The stakes have been raised in the fight between lightweights Raymundo Beltran and Jonathan Maicelo.
Their 12-round bout on May 20 (HBO, 10:15 p.m. ET/PT) at Madison Square Garden in New York has been elevated to a world title elimination bout, Top Rank announced on Tuesday.
The fight is the co-feature for the main event between unified junior welterweight world champion Terence Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) and Felix Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs).
The Beltran-Maicelo winner will be in position to become the eventual mandatory challenger to lightweight world titleholder Robert Easter Jr. (19-0, 14 KOs), who will make his current mandatory defense against Denis Shafikov (38-2-1, 20 KOs) on June 30 (Bounce TV) in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card in Toledo, Ohio, Easter's hometown.
"We are ready for this fight. It is a very important fight for the whole team, because it will be the fight that will take us to the opportunity of battling for a world title," Beltran said.
The 35-year-old Beltran (32-7-1, 20 KOs), a Mexico native fighting out of Phoenix, is bidding for a third world title opportunity.
In 2013, Beltran traveled to Ricky Burns' home turf in Glasgow, Scotland, and was saddled with a split draw in a highly controversial decision many thought Beltran clearly won. Two fights later, Beltran challenged then-lightweight world champion Crawford in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and lost a near-shutout decision in November 2014.
"I don't just want to win. I want to look good and win convincingly" Raymundo Beltran
In his next fight, Beltran was supposed to challenge Japan's Takahiro Ao in Las Vegas for a vacant lightweight world title. Although Beltran knocked Ao out in the second round he could not win the belt because he was overweight. Then Beltran tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug after the fight and was suspended. He was out of action for a year but has won three bouts in a row since his return, all by knockout, including an impressive seventh-round KO of then-undefeated Mason Menard in December on Crawford's last undercard.
"We are focused on winning. We are coming to fight and give a great show to all the fans. I don't just want to win. I want to look good and win convincingly," Beltran said. "Little by little I am making my dreams come true. I have battled a lot in my career. We have fulfilled many of our goals, like now that we are going to fight at Madison Square Garden. Being able to fight in a historical place, where all the greats have fought, is a dream come true."
Maicelo (25-2, 12 KOs), 33, a Peru native fighting out of North Bergen, New Jersey, has won four fights in a row, all by decision, including an upset 10-round decision against of Jose Felix Jr. on Feb. 17. He has not lost since a lopsided decision to Darleys Perez in an interim lightweight world title fight in January 2015.
"This is a very important fight for my career," Maicelo said. "This fight means everything to me because I will be able to display my skills in front of a big audience and on a big stage like Madison Square Garden. Right now I'm at my best and on May 20 everyone will see the best of me. I'm working very hard in the gym because everyone knows that Beltran is a tough fighter, but I'm focused on winning because this is a world title elimination bout that will take me straight to the opportunity of fighting for a world title."