Raymundo Beltran has had a hard career. Nobody has done him any favors. He has earned everything that he has achieved.
That should have included a lightweight world title on Saturday, but he was jobbed and robbed in an awful decision. Instead of hoisting a hard-earned belt high above his head on what should have been the happiest day of his professional life, Beltran was ripped off in a draw against Ricky Burns, who ought to kneel in the middle of the ring and kiss the mat to show his thanks for receiving the epitome of a hometown gift.
Beltran has always been the "opponent." He has often traveled to his foe's hometown, as he did for the fight with Burns, in Glasgow, Scotland, where Burns is the star and supposed to win.
Beltran, born in Mexico and living in Los Angeles, had made more of a name for himself by serving as sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao than as the lightweight contender he has emerged as in the past 16 months. But that should have changed after he turned in the finest performance of his career.
He beat Burns. Clearly.
He dislocated Burns' jaw in the second round. Dropped him cleanly in the eighth and dominated most of the action. And then the judges struck.
Judge Andre Van Grootenbruel of Belgium had it 115-113 for Beltran, a solid card in what I thought was a very easy fight to score. I had it 115-112 for Beltran, with almost no debatable rounds.
And then came the unforgivable cards from British judge Richie Davis, who had it a 114-114 draw, and American judge Carlos Ortiz Jr., whose 115-112 card for Burns defied logic. It was a fantasy card. Just ridiculous.
The look on Beltran's face in the dressing room after the fight, where he was interviewed by U.K. broadcaster Sky Sports, was one of pure dejection. Listening to him talk of being robbed was heartbreaking.
Asked if he felt he should have won the title, he answered, "Yes, I do. Absolutely. ... I think I did everything I had to do to win the fight."
Asked what he thought the reason was that two of the judges would deny him, Beltran was calm but answered in a brutally honest manner.
"Politics. Always the same thing in boxing," he said. "I think it's disrespectful for the fighter and the fans. They [the powers that be] play the business because they have the power. If I got beat, I got beat. But I didn't. It's so frustrating. So much hard work, sacrifice. We put our life on the line. They don't care. It's not Ricky's fault. It's business."
Sometimes a dirty one, unfortunately.
"Everything was against me," Beltran said. "To me, I'm a world champion. It's bull----. That belt is mine."
It certainly should be. Although Burns, making his fourth defense, got off to a good start, Beltran obviously hurt Burns' jaw early in the fight.
By the third round, Beltran was in control. He was walking Burns down, lashing him with left hooks to the body and head. The left hook was a dominant weapon that did most of the damage for him, and he used it to perfection.
He rocked Burns with the hook in a big fourth round and had him backing up and holding on, round after round. Burns admitted afterward that he was protecting his injured jaw.
In the eighth round, Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KOs) fired one of his meanest left hooks, catching Burns bang on the chin and dropping him. Burns (36-2-1, 11 KOs) won maybe two of the late rounds in the fight, but even his own corner was clearly concerned, given the way they were talking to him between rounds. The concern began early -- after the fifth round.
Burns, trainer Billy Nelson and promoter Eddie Hearn sounded like the losers in their postfight interviews. And none of them, thankfully, had the audacity to claim victory.
"I take my hat off to him," said Burns, who could barely talk because of the jaw injury. "It was a tough fight. I don't know how I got through that. Hopefully, it's not too much damage [to the jaw]. I knew it was close. I'm disappointed, obviously, in a draw.
"After the fourth round, I was more concentrated on not getting my jaw hurt. The knockdown, I take my hat off to him. It was a good shot."
Hearn talked about a possible rematch, although that doesn't make up for the rip job.
All Nelson could muster was, "I thought it was a really close fight."
But it really wasn't very close. The rounds were easy to score, and even Sky announcer Jim Watt -- who has a reputation for being a U.K. homer -- had Beltran winning 115-113. Johnny Nelson, the excellent Sky commentator and highly respected former cruiserweight titleholder, also had Beltran the clear winner. Even an arena full of Burns fans didn't do much cheering for their man after he had retained the title. They are very passionate fans, but they're not stupid. They know who won the fight.
The TV announcers know who won the fight. I know who won the fight. Beltran sure knows who won the fight, and even Burns and his team sounded as if they knew who really won the fight.
Two judges didn't, and that is a crying shame.