance against Chelo Gonzalez, where he was tested to the limit prior to stopping the dangerous Puerto Rican in nine rounds. The champion has promised to be back to his best and will be keen to deliver with unification bouts on the horizon.
Beltran (28-6, 17 knockouts) has been training feverishly at the Wild Card gym under the tutelage of respected trainers Pepe Reilly and Ernie Zavala, and will depart for Scotland on the 25th of August for his date with destiny.
RingTV.com spoke to Beltran, who is quietly confident despite being a significant underdog.
RingTV.com: Considering you’ve beaten so many quality fighters, why has it taken Ray Beltran so long to secure a world title fight?
Raymundo Beltran: It’s all about politics in boxing. I’ve tried several times to get champions in the ring but without a promoter it’s very hard. There were times when I took long periods out of the ring but I would always be in training, waiting for my time. Over the last couple of years I’ve stayed busy as a professional and here we are.
RTV: Why do you feel Ricky Burns and his team have targeted you for a voluntary title defense?
RB: I have no idea why they would want to fight me. I just jumped at it because it’s a world title opportunity and I’ll be ready on fight night.
RTV: Officially you have six defeats but you’ve been unlucky with the scorecards more than once. What fights do you feel could have gone your way?
RB: We’re just back to politics again. When you fight a guy in his home town and they have a promoter on board it becomes political. You know how it is? I’m fighting in someone’s backyard and it goes the distance so they take it away from me. That kind of thing has bothered me in the past but for this fight with Burns I’m not going to think about that. I’m just going to go over there and do my job.
RTV: Burns has posted solid wins over the likes of Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis. How is he viewed as a champion across the Atlantic?
RB: With all due respect he’s known over here but not that well. The reason for that is he hasn’t fought in the United States and he hasn’t met the very best fighters out there. When you fight outside your country and bring it to America then you earn your respect. Burns is a world champion but he defends at home and over here we just say “whatever.” If he wants to enhance his reputation he has to come to America.
RTV: Ricky Burns has been televised almost exclusively in the UK. What fights have you managed to source to help with preparation?
RB: I’m not the type of fighter who studies the opposition. For me boxing is all about styles and if you’re not better than the guy across from you, it doesn’t matter how much you watch him, he’ll win the fight. You can watch tapes all day long but you end up wasting your time. We’ve watched a little bit to assess his style but we work hard in the gym to address any situation. If he comes to box we’ll be ready and if he wants it toe to toe we’ll be ready. I’m not concerned about what my opponent does.
RTV: You said that you viewed a little bit of footage on Burns. Did you see the fight with Chelo Gonzalez?
RB: I saw a little bit of the Gonzalez fight but I’m not focused on that performance. I’m not getting sucked into people saying; “Oh, he was losing to Chelo Gonzalez” and this and that. I’m only thinking about facing off with Ricky Burns and how I match up against him. If anything Burns is going to come out stronger to prove to people there is no need to doubt him. I expect to fight a better Ricky Burns than Chelo Gonzalez did and I will be ready for it.
RTV: What overall qualities do you bring to the table that will trouble Ricky Burns?
RB: I can fight very well on the inside. I can stand toe to toe if I want to and I can stand toe to toe if I “need” to. I have some power, some speed and a lot of experience and I’m determined to make this my time. I want to be world champion and I’m looking forward to fight night. If he comes to box then I’ll cut the ring off and I won’t be following him around like other guys have.
RTV: You fought Ammeth Diaz in Panama, so you’re accustomed to entering the lion’s den. Have you any concerns about taking on Burns in Scotland?
RB: Not really and as you said I’ve been in these situations before. I actually like it and it motivates me and keeps me hungry. I want people to know that I’m the best and I will rely on the experience I have gained in my career to do that. The politics that exist in boxing will be put to the side, although I’m sure things will be fair in the UK. I’m just going over there to do my job and I can’t do any better than that. Nothing will distract me from what needs to be done.
RTV: What would it mean to Ray Beltran if he were to reach his goal after fourteen years as a professional and win a world title?
RB: I have waited on this moment my entire professional career. To get to the top and become a world champion, to get that title, is every fighter’s dream. It’s now or never for me and it helps me to secure a future for my kids. A victory will lead to bigger fights against the biggest names and then I can make some real money and take care of my family.
RTV: What is your prediction for Sept. 7th in Glasgow, Scotland?
RB: I will be there for 12 rounds and I will put on a great show for the people. I believe in myself and I believe that I will win this fight. I will be the new world champion.
Photos / Tom Casino-SHOWTIME, Scott Heavey-Getty Images
British fans can see Ricky Burns vs. Raymundo Beltran live on Sky Sports 1 HD (Channel 401). Tickets are available from www.matchroomboxing.com. U.S. fans will be able to see the bout live on the afternoon of Sept. 7 on Wealth TV www.wealthtv.com.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing