Mention a bad decision and boxing is often the subject matter. In this case the scenario reads like a page torn from a recent fistic headline.
The hometown champion is expected to win. He’s the pre-fight favorite and known commodity.
Enter the underdog who doesn’t see it that way. Though some might scoff, he actually believes he can win.
When the bell sounds, he immediately takes control as the aggressor.
His blows are consistent and hard. He even breaks the champion’s jaw.
So, the underdog wins, right?
Wrong. In the boxing world, a victory isn’t always earned; it’s given, and not necessarily to the one who deserves it.
A few weeks ago, Raymundo Beltran traveled to Glasgow, Scotland to face WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns. Beltran, 32, is best known as the sparring partner of Manny Pacquiao. Burns, 30, has held the title for two years. He’s a good-looking kid who can box. Most expected Beltran to be easy pickings for Burns.
But most aren’t Beltran. He went to Scotland on a mission to win, and after 12 rounds of boxing most who witnessed the bout believed he had proved he deserved the decision.
Even Burns’ hometown crowd was subdued seeming resigned that their fighter was about to lose his title.
What they saw was obvious. Beltran was able to land the harder, cleaner shots, flooring Burns with a left hook in round eight. Burns hung in for most of the fight with a shattered jaw, but couldn’t hurt Beltran.
As the scores were announced--115-112 Burns, 115-113 Beltran and 114-114 a draw--, the crowd booed. Burns had retained his title by majority draw. Beltran only shook his head.
Boxing fans weren't shocked by the outcome. It’s the nature of the game.
Did Beltran feel he was robbed?
“Yeah, I mean, I could have done better, but c’mon, man, I was fighting him, the referee and everything,” Beltran told this writer on the phone a few days ago.
“Ricky was doing more surviving than fighting. The referee wasn’t neutral, he was helping Ricky. I didn’t think he was a fair referee. He didn’t warn Ricky about holding so much.
“To be an elite fighter you can’t hold and run. When I hit Ricky, the referee said I was doing wrong. You have to protect yourself. Whatever, it is what it is,” said Beltran.
Did he feel extra pressure to score a knockout?
“I didn’t think about that,” Beltran said. “I was confident I was going to win. I didn’t focus on that. I didn’t want any distractions. I was focused on doing my job and beating him up. I would do whatever I had to do. Sometimes when you try for the knockout, it doesn’t come.”
The bad decision didn’t faze Beltran, who was born in Los Mochis, Mexico and now lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I wasn’t surprised.” Beltran remarked. “At this point of my career, I’m not surprised about anything, you know? I’ve fought some top guys and all that. I knew I had won, but I had the fear that they would give it to him. I knew when they were taking a while (to add up the scores) that I was screwed again.”
“The decision was obvious. I’m not going to worry about it. I think I put my name out there. The people who saw the fight know the truth,” he added.
Beltran’s recent strong performances had earned him a shot at the lightweight crown. He defeated contender Hank Lundy 14 months ago, followed that with an easy decision over Ji-Hoon Kim, and then hammered Alejandro Rodriguez for 10 rounds. Beltran is a come- forward fighter who pressures his opponents. He was convinced going into the Burns fight that this approach would pay dividends.
“He didn’t really want to fight me,” said Beltran. ”My only choice was to try and make him fight. I walked right to him. I put the pressure on hoping he would fight me.”
Burns tried to keep Beltran off him with his jab or an occasional hook. Some of the shots landed, but Beltran never blinked.
“He never hurt me,” said Beltran. “He hit me with some punches, but they didn’t hurt.”
There was talk after the fight as to when Beltran broke Burns’ jaw. Was Beltran aware of his opponents’ dire situation?
“No, but let me tell you something,” Beltran said. ”Since the beginning of the fight, I was so confident. It was my time, my moment. When I saw him in the ring, before the fight, I knew I would win. It was my day. Ricky fought great, don’t get me wrong, and I’m not trying to talk crap about him, but I just knew it was my moment.”
“I didn’t pay attention to his jaw or anything. Maybe that’s why he was holding so much. He was staying away from me. I wanted him to fight because he was there for me to hit. He didn’t want to stay in front of me a lot. I hurt him, but he recovered right away,” he added.
Burns has recently returned to light training. His trainer has expressed interest in giving Beltran a rematch.
“You know every fight is a different experience,” said Beltran. “My dream was be a world champion. That’s the dream of every fighter. I fought for a world championship. I did it. Honestly, I don’t respect the belt anymore. What I saw that night confirmed the politics of boxing.
“I’ll either be a world champion or not. I just want to fight. I’m going to fight for my name. I feel like I’m a world champion. I’m not going to beg.”
Beltran is interested in fighting Burns again, but would prefer that the second bout happen in the United States.
“Yes, that would be my choice,” Beltran said. “But they’re talking about having a rematch over there. I’m not to give them the opportunity to make money off my name. They know they can make money. I made a lot of fans over there in the UK. I got about six thousand emails from the fans over there.
“If they want the rematch over there, they better pay real well. That’s the only way I would go. I don’t really need them. I’m getting some good offers.”
Fighters like Beltran represent what’s good about professional boxing. They're honest, hardworking, and want to please. Even though he didn’t capture the title in Scotland, Beltran has won the support of thousands of boxing fans all over the world. He’ll also get a hefty paycheck whenever he returns to the ring, and with Christmas not far off, it could make for a very happy holiday.
“I‘d love to buy some toys for my kids,” he said with a chuckle.
The way it looks now, he’ll be able to afford it.