IT has been a long road for Ray Beltran. A hard career brought him back to his adopted home state and the first defence of his WBO lightweight title at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. But the Mexican was left devastated as Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza seized the world crown from his grasp. The judges’ decision was unanimous in Pedraza’s favour but that doesn’t tell the story of the fight.

It was a close affair. The Puerto Rican moved well, picking out openings with firm jabs and posing Beltran problems as he switched southpaw. But the wily Mexican turned it into the kind of brawl he preferred. He dragged Pedraza in, mauling him on the inside. He lunged forward quick on his feet, hammering his challenger with his right hand.

Going into the 11th round the bout was poised on a knife-edge. But Pedraza struck the decisive blow. Beltran stepped into a huge left uppercut, thrown with the back hand. It dropped the Mexican heavily on the seat of his shorts. Ray rose but he was hurt. He retreated to the ropes, fighting just to get through the session.

Pedraza drove home his advantage in the last round. In the closing moments of the fight he corralled Beltran against the ropes, trapping him in a corner and unleashing ferocious combinations as referee Tony Weeks hovered close by, poised to stop the fight. It was the final bell that saved Ray. He lasted the distance but could not win the decision.

Jose Pedraza

The scores were 117-110, 117-110, and 115-112, all for Pedraza. “We did everything that we needed to do to win this fight. We followed the game plan perfectly,” the new champion said. “I knew how tough this fight was going to be and at moments it got very difficult, but thanks to the focus and the guidance from my corner, we were able to win round by round and get the win.”

“Now it’s all about unifying this belt,” he added. “I want all the big names, all the big fights.”

A unification with Vasyl Lomachenko, a substantial payday, could well be on the cards for December 1.

Beltran was left devastated. “I don’t know what to say right now,” the Mexican murmured. “I thought it was a good, close fight. The knockdown made the difference. I got caught with a really good shot.”

On the undercard, Mikaela Mayer dropped Edina Kiss in the first round. Her Hungarian opponent retired on her stool after the third. “I’m happy with my performance. I was technically sound,” Mayer said. “I thought I had it in the bag. I wanted to stop her. If I had one more two more rounds, I would’ve finished it.”

Other results: 

Super Featherweights: Robson Conceicao (9-0, 5 KOs), unanimous decision, 8 rounds, Edgar Cantu (7-5-2, 1 KO). Scores: 80-71, 80-71, 80-71.

Conceicao said: “It was a very good fight. I trained very hard, and little by little, I’m showing what I’m capable of doing inside the ring. I wanted to go the full eight rounds. This was my first time fighting to eight rounds, and I wanted to test myself. I felt great. I’m ready to fight more rounds in my next fight.”

Super Bantamweights: Carlos Castro (21-0, 9 KOs) unanimous decision, 8 rounds, Diuhl Olguin (12-12-2, 9 KOs). Scores: 80-72, 79-73, 77-75.

Castro said: “It was a four-week camp with a new trainer, new everything. I’ll take the win and the rounds. That’s what I needed. I’m going back to the drawing board. I know I could’ve stopped this guy, but I’m happy with the win.”

Featherweights: Francisco De Vaca (19-0, 6 KOs) unanimous decision, 8 rounds, Jesus Serrano (17-7-2, 12 KOs). Scores: 78-73, 78-73, 79-72.

* De Vaca knocked down Serrano with a right hand in the fourth round.

De Vaca said: “I’m happy with the win, but I felt I could’ve done better. I look forward to my next fight soon. Fighting in front of my hometown fans was really special. Serrano was a tough guy, and we put on a great fight for the fans.”

Lightweights: Antonio Lozada Jr. (40-2-1, 34 KOs), Draw, 8 rounds, Hector Ambriz (12-7-2, 6 KOs). Scores: 78-74 Lozada, 79-73 Ambriz, 76-76.

Light Heavyweights: Trevor McCumby (24-0, 19 KOs), TKO 3, :40 Jessie Nicklow (27-9-3, 9 KOs).
* Nicklow stopped on his feet.

McCumby said: I’m happy with my performance. I got in there and got the win. I could’ve boxed a little more, but it felt good to make my return and end it in style.”

Bantamweights: Breenan Macias (3-0, 2 KOs), KO 2 Philip Adyaka (7-12, 4 KOs), 3:00.
-*Right hand puts Adyako down, referee Tony Weeks immediately calls a halt to the bout.

Super Welterweights: Sagadat Rakhmankul (3-0, 1 KO), unanimous decision, 6 rounds, Christian Aguirre (7-3, 3 KOs). Scores: 60-54, 59-55, 59-55.

Super Lightweights: Arnold Barboza Jr. (19-0, 7 KOs) TKO 5 Luis Solis (23-10-4, 20 KOs), 3:00.