We are all jobbers. Journeymen. Club-circuit vets. Gatekeepers and B-siders. Taxi drivers, tomato cans and trash men. Pugs and palookas. Oh, that’s not you? You’re special? Hate to break it to you, Chico, but you are not the Floyd Mayweather of your beige suburban office park. You are lower-middle management. You are a junior associate in accounting. You’re the mail room guy. You are Raymundo Beltran.
No shame in it. The world needs more Ray Beltrans, just as boxing needs Ray Beltran himself — and more fighters like him. For 20 years, Beltran, 38, has approached his profession just as you do — courting greatness, with the grim understanding that the more likely outcome was a shady decision against him or a sharp punch to the balls. In December 1999, he lost his third fight — a split decision to some Nogales bleeder who went on to lose 16 of his last 17 bouts. It wasn’t long before the next setback, in Beltran’s seventh fight — a stoppage in Grand Rapids at the hands of Steve Trumble (career record: 13-34). In 2005, Agnaldo Nunes was a speed bump in Tucson, leaving Beltran on the wrong side of another split verdict.
He kept going. In 2008, veteran Ammeth Diaz clipped Beltran for a TKO. In 2011, Sharif Bogere, who once fought for a 130-pound title, decisioned Beltran. A year later, undefeated Luis Ramos Jr. did the honors. Beltran bit down and moved on. In 2013, he fought Ricky Burns for a lightweight belt in Glasgow — better luck ripping the cape off James Brown’s back at the Apollo — and got stuck with a draw. A year later, Terence Crawford — in the midst of becoming Terence Crawford — made Beltran a notch in his belt.
For Beltran (36-9-1), even Friday’s fight at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., against hammer-fisted lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-2), was served with a steaming side of disappointment. After holding a lightweight title for a hot minute last year, Beltran was stunned by former prospect Jose Pedraza in his first defense. In 36 minutes, the belt, a matchup with Vasiliy Lomachenko and what very likely would have been a career-high payday slipped from his grasp. The Commey fight was a gift, a chance for Beltran – at an age when other fighters are mopping gym floors — to right all the wrongs and take a final swing at consequence. So of course Beltran missed the 135 limit, was docked half his purse, lost his shot at Commey’s belt and then fought the rehydrated Ghanaian at a weight disadvantage. Very on brand.
That might have been the low point for Beltran, but then the fight began. Commey blitzed his man from the opening bell, landing 31 power shots in Round 1, including a piledriver right hand that dropped Beltran to his trunks midway through. When Beltran beat the count and the action continued, Commey sprung with a swarm of punches. Crouched and in full retreat, Beltran avoided hitting the deck again — but only with aid of the ring ropes. After referee Eddie Hernandez (correctly) ruled a second knockdown, the news wasn’t all bad for Beltran. He would hold on to escape the round. But he was down 10-7 on the scorecards, and the guy who had dug the hole was now looking to bury Beltran in it.
As a fighter, though, you either learn from soul-sucking defeats and bullshit decisions or you ride off into total irrelevance. Beltran is still here, and not without having learned the value of adaptation and a bit of patience. Near the end of Round 1, the Mexican seemed to realize a perch at the end of Commey’s right hand was a dangerous place to be. Although the penalty for that calculation was severe, Beltran had made a discovery: closing distance and slipping punches was his best offense against Commey.
The strategy wasn’t foolproof — Beltran’s legs have lost some spring over the years, and he still had to brave Commey’s power to get inside. But by the 3rd round, Beltran was moving forward, stinging Commey to the body, ducking and countering to at least prevent three scorecards full of foregone conclusions. When a gassed Commey took the worst of a clash of heads and absorbed a Beltran left cross in Round 4, the gap in the ring was closing.
In the 5th, Beltran absorbed a short Commey hook and lurched forward, either losing his balance or, briefly, his wits. He was down again — but back up just as quickly. A blistering right hand and, shortly after, a nasty uppercut had Beltran in dire straits, but Commey couldn’t make his man go away. Whenever Beltran appeared close to finished, he doubled down and created something out of nothing. Although down by a Sinaloa mile on the scorecards, Beltran was stalking Commey — still dangerous but exhausted — and at least giving himself a puncher’s chance in the later rounds.
But in the 8th, after perhaps Beltran’s best round in the fight, Commey summoned a slurvy left hand that could have been sponsored by Skoal — a massive pinch between Beltran’s cheek and gum. With his guard hand positioned a touch too high and back, jabbing out with a left hand that never found its mark, Beltran froze for a beat after the blow, then had the rug pulled out from under him. If he’d stayed down, no one would have been the wiser. Lesser punches have ended thousands of fights. More talented fighters have taken the out. But Beltran was late for work.
When he gathered himself during the referee’s count, Beltran swayed ever so slightly. Hernandez eyed him intently, asking “Are you OK?” and Beltran answered immediately, eagerly: “I’m good.” The fighter stepped toward the referee. Nope. Hernandez’s hand went up. Fight over.
“Make voyages. Attempt them. There is nothing else.” Tennessee Williams said that. Of course, he never had a single prizefight, and he’d wind up choking to death on a plastic bottle cap, so let’s not put too much stock in his words. But I’ll ride with Beltran, answering post-fight questions in a Berny’s Sports ballcap, any day of the week:
“What did you think of the stoppage?” ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna asked.
Beltran, with a grin and a laugh: “I don’t remember.”
“It was a good punch,” Beltran said of the knockout shot. “Commey’s a strong fighter. He got me good. Put me down. No excuses. It is what it is.”
Here’s what it is: Commey would have knocked the fight out of most opponents. Beltran would not permit it. He got up after he was knocked down. And then he did it again. And again. And again. “I’m OK,” he said — to himself as much as anyone. Beltran chose to keep going. He didn’t stop, wouldn’t stop, until someone told him it was time to go home.
What else is there?
(Richard Commey drops Raymundo Beltran; Photo by Mikey Williams, Top Rank)