Being known as one of Manny Pacquiao’s most used sparring partners isn’t such a bad thing.
Ray Beltran wants more.
The recently relocated Southern California fighter will travel Saturday to Omaha, Neb., home of unbeaten Terence Crawford, to seek the World Boxing Organization lightweight title Beltran believed was his last year.
In a bout that most observers thought Beltran clearly won, judges instead scored his breakthrough performance in Scotland against then-champion Ricky Burns of England as a draw. Burns then officially lost the belt to Crawford by unanimous decision in March.
Crawford (24-0, 17 knockouts) is a tougher challenge than Burns. He successfully defended his belt against Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa by ninth-round technical knockout in June.
HBO will televise the bout.
“I’m going in there in great shape,” Beltran (29-6-1, 17 KOs) told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview this week. “To win, I’m going to have to make the fight happen.
“Crawford’s a good counter-puncher and fighter, but he’s not the first one I’ve fought.”
Beltran is indeed familiar with elite talent, having been a mainstay in Pacquiao camps when the fighter who's won a record world titles in eight divisions has trained at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood.
He shifted to train at the Wild Card West gym in Santa Monica for this bout while Pacquiao prepared under Roach in the Philippines for his Saturday victory by decision over Chris Algieri.
While returning from that fight, Roach said Beltran is at his best when he’s the aggressor and doesn’t revert to fighting like a sparring partner who accepts punches.
“The experience I have will help me,”Beltran said. “When things get difficult, stay patient, be focused. It was good for me to spar with Manny for a long time.
“Now, I’m trying to make my own story. I want the focus to be on what I’ve done myself. I’ve done it the hard way. And I want the credit I deserve. I’ve showed that I’m not just a sparring partner. I feel I beat Ricky Burns, and now I get this shot at Crawford.”
Beltran is a married man with three children who recently moved to Tempe, Ariz.
“They’re my wings, my life,”he said. “They’re the reason why I fight.
“I’ve got to force the action now, do my job.”