It took Ray Beltran four tries to win a lightweight world title and fulfill his dream last February when he outpointed Paulus Moses, but he lost the belt in his first defense to Jose Pedraza six months later. Now Beltran is beginning his quest for another opportunity.
Beltran is moving up to junior welterweight and will return to face Hiroki Okada on Feb. 10 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, Top Rank announced on Wednesday.
The 10-round bout will serve as the co-feature for the previously announced fight between junior welterweight world titlist Jose Ramirez and Jose Zepeda, which headlines the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 7 p.m., with full card streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 4 p.m. ET).
Beltran (35-8-1, 21 KOs), 37, of Phoenix, said he is open to fighting in either the junior welterweight or lightweight division -- wherever he can get another chance to fight for a world title.
"I am excited about 2019, and this camp has been a great way to start my journey to another world-title opportunity," Beltran said. "If it's at 140, then I will be a two-division world champion, and if it's at 135, then I will be a two-time lightweight champion. I will leave that to Top Rank and my manager, Steven Feder," Beltran said. "I made some changes and am now working with (trainer) Marvin Somodio, who for many years learned from the great Freddie Roach. Marvin and my longtime strength coach, Bryan McComb, are bringing me back to the skills and basics that got me here. I'm a boxer, I'm a prizefighter, and that's what my fans will see Feb. 10."
Okada (19-0, 13 KOs), 29, of Japan, signed with Top Rank last year and made his debut for the company on Sept. 14 on the undercard of Ramirez's last fight, also at the Save Mart Center.
"To challenge for the world title, I've got to beat Beltran," Okada said. "As a former world champion, I know he's highly skilled. I know he's tough, so I'll be prepared for a good fight. It's an honor to be able to fight him, and I'm confident that I will win. I've watched his fights on video, and I believe in my power coming into this fight."
The ESPN+ portion of the card will include junior featherweight contender Genesis Servania (32-1, 15 KOs), 27, of the Philippines, against Carlos Castro (21-0, 9 KOs), 24, of Phoenix. Servania has won three fights in a row by knockout since losing a decision challenging featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez and eventually moving down in weight.
"I'm really looking forward to my next fight in Fresno because my opponent is a good fighter. He is undefeated," Servania said. "I want to fight tough opponents."
Castro is taking a step up in opposition to face his first world-class opponent.
"It has been a tough road to get to 21-0, but it also has been a great experience," Castro said. "This upcoming fight is another important step towards a world-title fight. I know exactly who Servania is, and I will be ready for him."
Also on the ESPN+ portion of the card:
•Lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. (11-0, 5 KOs), 18, of Stockton, California, will meet Alex Torres Rynn (6-2, 3 KOs), 32, of Canada in a six-rounder.
•Junior lightweight Andy Vences (21-0-1, 12 KOs), 27, of San Jose, California, who is close to a title opportunity, will face Dardan Zenunaj (14-5, 11 KOs), 31, a Kosovo native, in an eight- or 10-rounder.
•Heavyweight Guido Vianello (1-0, 1 KO), 24, a 2016 Italian Olympian, will face Ohio's Andrew Satterfield (4-1, 2 KOs), 24, in a scheduled six-rounder.
•Lightweight Saul Rodriguez (22-0-1, 16 KOs), 25, of Riverside, California, will fight for the second time since returning from a nearly two-year layoff, against Aelio Mesquita (17-3, 15 KOs), 27, of Brazil, in an eight- or 10-rounder.
•Fresno, California, featherweight prospect Isidro Ochoa (6-0, 2 KOs), 21, will face Jesus Guzman (7-2, 5 KOs), 22, of Mexico, in a six-round bout.