By Jake Donovan

When featherweight contender Fernando Beltran Jr. appeared at the Laredo (TX) Entertainment Center three months ago, his night ended with a chorus of boos following a controversial split decision win over Miguel “Mickey” Roman.

It was a much sweeter tune in the very same arena this time around, receiving a standing ovation during and after his spirited 12-round unanimous decision over Monte Meza-Clay in the main event of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights telecast.

Beltran established his dominance early on, making the most of his considerable height and reach advantages in shooting the jab from the outside. Action was halted just 91 seconds into the fight when an errant Beltran left hook strayed well below the border, forcing Meza-Clay to wince in pain as he drifted to a neutral corner.

The break did little to upset the blistering pace. Beltran threw 72 punches before time was called, remaining nearly as busy over the back 90 seconds as he was credited with 133 punches in total for the opening round, compared to Meza-Clay’s 88 thrown, an amazing total in any other fight.

Both fighters jumped right back into the mix in the second round. Meza-Clay charged forward in his greatest efforts to offset the disadvantages that come with being a 5’2” featherweight contender. Beltran didn’t seem to mind an inside fight, landing uppercuts and right hooks at close quarters.

It was back to basics for Beltran in the third, reestablishing his jab while boxing from the outside. Meza-Clay was well short with many of his right hooks from the outside, but enjoyed much greater success whenever he was able to close the gap. The moments were short lived; Beltran’s combination punching was the difference in nearly every exchange.

Body punching took center stage in the fourth, with both fighters targeting each other’s midsection. Beltran mixed up his attack with right jabs, while Meza-Clay’s method of attack came from both the southpaw and conventional stance. The approach was effective in spots, but greatly compromised once he injured his right hand at some point during the round.

It was game over from that point on, as Beltran took over in the fifth and never looked back. The Mexican had Meza-Clay in trouble late in the fifth, trapped in a corner and played a brilliant game of hit-and-don’t-get-hit. He returned to boxing from the outside in the sixth, steadily throwing more than 100 punches as had been the case in every round, while Meza-Clay’s punch output, already paling in comparison, began to dip.

Meza-Clay’s trainer, Tommy Yankello demanded his fighter throw more left hooks to atone for the damaged right mitt that was no longer being used. The Pennsylvania brawler obliged in the seventh, letting his hands go fighting out of a conventional stance for most of the round.

The newfound sense of urgency seemed to disappear, however, as Meza-Clay stopped throwing in combination in the eighth, oddly enough in a round when Beltran would fail to crack the 100-punch barrier for the first time in the fight (“only” throwing 98). Beltran instead employed in and out movement to avoid any of the incoming, limiting his attack to jabs and counter left hands whenever his opponent came up short with his looping punches.

Action picked up in the ninth, but it was all Beltran, repeatedly scoring with jabs and straight left hands. Meza-Clay’s participation in the round was limited to eating leather and chucking air balls as Beltran’s attack was enough to energize the same Laredo crowd that booed him out of this very arena three months prior.

They continued to cheer the southpaw in the tenth and for good reason. Beltran dominated the round, but suffered a battle scar for his efforts when a winging right hand from Meza-Clay late in the frame opened a cut over his left eye.

“Six minutes, baby; do you understand me?” was the question asked by Tom Yankello in his greatest efforts to stress the need for something dramatic as Meza-Clay prepared for the 11th round. The desire was there, but it was a moment that would never come close to the surface, though a measure of assistance was offered in a point deduction from Beltran’s scorecard for another low blow late in the round.

The final round looked eerily similar to the first, with both fighters flying off of their respective stools and engaging at high speed. Action was momentarily halted when Meza-Clay lost his mouthpiece a minute in, but nary was a break taken the moment both fighters were summoned to resume.

Meza-Clay ramped up the attack, but never to the point of swinging momentum in his favor. Beltran patiently rode out the storm and offered plenty in return until the final bell came to close out a bout in which the two fighters combined for nearly 2,400 punches thrown.

Who won at fight’s end was hardly in doubt. Announced scores of 115-112 and 117-110 (twice) were all in favor of Beltran, who advances to 33-3-1 (18KO) with his third straight win.

Heading in the opposite direction is Meza-Clay, who falls to 28-3 (19KO) in dropping his second straight after having won eight straight heading into 2009. Both losses have come at featherweight, after having spent most of his career campaigning between 130 and 135 lb.


Undefeated New York-based junior middleweight prospect “Mean” Joe Greene (21-0, 14KO) was forced to settle for a decision win against Delray Raines (15-6, 10KO) in the televised co-feature. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying to get rid of the pesky journeyman, who showed a granite chin (and midsection) as Greene cleaned out the kitchen for much of their eight-round junior middleweight affair.

It became a tale of two fights, with Greene all offense in the first four rounds and opting to box and move more often in the second half once it became obvious that Raines planned to stick around for the long haul.

Scores were 78-74 and 79-73 (twice). There were no knockdowns, though Raines managed to force Greene to the canvas with a shoulder wedge in the fourth round, perhaps his most effective moment of the fight.

Body punching was prominent in Greene’s attack early on, even after receiving a warning for low blows in the second round. The body attack opened up scoring opportunities upstairs, particularly with the uppercut and the straight left hand from the southpaw stance.

Raines never wilted, nor did he show up merely to survive. The Arkansas journeyman went tooth and nail with the chiseled Brooklynite, taking three or four to give back one in return.

It wasn’t enough to win very many rounds, but effective enough to force Greene to give boxing a chance in the fifth round, the slowest paced of the eight round affair. Greene offered lateral movement and also showed a flair for fighting in reverse, steadily punching but not quite in the same in-your-face manner that accentuated the first half of the fight.

Greene came to bring the pain in the ensuing rounds, mixing boxing and aggression in the final three rounds to take a decisive decision in what was his first fight in ten months.

Former amateur standout Demetrius Andrade (5-0, 4KO) was forced to go the distance for the first time in his young professional career, outboxing Tony Hirsch (8-2-1, 4KO) for the entirety of their four-round welterweight swing bout.

Scores were 40-36 across the board. There were no knockdowns in the fight.

Andrade, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing squad, controlled the action from the outset, as Hirsch looked like of a journeyman accepting assignment on very late notice.

To his credit, Hirsch didn’t run and hide, remaining in the pocket for much of the fight, but rarely offering anything more than a jab an occasional counter punch.

Conversely, Andrade was able to get by on pure athleticism. Missing from his repertoire in this bout was a purposeful jab, instead using the weapon as a range finder for power punches that were poorly set up and minimally effective.

Heading into the fourth and final round, Andrade received harsh words from his father and trainer Paul Andrade, who demanded of his son and fighter to not load up so much on his power punches. Translation: stop looking for the knockout and return to basics.

Student obeyed father, at least in spots. Andrade targeted the body and punched in combination, closing strong even if he wasn’t able to close the show as the night would end with his hearing the final bell for the first time in his young five-fight career.

The show was presented by Banner Promotions.

Jake Donovan is the managing editor of and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at