By Steve Kim
This Saturday night from the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, Ray Beltran makes the first defense of his WBO lightweight title versus Jose Pedraza. Originally, this was slated to be a unification bout versus WBA champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
But after Lomachenko suffered a torn right labrum during his title winning effort versus Jorge Linares on May 12th and then undergoing surgery, those plans were tabled.
"It was very, very close, we were negotiating but he got injured," explained Beltran, who will be headlining this weekends card on ESPN. "But I didn't get disappointed, it's still a possible fight I don't lose hope. Hopefully after winning this fight - and I'm not taking Pedraza lightly, at all. I've got to focus on Pedraza first. I've got to beat him first and hen we think about Lomachenko."
Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank has expressed that the winner of this Saturday nights bout would be matched with Lomachenko on December 1st.
As for Pedraza - a former belt-holder at 130 - Beltran states - "I think it's going to be a very difficult fight, ,he can go southpaw, he's tall, got long reach and he moves a lot. He's not a stationary fighter, he moves a lot so I think I have to be very patient but at the same time be busy and not let him get away with it."
If he should come out victorious then Beltran will look ahead to a showdown with Lomachenko, who is considered one of the finest fighters in the sport.
"Yeah, once we beat Pedraza, hopefully everything works out well, Lomachenko's next," said the 37-year old who defeated Paulus Moses for the title back in February.
"I'm the type of fighter that when I look for the big fights nobody wants to give it to me," continued Beltran, who took the hard road in the sport.
"Now that I have the title, it's in front of me so I'm ready. I'm not going anywhere."
Steve Kim is the news editor for BoxingScene.com.