The stakes are high tomorrow night when Ray Beltran faces short-notice opponent Arash Usmanee on the Pacquiao-Bradley II undercard, as the winner will receive a summer date to face WBO lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford, likely in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Why Iowa? Because it's close to Crawford's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and the fighter wants -- and deserves -- a homecoming as world champion.
"We'll see what happens on Saturday night, because I would like the winner of that fight to fight [Crawford]. This summer, he'll be defending his title in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is three minutes from downtown Omaha," said Arum. "That's where the casinos are and so forth. So the fight might not be held in Omaha, but it will be in Council Bluffs, which is the same thing."
Crawford (23-0, 16 KO) defeated Ricky Burns handily on March 1 in Scotland to lift the title, and will be making his first defense of the belt against the Beltran-Usmanee winner. Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KO) should have won the WBO belt from Burns last September, but was robbed with a hometown draw despite breaking Burns' jaw and clearly outfighting him in the minds of most observers and media. Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KO) is subbing in for Rocky Martinez, a former featherweight and super featherweight titleholder who had to pull out of the fight due to illness.
Usmanee impressed in January 2013 with a loss to Rances Barthelemy on ESPN Friday Night Fights, another fight considered a robbery by many, and then drew with IBF super featherweight titleholder Argenis Mendez on August 23.
Do you think Beltran or Usmanee can upset the unbeaten Crawford later this year, if and when that fight happens?