Ray Beltran looks for big win
on the plains against Terence Crawford.
As to be expected, big things are happening this week on the West Coast in boxing. The surprise twist would seem to be that all roads that start in California end in the sister plains of Nebraska and Iowa. Ray Beltran (29-6-1, 17KOs), the man many believe should have been crowned king after a robbery in Glasgow, Scotland against Ricky Burns (37-4-1, 11KOs) is now set to fight for the coveted WBO World Lightweight Title a second time against Omaha born and bred real deal Champion Terence Crawford (24-0-0, 17KOs) on November 29, 2014 at the Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Beltran is currently thick into training camp at the Hollywood insider owned Wild Card West Gym in Santa Monica, California. Holly Lawson (0-0), a former top five female professional boxer (5-2-0, 1KO) makes her debut as a newly signed Bellator MMA fighter at Bellator 129 on October 17th at the Mid America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa against the undefeated Jozette Cotton (4-0). Coming off of success as the lead trainer of actress Rosamund Pike, star of the blockbuster movie GONE GIRL, Ms. Lawson similar to Mr. Beltran is looking to bring a little Hollywood style stardust to the Midwest when she battles professionally for the first time as an MMA figher.
Nestled on a small side street of a busy Santa Monica city street featuring a clutch of understated yet exclusive private schools and small studios favoring sleek anonymity versus flash, Ray Beltran’s training enclave is hard to find even if you have the exact address. The Wild Card West is as private as it’s older sister, The Wild Card Boxing Club, is public. This difference would seem to be by specific design. As Wild Card West owner and popular film actor turned acclaimed director Peter Berg explained in 2013, the idea was to offer an alternative to the packed atmosphere that is often Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood:
BERG: “I was talking to Freddie Roach… he was…making it clear that the Wild Card in Hollywood…it’s so crowded that there’s no room... I had this crazy idea… maybe we could branch out and start looking for new fighters… why don’t we start on the west side where I live? I had this gym… we changed the name to Wild Card West…it’s a club, so you have to go through a little membership selection process… We don’t like knuckleheads.”
The trifecta of remote location, unmarked entrance and unwritten no knuckleheads rule can’t help but reinforce the unspoken mantra of exclusivity, but in case you were raised in a barn and/or lack the ability to read basic social cues, management will politely let you know that entry is indeed by invitation only. This is a relatively new working atmosphere for Ray Beltran, and though he is unquestionably a man of the people, he rightfully loves it. Indeed, this life would seem to suit him well as attested to by his crew, consisting of longtime trainer Pepe Reilly, conditioning coach Rob Garcia and in a non professional capacity Beltran’s wife, Lupe who was recently up visiting camp briefly with their three children:
LUPE BELTRAN: “Today we came around to see Ray training… he’s ready. He’s 100% now.”
Strength and condition coach Rob Garcia seemed to echo this sentiment:
GARCIA: “This training camp we are right on schedule with what we need to be doing… there’s no worries.”
True to form, it was only Mr. Reilly, always on the lookout and quick to troubleshoot for Mr. Beltran, who despite currently sitting pretty was loath to forget past flies in the ointment in the sum and total of Mr. Beltran’s past professional career:
PEPE REILLY: “… it’s been difficult. He never had a home base where he had a trainer, where he had a promotional company…a manager and where he just said I’m going to stay here and train and I’m going to fight. But once we got the hang of being in one place and getting our team properly formed things started showing themselves.”
The difficulty was a long history of traveling to everyone else’s back yard and getting caught flush time and time again by bad politics leading to bad decisions for Beltran as a seemingly weighted underdog with judges. The most heartbreaking “difficulty” was the one that cost him the World Title in an extremely controversial loss against former World titleholder Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland. Promoter Bob Arum and even Beltran’s current opponent Terence Crawford, who traveled to Burns’ hometown of Scotland immediately after Beltran and won the title from Burns, have both said that Beltran clearly did enough win the WBO World lightweight title in the UK that night:
CRAWFORD: “I felt Beltran did more than enough to win that fight. Unfortunately, he didn't get that victory over there. I went over there and did my job and got the victory….I know coming into the fight he feels like I have something that belongs to him… he will train extra hard to get what he thinks belongs to him, and that makes for a good fight."
ARUM: "In the view of every rational viewer, Beltran beat Burns…. At least Beltran is getting the opportunity as the challenger, but it's not the same thing as getting the fight as the champion because of the disparity in money."
With all of this, Reilly would seem to wholeheartedly agree. Despite the fact that Beltran seems to be over it, it would seem that Reilly still entertains a bit of a stew over the whole business:
REILLY: “Ray Beltran should be world champion… Ray should be fighting at home or wherever….Crawford should be challenging for the World Title instead of being the World champion… things should be in reverse, money and what have not. But, what do you do? You do the best you can and go with that.”
BELTRAN: “I don’t really pay attention to those things. The past is the past. I’m not the champion and I haven’t been the champion. I’m looking forward to being the champion this time.”
Aside from being in agreement that Beltran to date is 100% ready and on target for his battle in November, to hear all three men discuss it, the key to Ray’s success would seem to lie in his ability to put unwavering and unflagging pressure on Crawford. Given Crawford’s versatility and dimensionality as a puncher and a boxer, endurance and adaptability would also seem to be indispensable for team Beltran as November looms large. While Beltran himself focuses on positive thinking and preparing mentally and physically to fight his own best fight, everyone on the team seems to have their specific job to do. Garcia is focusing on building Beltran’s endurance and rejuvenation skills and Reilly is busy working with Beltran on executing a wiser and more adaptable fight plan as a slick veteran with more tricks and sides up his sleeve than the younger newer Crawford:
REILLY: “(Terence)’s got three or four different looks. And we got to be able to adjust to all three of them. He’s not just a boxer he’s a puncher. He’s not just a puncher, he turns southpaw. He’s not just turning southpaw, he finishes strong. He starts smart. All of these things are something that we have to think about as we approach this fight. There’s more than one thing to get ready for. “
GARCIA: “Terence is young. He’s a good fighter on the verge of being a great fighter – could be the next Sugar Ray Leonard… with Terrence I believe it will be smart steady pressure… just keep the pressure steady and be smart about it and I think that is the best way to come out on top. “
But as to any ruefulness about going up for the title against a decidedly more dangerous titleholder in Crawford versus a champion that was more vulnerable in Burns, team Beltran ironically would seem to prefer things exactly as they are to date right now. Clearly they see themselves in a better position career wise with a win now versus back then due specifically to the challenge that is Terence Crawford. As such, they are confident and chomping at the bit to show everything that Ray Beltran can do:
REILLY: “Going against Crawford is kind of a good thing because … if we can beat Crawford now at this point in our career we’re at that level now. We’re on the A team. We’re up there with fighting guys on the next level the A plus guys Manny Pacquiao and Mayweather and all the top fighters in those divisions. We can compete at that level now. So it’s not just fighting for the world title it’s fighting for positioning on a higher scale. Which is the important part.”
Beltran, in his rundown of the whole situation was more to the point:
BELTRAN: “I’m just going to go have fun – enjoy the night. That fight night, I’m going to go enjoy it because I tried so hard for that moment… It’s going to happen…. I’m going to do everything it takes.”
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photo by Kylie Krabbe
October 10th 2014