GLASGOW, Scotland – Arriving in Scotland from Los Angeles must have been like jumping from a steam room into an ice bath for Raymundo Beltran but he brought seething heat to a Glasgow prize ring and, for the majority of those present, came out on the wrong end of a draw against WBO lightweight titlist Ricky Burns.
The official scores were 115-112 Burns, 115-113 Beltran and 114-114. The first card came across as highly suspect given that Beltran floored the champion with a pulverizing left hook during the bout.
The crowd in attendance was informed immediately after the contest by Master of Ceremonies Michael Buffer that Burns had sustained a dislocated jaw early in the bout and an injury did appear obvious from ringside as the bout progressed.
Burns took the lead from the start and fought a versatile opening round. He jabbed well, countered when he had to and tested Beltran on the inside. The home support was deafening and chants for the two-weight world titlist were constant.
The left was effective for the champion in Round 2 and he pushed Beltran to the ropes where the fighters clinched. Burns bullied the stocky challenger against the ropes, attacked with the free hand (his right) and Beltran appeared momentarily flustered.
Suddenly, towards the end of this session, the Mexican challenger let his hands go with an impressive burst of hooks which forced the Scot to seek an escape route and get back to basics. Still, the classy work that Beltran unloaded was a sign of things to come and the fighter known as “Sugar” was just getting started.
Burns was guilty of reaching once or twice in Round 3 and the challenger opened up with another series of quality hooks to head and body and looked ominously strong on the inside. Burns came back well but the Mexican appeared to have taken his first round and the momentum had shifted in his favor.
Beltran’s attacks were thwarted by the champion’s tight defense at the start of Round 4 and he was being caught by nice counters to head and body when he suddenly tagged the champion with a vicious left hand at center ring. Burns backed off and was being caught heavily by two-handed assaults as the bell ended the round.
Burns was doing well on the back foot in Round 5 but wasn’t allowed to maintain those tactics. Beltran cut off the ring and forced his man to the ropes and Burns, unlike in prior fights, failed to find the crisp counter punching he is renowned for. Another huge left hook from Beltran landed with an audible thud as the bell rang.
The champion responded brilliantly in Round 6 and outboxed the visitor for the majority of the session. He made a tactical adjustment to walk Beltran back from clinches and controlled the action with the jab and some accurate power punching. Two single shots rattled Beltran as the round came to a close.
That pattern resumed in the seventh as Burns, who seemed to sense that a stoppage was impossible, picked off Beltran with some sharp boxing. The challenger wore a half-smile as if he knew things had taken a turn for the worse and his pressuring tactics were now being tempered.
All plans went out the window in Round 8 when Beltran unloaded with a monster left hook which sent the champion down heavily against the ropes. The shot was delivered perfectly and would have taken out many fighters but Burns used his championship experience and guile to survive. Beltran was now in the complete ascendency and looked like a machine.
Burns, who now appeared to be suffering severe mouth damage, went back to boxing in Round 9 and, despite the injury, came alive. As long as he was moving and controlling center ring he was fine but the challenger, as he had been all night, continued to cut the ring off and peppered Burns with hard shots against the ropes.
The champion went back to the jab in Round 10 but the Mexican warrior was now in a higher gear and continued to land to the ribcage. Beltran applied constant pressure and Burns had to rely heavily on his fitness and guts to survive torrid onslaughts.
The jaw injury Burns had sustained was clearly having a physical and tactical effect in the late stages of the bout.
Beltran was on top again in the eleventh and although Burns let go with some very good shots, the challenger was going nowhere. In the final round Burns was tagged early and didn’t appear to have the power to find anything resembling a finishing blow. Beltran ended strong and the crowd produced considerably less noise than they did at the start of the night.
This was the eighth world title fight across two weight classes for Burns (36-2-1, 11 knockouts), and he has been nothing but good for the sport. A draw would be depressing for most champions but the humble Scotsman, who is so down to earth, will likely enjoy time off with family and jump straight back on the horse as soon as his injury has healed.
Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KOs), who resides in Phoenix, almost reached the end of the rainbow some 5000 miles away from home. Nobody would have denied this man a day in the sun after a fourteen-year professional career and his performance was a triumph for anyone who believes in a workman’s compensation.
The Mexican warrior will return to the United States tomorrow and Top Rank Promotions will hopefully devise a route which will see him secure some well-deserved paydays. There is also the very real chance of a rematch with Ricky Burns, which he undoubtedly deserves.
Photos by Scott Heavey-Gettyimages
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing