Raymundo Beltran makes the first defense of his WBO lightweight title against contender Jose Pedraza. Successfully defending his title is no easy task.
Raymundo Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs) is not an ideal boxing champion. He’s 37 years old and has seven losses on his record. Beltran’s path to the title was turbulent and unconventional, but his plight made him stronger. Everything he has, he’s attained with hard work and heart. He’ll need these attributes when he defends his title against Jose Pedraza (24-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday, Aug. 25 on ESPN.
Pedraza is a former champion and has the pedigree to go with it. He shined during his amateur years, winning medals on an international level. Pedraza’s a former Olympian. He represented Puerto Rico at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.
In 2015, Pedraza cashed in on his amateur lineage by defeating Andrey Klimov for the IBF super featherweight title. He defended it twice before getting knocked out by Gervonta Davis in 2017. Davis is a premiere boxing talent, but he brutalized Pedraza on his way to a seventh-round knockout.
On paper, Pedraza should be an overwhelming favorite. He only has one loss on his record, and he is eight years younger than Beltran. Don’t forget about his impressive amateur background. Despite all of these advantages, fight odds are currently even. Beltran’s heart and character have experts giving him a fair chance of beating the younger boxer with the more stately accolades.
In February, Beltran won the WBO lightweight title by outpointing Paulus Moses. Before the fight, ESPN ran a feature that expressed Beltran’s life and career trials and tribulations. To say that his life has been difficult is a massive understatement.
Beltran came to the U.S. illegally. As a child, he was stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol and sent back to Mexico. He successfully crossed into the U.S. on his second attempt but was held by smugglers for a week before his father could come up with the money for his release.
Beltran wasn’t a highly touted amateur. He went 5-2 in his first seven professional fights. Beltran caught on as Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner and worked with him for over a decade. He got better while working with Pacquiao, but ESPN’s feature demonstrated how it also stalled his growth as a professional.
Beltran is the definition of a hard-luck fighter. He should have been crowned a champion in 2013 but received a draw in his bout with Ricky Burns. It was a horrible hometown decision.
Beltran has endured other failures in and out of the ring. His win over Takahiro Ao in 2015 was overturned after he tested positive for steroids. Beltran couldn’t have won the title anyway because he didn’t make weight. He discussed these events with ESPN, but it’s hard to call this a period of bad luck. They were simply bad decisions, and Beltran paid the penalty for them. Hopefully, age and experience have made him a wiser boxer and man.
It seems like with every step forward Beltran’s made in his career he has also taken a step back. Beltran’s last loss was to Terence Crawford in 2014. However, his title win over Moses has him one pace ahead at the moment. Pedraza has the talent and ability to beat Beltran, but Beltran’s life experiences (good and bad) give him the edge in this fight.
Pedraza met with adversity once in his career when he lost to Davis, and he didn’t handle it well. He panicked and got beat up as a result. Pedraza hasn’t proved that he can deal with adversity—Beltran has.
The great trainer Cus D’Amato once said:
"“It is the mark of a great fighter when he has character plus skill. Because a fighter with character and skill will often rise and beat a better fighter because of this. Character is that quality upon which you can depend under pressure and other conditions. Character makes the fighter predictable. Character helps him win.”"
Beltran has battled through major life struggles and poor decisions, but he came out the other side better and stronger. He could’ve given up at any time. That would’ve been the easy choice, but he endured the rougher rode which is why he is a champion.
There are other lightweights that can beat Beltran purely on their talent. Pedraza’s not one of them. He’s good but lacks the character to lift him past Pedraza. This will be an entertaining and grueling bout, but look for Beltran to win a unanimous decision. He’s the boxer with character.