Ray Beltran is just two days out now from his first world title defense after a long and often challenging journey to get to the top, as he’ll defend the WBO lightweight title against Jose Pedraza this Saturday on ESPN.
There’s been plenty of talk around this fight of Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KO) facing Vasyl Lomachenko later this year, perhaps in December, if he can win on Saturday. But Beltran says that while he wants that fight, he’s not looking past Pedraza:
“I think it will be a very tough fight. He’s a good fighter. He has a lot of experience. He’s a former world champion. I really expect a tough fight. ... I’m mentally prepared to fight anybody. Obviously, I want the fight with Lomachenko, but I have faith I’ll take care of business (Saturday) and hopefully after that we fight Lomachenko. I’m not taking Pedraza lightly at all. I’m not even thinking about Lomachenko right now. But that’s a goal. But first I have to beat Pedraza.”
Pedraza (24-1, 12 KO) is a former super featherweight titleholder whose only loss was against Gervonta Davis, and Beltran is no overwhelming talent or anything. He’s a hard-working, veteran fighter with skills and smarts, but he’s also 37 years old and has had a hard road to get here. If he’s the favorite, it’s not by a whole lot. (In fact, Bovada, just as a for instance, has Beltran listed at -105 and Pedraza at -125, so there’s not much between them on at least that book.)
Whomever wins on Saturday, that fight with Lomachenko is probably waiting. All the fighters are with Top Rank, so it’s an easy one to make, and it’s a huge opportunity — if also a huge challenge — for Beltran or Pedraza.