SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 24, 2018 – Fans find boxing such a compelling sport in part because of the personal stories of the men and women who pursue this difficult and demanding way to make a living as a professional athlete.
Veteran Ray Beltran of Phoenix, Arizona via Mexico lives one of these narratives, making him the kind of fighter you can’t help rooting for. Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs) takes on Jose Pedraza of Puerto Rico (24-1, 12 KOs) in the first defense of the WBO lightweight title he won in February. It is a hometown fight for Beltran in Glendale, Arizona at the Gila River Arena, home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
Beltran and Pedraza will generate way too much heat in this fight for any ice to set up. These men come from all-action traditions in boxing, and it should be the perfect fan friendly matchup in the ring as well as compelling outside the ring.
Beltran crossed the border illegally at age 16 , and never secured legal U.S. residency status. He was fortunate enough to secure a job as Manny Pacquiao’s longtime sparring partner. Meanwhile, his own boxing career struggled. In his mid-30s, Beltran’s immigration status in the U.S. was riding on his ability to secure an employment-based immigration visa by demonstrating “exceptional experience and ability” in sport.
Then, Beltran was suspended for nine months after testing positive for an illegal steroid.
Beltran fights for his family and for his future
Since the suspension, Beltran turned his career around, driven by remaining in the U.S. to give his family a better life. He is 6-0 since returning to the ring, and hopes to make it seven straight against Pedraza.
“In 1996, I came to the United States illegally. I did it, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. Thanks to that, I’m making my dream come true,” said Beltran. “I want to dedicate this fight to all of the immigrants all over the world, especially to my Mexican people. I represent them with so much pride. Just to show the world that we don’t come to commit no crime. We come here to get a better future for our family. I represent that. I represent the truth.”
Beltran says he hasn’t ever changed. “Now I have the belt and people see me as a champion. But before that, I already felt like a champion. It’s good to get recognition from the boxing world, but like I said before, I don’t feel different.
“Once you get the world title, there are new challenges. You’re always looking for the best challenges out there, and now I have a very important fight against a very difficult and tough opponent. In my mind, I don’t get overconfident. I get confident, but not overconfident.”
Mexico vs. Puerto Rico matchups always deliver for fans
Pedraza doesn’t intend to make anything easy for Beltran. “This is the second opportunity I’m getting for a world title. I really want to win this world title because I want to bring happiness to Puerto Rico after what happened with Hurricane Maria.
“It will be a lot of emotion and happiness for me when they say, ‘and the new champion,’ but I don’t like to get ahead of myself. One step at a time,” said Pedraza.
If he is successful against Pedraza, Beltran should get the chance for his biggest payday and biggest test ever against pound for pound three-division champion Vasyl Lomachenko in a unification fight in Los Angeles on December 1. Beltran has the advantage in power, speed, and experience, and he should retain his title.
Isaac Dogboe making big noise in competitive division
On the televised undercard, 23-year-old undefeated super bantamweight sensation Isaac “Brave Son” Dogboe of Great Britain (19-0, 13 KOs), defends his WBO title against Japanese veteran Hidenori Otake of Japan (31-2-3, 14 KOs). Born in Ghana, Dogboe moved to London when he was seven. Dogboe demonstrated how tough he is by getting up off the canvas to stop Jessie Magdaleno in the 11th round to win his title in April.
“Otake is a great guy,” said Dogboe. “This is his second world title challenge, his second opportunity, and we know he’s going to come out fighting. He’s going to come out guns blazing. But, you know, like we always say, we don’t have to get ready, we’re always prepared. Everything he brings to the table, we have an answer for it.”
Dogbae urged local fans to come and see him. “It’s going to be fireworks because there’s no way that something we worked so hard for is going to slip through our hands. He says he’s going to be fighting for his soul. I have no need for his soul because I did not create him. I just want to knock him out on Saturday night and retain my title.”
Dogboe said Otake is a credit to Japanese boxing, but on Saturday he is a stumbling block in the way of securing a unification fight in the division. “Hard work never stops,” said Dogboe.
“As you may know, in my first world title match in England [against Scott Quigg], I lost,” said Otake. “As happy as I am (for the opportunity to fight Dogboe), taking that into consideration, I have trained very hard to make the most of this opportunity.”
Dogboe is one of the most exciting young fighters to emerge in the elite ranks in the last year. Fighting a veteran like Otake will be a new challenge, but one he should be able to overcome with his superior power and the stamina of youth. Watch this bout and you’ll be watching the progress of someone destined for the top pound for pound list shortly.
American Mikaela Mayer driven to deliver knockouts
The third televised fight features American women’s super featherweight and 2016 U.S. Olympian Mikaela Mayer (6-0, 3 KOs) against veteran Edina Kiss of Hungary (14-7, 8 KOs), Despite two losses to Heather Hardy and two to Amanda Serrano, Kiss has 107 rounds in the books and is a tough out. Meyer has only fought 21 rounds. Kiss will be Meyer’s biggest test so far as a professional.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going into the pros,” said Mayer. She says her goal is to fight often. “I knew coming out of the amateurs [where] I was fighting regularly that the worst thing that could happen would be not getting fights as a pro. I think Top Rank has moved me really well. I’m extremely happy. Seven fights in one year is amazing, more than we expected to have.
“It’s time that women get put on the big stage, so thank you Top Rank for believing in me and trusting in women’s boxing. I’m ready to put on a good show.”
Mayer says she wants knockouts, because she wants people to be excited to see her fights, and knows she has the power to be able to do it.
Beltran vs. Pedraza, Dogboe vs. Otake, and Mayer vs. Kiss airs on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT. The entire card will stream live on the ESPN+ app starting at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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