LOS ANGELES -- Lightweight contender Ray Beltran moved a step closer to a coveted world title shot, but more significantly perhaps, he put the finishing touches on the résumé he is building to make his case for a green card that would allow him to remain in the United States permanently.
Beltran, of Mexico, won a hard-fought majority decision against Bryan Vasquez on Saturday night on the undercard of the Vasyl Lomachenko-Miguel Marriaga Top Rank ESPN card at the Microsoft Theater at LA Live -- and he plans to file his application for that green card in the days to come.
Two judges scored the fight 96-94, and one had it 95-95. Most at ringside had Beltran winning a wider decision; ESPN.com scored the fight 99-91 for Beltran.
"My goal is to win. It doesn't matter if it's a decision or a knockout," Beltran said. "He can take a punch. I give him that. I have nothing but respect for him. He hurt me a little."
Beltran, who lives with his wife and three children in Phoenix, is in the United States legally thanks to a P1 work visa, which allows him to pursue his boxing career because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deems him to be an athlete who is "internationally recognized with a high level of achievement, evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered so that the achievement is renowned, leading or well known in more than one country."
However, the visa will expire in about 2½ years, at which point Beltran would have to return to Mexico unless he can secure an EB-1 green card that would give him permanent resident status as an "extraordinary athlete" -- one of the categories under which somebody can qualify for a green card. Beltran (34-7-1, 21 KOs), 36, had probably done enough to earn the green card even before he defeated Vasquez,, but he and his team wanted to pile on, and that meant another quality win on national television.
"I'm very motivated [to get the green card]," Beltran said. "I'm just here to fight. I put no pressure on myself. I am just here to fight."
The fight got off to a heated start with both fighters winging power punches, though more of Beltran's got through in the early going. Vasquez weighed in at 136.8 pounds, 1.8 over the lightweight division limit, so he was not eligible to win the regional belts Beltran was defending; despite Vasquz's additional weight, Beltran looked like the much bigger man.
Beltran had a big fourth round. Vasquez tried to box and move, but Beltran finally caught up with Vasquez and rocked him with a solid left to the body followed by a head shot that clearly stunned him.
Beltran continued to dominate Vasquez, landing many clean left hooks and body shots, while Vasquez landed very few hard punches -- and when he did, Vasquez connected with only one punch at a time.
The best Vasquez could muster was an accidental head-butt that opened a cut on Beltran's forehead in the 10th and final round and a hard combination that rocked Beltran in the final seconds as he finished the fight with blood streaming down his face.
"Because of the cut, I couldn't see very well," Beltran said. "I was a little surprised the judges had the fight so close. I only feel I lost the last round."
Vasquez (35-3, 19 KOs), 29, of Costa Rica, seemed pleased with his performance.
"I came up a division and nobody gave me a chance," said Vasquez, a former interim junior lightweight titlist. "I busted the guy up. I think I broke his cheekbone. The only reason I came up in weight was to beat Beltran and then fight Lomachenko."
Besides making his green card case, Beltran is also hunting for another world- title opportunity. He has had two previous world title shots, a controversial draw against Ricky Burns that most thought he won in 2013 in Burns' home country of Scotland, and a lopsided decision loss to Terence Crawford in 2014. Now he is close to another shot as he is highly ranked across the board in the sanctioning organizations.
Barboza tops Chicas in slugfest
In a tremendous action battle, junior welterweight Arnold Barboza Jr. outslugged Jonathan Chicas for a unanimous-decision victory. The judges had it 78-72, 77-73 and 76-74.
Barboza (17-0, 9 KOs), 25, of Oxnard, California, landed a right hand to knock Chicas down flat on his back in the third round, and later in the round badly rocked him with a left hand to the head. Chicas (15-3, 7 KOs), 28, of San Francisco, rallied in the fourth round, landing a clean overhand right that dropped Barboza.
The action continued during a blazing seventh round in which both guys were hurt, as they went toe-to-toe for most of those three minutes; they finished strong in the eighth and final round, with both fighters believing the fight was still on the table.
Other undercard results:
Junior welterweight Maxim Dadashev (8-0, 7 KOs), 26, a Russia native fighting out of Oxnard, California, stopped Jose Marrufo (10-7-2, 0 KOs), 25, of Phoenix, at 1 minute, 32 seconds of the eighth and final round. It was a physical fight, but Dadashev wore Marrufo down, prompting referee Zachary Young to step in and stop the fight because of an accumulation of punishment.
Middleweight Esquiva Falcao (18-0, 12 KOs), a 27-year-old southpaw who won an Olympic silver medal for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, cruised to a one-sided victory against Norberto Gonzalez (24-9, 14 KOs), 36, of Mexico, who gave a good effort but was thoroughly outclassed. All three judges scored the fight a shutout, 80-72.
Junior lightweight Erik DeLeon (17-0, 10 KOs), a 25-year-old southpaw from Detroit, won a near-shutout decision against Adones Aguelo (28-16-2, ,19 KOs), 29, of the Philippines, in a hard-hitting fight. DeLeon won handily, 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55, in a high-contact fight.
San Jose, California, junior lightweight Andy Vences (19-0, 11 KOs), 26, blew out Mexico's Eliseo Cruz (11-4-1, 7 KOs), 29, with ease. Vences dropped Cruz the second round and finished him with a combination that dropped Cruz to all fours in the third round as referee Young counted him out at 2 minutes, 21 seconds.
Junior middleweight Artemio Reyes (25-2, 20 KOs), 30, of Riverside, California, dominated journeyman Steve Marquez (16-17-2, 10 KOs), 37, of Fort Morgan, Colorado, en route to a fifth-round knockout. Reyes hurt Marquez repeatedly throughout the fight and then landed a brutal left hook to the body that knocked him down. He was in serious pain as referee Eddie Hernandez counted him out at 1 minute, 54 seconds.