Ray Beltran steps into a Reno boxing ring Friday night after being run through the sport's ringer.
The longtime Southland-trained fighter has served humbly as a Manny Pacquiao sparring partner, been assigned bouts clearly relegated to "B" status, has missed weight and submitted a positive drug test (in the same bout), and has fought during the last year amid the specter of being deported to Mexico.
Friday night in Reno, the 36-year-old Beltran (34-7-1, 21 knockouts) makes what likely will be his last stand in pursuit of a world title when he takes on Namibia's Paulus Moses (40-3, 25 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Organization lightweight championship.
"This is the most important fight of my career, where finally I have the opportunity to make two of my dreams come true in one night," Beltran said.
The belt is one. Beltran has tried to win it three times but failed.
In 2013, he broke Ricky Burns' jaw and knocked him down in Scotland, but judges scored the fight a draw.
In 2014, he was overwhelmed by still-unbeaten Terence Crawford by unanimous decision. He returned six months later looking bigger but missed weight and tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, which changed his second-round knockout of Japan's Takahiro Ao to a no-contest..
A member of the Nevada Athletic Commission scolded Beltran that it was "not good form" for the veteran to blindly trust his group of handlers who were providing him supplements.
His dream shrinking, he returned to the gym and won a fight each in Laredo, Texas, and Lemoore, Calif., before learning he was in jeopardy of being deported to Mexico because of an expiring green card. He was told his route to remaining in the U.S. was to win a title that would allow him to gain employment-based first preference by displaying extraordinary ability in his profession.
He won and retained the 135-pound North American Boxing Federation belt, and now seeks to improve his bid with the world title.
"I'm bringing 18 years of experience into the ring with me, and my blood and sweat of 42 fights that I fought to get me to this place," Beltran said. "No man will deny me of my dreams."