At the age of 36, Ray is an 18-year pro. A veteran contender at 135 pounds – ranked No. 1 by the WBO, and No. 2 by the WBC and IBF – he was best known for several years as one of Manny Pacquiao’s main sparring partners.
In September, 2013, he became even better known as an “uncrowned champion” – in a challenge against WBO lightweight world champion Ricky Burns in Burns’ home country of Scotland, Ray dominated the fight and appeared to clearly win. He also broke Burns’ jaw in the second round and scored a knockdown in the eighth round, but the judges scored a 12-round draw and Burns retained the title.
Ray has now won five fights in a row, four by knockout. He won by second-round TKO against Ivan Najera in May, 2016, and returned to the ring four months later in September with a fifth-round TKO win against Miguel Mendoza. Three months after that on December 10, 2016, Ray scored a spectacular one-punch knockout against Mason Menard in the seventh round. On May 20 in New York – in an IBF final eliminator to determine the mandatory IBF lightweight world title challenger, Ray scored another devastating one-punch knockout against Jonathan Maicelo.
In his last fight on August 5 in Los Angeles, Ray won a 10-round majority decision against former two-time former WBA interim super featherweight champion Bryan Vasquez.
ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael reported from ringside [excerpts]: Ray Beltran moved a step closer to a coveted world title shot, but more significantly perhaps, he put the finishing touches on the résumé he is building to make his case for a green card that would allow him to remain in the United States permanently.
Beltran, of Mexico, won a hard-fought majority decision against Bryan Vasquez – and he plans to file his application for that green card in the days to come.
Two judges scored the fight 96-94, and one had it 95-95. Most at ringside had Beltran winning a wider decision; ESPN.com scored the fight 99-91 for Beltran.
Beltran, who lives with his wife and three children in Phoenix, is in the United States legally thanks to a P1 work visa, which allows him to pursue his boxing career because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deems him to be an athlete who is “internationally recognized with a high level of achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country.”
However, the visa will expire in about 2 ½ years, at which point Beltran would have to return to Mexico unless he can secure an EB-1 green card that would give him permanent resident status as an “extraordinary athlete” – one of the categories under which somebody can qualify for a green card. Beltran had probably done enough to earn the green card even before he defeated Vasquez, but he and his team wanted to pile on, and that meant another quality win on national television.
The fight got off to a heated start with both fighters winging power punches, though more of Beltran’s got through in the early going.
Beltran had a big fourth round. Vasquez tried to box and move, but Beltran finally caught up with Vasquez and rocked him with a solid left to the body followed by a head shot that clearly stunned him.
Beltran continued to dominate Vasquez, landing many clean left hooks and body shots, while Vasquez landed very few hard punches – and when he did, Vasquez connected with only one punch at a time.
The best Vasquez could muster was an accidental head-butt that opened a cut on Beltran’s forehead in the 10th and final round and a hard combination that rocked Beltran in the final seconds as he finished the fight with blood streaming down his face.
Besides making his green card case, Beltran is also hunting for another world title opportunity. Now he is close to another shot as he is highly ranked across the board in the sanctioning organizations. [End Rafael item]
Ray was considered a top prospect early in his career, managed and trained by Emanuel Steward. Regarding those early days, he said, “I was in Detroit with Emanuel Steward for a couple of years in 2001 and 2002. He used to be my manager. I started as a pro in Phoenix and after five or six fights, I went to Detroit. Emanuel gave me that name – ‘Sugar.’ I don’t really like it. It’s too big to carry that name.”