Former world champion Ray Beltran returns to the ring on July 16 for what will most likely be the last run in a long and impressive career.

Ray turned pro in the summer of 1999, 21 years ago, and has faced some of boxing’s best in and around 135-pounds, including 4 trips to the plate for world title shots.

With Continental Americas, NABO, NABA, NABF and Fedalatin titles already in his trophy case, Beltran received his first world title shot in September of 2013, when he travelled to Glasgow, Scotland to take on champion Ricky Burns. The bout was a disputed draw with the champion retaining his title.

Two fights later, the well-schooled boxer/puncher, got his 2nd title shot in November of 2014, but it was no easy assignment in P4P star Terence Crawford, in the champ’s backyard in Omaha, Nebraska. Beltran would impress going the distance but lose on the cards.

In his very next fight, in May of 2015, Beltran would get a shot at the vacant WBO world lightweight title against Japan’s Takahiro Ao. But weight issues only allowed Ao to challenge for the belt even though Beltran stopped him in 2 rounds.

After that bout, over the next couple of years, Beltran would string together 5 impressive wins before taking his next title shot in October of 2018. Beltran would travel to Reno, Nevada and win a 12-round decision over Moses Paulus to claim the WBO world lightweight title.

After 4 title shots, over 18 years and 42 fights, Ray Beltran could finally call himself a world champion.

Beltran would lose the title 6 months later in his 1st title defense against slick boxer, Jose Pedraza in Arizona.

However, he would bounce right back in February of 2019 to stop undefeated, 19-0, Hiroki Okada in California.

The impressive win earned Beltran a shot at lightweight champion Richard Commey and his IBF world

lightweight title, but the former champion would be stopped in the 8th round.

Now, due to the pandemic and other delays, Beltran has been out of the ring for 2 years but returns July 16th. With 47 fights, 21 years, and turning age 40 a week after his upcoming bout, one can safely assume this is his final run in boxing.

MaxBoxing caught up with the former world champion to get his thoughts on his career, past and present, and what he has left to do in the sport.

Bill Tibbs: Hi Ray, thanks for taking a minute to chat.

Ray Beltran: Hey, no problem. Thank you.

BT: You’ve had a great career with a lot of big fights, some big wins, a world title. You are returning after an almost 2-year layoff. How are you feeling right now?

RB: I feel really good. There are always people that are going to say, ‘You have been out for a long time, you are close to 40’, just being negative, you know. But I know how I feel, I know how my body feels and I know how I feel in the gym. I feel good and am looking forward to getting back in the ring.

BT: You have had some great world title fights in your career. What do you remember about your 1st with Ricky Burns in Scotland in 2013?

RB: Well, I think they thought that I wouldn’t do as well as I did. Most people thought I’d go there, get beat and it would be Burns who would look great that night. But, I think I surprised everyone with how well I did and even though it was a draw, it was like a win for me because I almost got as much attention from my good performance as if I’d won. We always tried to get another big fight over there with him, but they didn’t want any part of me.

BT: You certainly didn’t earn an easy one, a little over a year later, in your 2nd shot against Terence Crawford, and in his hometown.

RB: It was a tough fight, but I like that. I think in life if you have rough things to face, and everybody does, you can quit and give up or you can face your fears. I like to face my fears head on. Crawford was a tough fight, but it went the distance and was a good fight. He is very tough, I always knew that, but he isn’t just tough, he is very talented. He is a difficult guy to fight. He is a very talented boxer.

BT: In May of 2015, you get your 3rd title shot but weight issues don’t allow you to compete for the title, even though you stopped him.

RB: Yes, I was killing myself to make weight. I really felt like the champion after because I beat him.

BT: You put some wins together to earn a 4th title shot and this time you get the win in Reno in early 2018. How did you feel after finally being able to call yourself ‘world champion’ after all that time?

RB: The funny thing is, after the fight, I felt a little disappointed or maybe that isn’t the right world? Like I already felt like the champion already because of the Burns fight and the win over the Japanese guy. I felt like I was already the champion, I was just picking up my belt now, but I was already the champion. It wasn’t as big a deal to me as it might have been because I felt like I was already the champion before I actually got the belt. I felt like I was a champion, that is how I saw myself.

BT: You lost in your first title defense against Jose Pedraza, a slick boxer, not an easy fight.

RB: I am never one of those guys who makes excuses, but the truth is there was a lot going on behind the scenes. In that fight, my left hand was gone, I could barely pick anything up with it. I had cortisone shots in it to try to help but I really didn’t have the use of my left hand. Nobody knows that because it just sounds like I am making an excuse, but I had hurt that hand in the past and hurt it again before the Pedraza fight.

BT: So, at that point many people may have thought, ‘Well, he won his title, it’s probably over for him now’. But, you come back and KO an undefeated fighter 6 months later to put yourself back in another good spot for a big fight.

RB: Yes, it was a good win and I felt good and that got me the title shot at [Richard] Commey. I think the stoppage there was more of a political thing, they wanted him to end up with that title. Take nothing away from Commey, but other guys on the card were hurt worse than me and they didn’t stop their fights and they stop mine. But, Commey is a great fighter, take nothing away from him. But, I was coming on in that fight, I was getting his attention.

BT: You have fought some of the best, won a word title, but you are getting up in age for a boxer. What are your goals in this final run?

RB: I would like to fight for a world title again. I want to prove it myself, not others, but prove things to myself. Age is only a number, and I am the one who knows how I feel. I am the one who knows how I feel in the gym. I love the sport and as long as I feel good, I can keep going.

BT: What would you like to do after your boxing career is over?

RB: I would like to get into the construction business, that is what I plan to do. I don’t think I would train fighters. I might be involved in boxing in other areas, but I don’t think I would be a trainer.

BT: Ray, you have had a great career and I have enjoyed following your career. Best of luck in your upcoming bout and thank you again for the chat.

RB: Thank you, I really appreciate that.

Source: Bill Tibbs