On August 25, 2018 aired on ESPN/ESPN Deportes and Live from the Gila River Arena in Glendale,Arizona, Sugar Ray Beltran(35-7-1) will defend his WBO lightweight title for the first time against Jose Pedraza(24-1). The winner of this bout is already rumored to face the boxing wizard Vasyl Lomachenko(11-1) in a lightweight unification clash.
Starting with the Sniper Pedraza, Pedraza to me seems to be most comfortable boxing his foes behind a busy jab and dictating pace and distance. And honestly speaking, that is EXACTLY what Pedraza must look to do against Beltran. It is imperative that Pedraza makes great use of his jab and must box from a safe distance to counter with a blitzing straight right hand to force Beltran to walk into a left cross he never saw coming.
As for Beltran, Beltran will need to bring heavy pressure and stay right on top of Pedraza to get Pedraza to rush his shots. Ray must also know that Pedraza prefers to box, but he must also know that at often times Pedraza can be dragged into slugging it out. So if I am Beltran, I would look to rough up and kill the midsection to slow Pedraza down.
A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to take a closer look at Ray as he trained in front of myself and other media members. What surprised me on this particular day was how flexible and light on his feet Ray appeared to be. I am sure that some of the added flexibility can be credited to Mr. Duane Bell, on this particular day Bell was assisting in working with Ray in stretches that up until recently I had never seen Ray incorporate into his routine. For those not familiar with the benefits of stretching, I can personally tell you that it increases flexibility, muscle control, and range of motion.
So as I continued to observe Ray, I was then reminded that most fighters and fans look at Ray as puncher/boxer, but what often gets overlooked is that Ray can not only punch, but he also surprises foes by also having a high enough IQ to box intelligently.
Alright now, so on to my pick.
I feel that Pedraza will need to turn in a boxing masterful clinic in order to beat Beltran, Pedraza must be first to strike and must rapidly look for exits out of tight corners to cause frustration upon Ray. Point blank, I don’t think Pedraza can dog it out with Ray. You got to remember that Ray survived a shootout against a mean streak fighter and one that just may have the best kill switch in the sport, in Mr. Bud Crawford.
So unless Ray gets old overnight or if his now paper thin skin has now finally had enough, I just don’t see Ray losing this one. But again, stranger things have happened and that is why the fights still need to be fought. Give me Ray Beltran by majority decision.
Also on this loaded Top Rank card will be Isaac Dogboe vs. Hidenori Otake for Dogboe’s WBO junior featherweight title as the co-feature bout.
2016 U.S. Olympian Mikaela Mayer vs. Edina Kiss, Robson Conceicao vs. Edgar Cantu, Antonio Lazada Jr. vs. Arturo Santos Reyes, Arnold Barboza Jr. vs. Luis Solis, and along with Phoenix natives Trevor McCumby, Carlos Castro, and Panchito C De Vaca to round out this loaded card.