Just hours after Teiken's exciting Takashi Miura defends his WBC Super Featherweight title against Billy Dib we will see his stablemate Takahiro Ao (27-3-1, 12) attempt to become a very rare 3-weight world from Japan. Ao however has a much harder task than Miura and will be on the road as he fights in Las Vegas against the tough and battle hardened Raymundo Beltran (29-7-1, 17), who is himself hoping to win a world title at the third time of asking.
Of the two men it's fair to say Beltran is probably the more well known in terms of international renown. He's not a superstar of boxing or anything like that but he has been featured in some notable bouts which have been televised in the west. Those bouts include his draw with Ricky Burns in the UK and his loss to Terence Crawford in the US, his only experiences at the world level. Despite those losses he does hold a number of notable wins including decisions over Arash Usmanee, Ji-Hoon Kim and Henry Lundy.
Aged 33 Beltran is an American based Mexican fighter who came up through the school of hard knocks. He debuted back in 1999, when he was just 17, and suffered 2 early defeats as he began to learn his trade. The long journey of Beltran was mostly ignored until the last few years when he began to develop a “hard luck” story with controversial losses to Sharif Bogere and Luis Ramos Jr, both of whom were unbeaten going into the bouts. Those close losses were followed by good performances as he developed some unexpected career momentum and later got his first world title fight. Unfortunately it ended in a highly controversial draw against Ricky Burns.
Although Beltran has had a hard journey in terms of his bouts he is also well known for being one of the preferred sparring partners of Manny Pacquiao. It's no shock that Beltran's development really picked up when he began sharing the ring with Pacquiao, and despite stark differences in their styles it's clear that that sparring has helped Beltran build both his confidence and his skills.
In the ring Beltran is a tough nut to crack. He's an offensively minded pressure fighter who isn't the most powerful, not the biggest puncher but he's tough, gutsy and hits hard enough to get the respect of anyone. He's the sort of fighter that other boxers don't want to fight, in fact fighting with Beltran is a clear and obvious mistake. On the inside Beltran is a nightmare to fight and knows how to go to war however at range he often comes off second best.
As an amateur Ao was genuine a stand out. His reported amateur record stood at 76-3 (27) with 6 titles won on the Japanese High School circuit, a then record feat. It was due to his amateur credentials that Ao signed with Teiken ahead of his debut, when he was just 19 years old. Less than 2 years later he was in 10 round fights against solid fighters like Yoshinori Miyata.
Although Ao was moved relatively quickly it did take until 2007 for him to fight in his first title fight, a Japanese Featherweight bout with Koji Umetsu. Umetsu had won the title 5 months earlier, narrowly beating Kazuhisa Watanabe, but was unable to over-come Ao who took a narrow win over the defending champion. As the Japanese title holder Ao defended his belt 3 times, defeating Keisuke Akiba and Noriyuki Ueno before fighting to a draw with the then unbeaten Hiroyuki Enoki. The Enoki bout wasn't just a Japanese title defense but was a Japanese-OPBF unification bout that also acted as a WBA world title eliminator. Despite the draw Ao did get his first world title shot, a shot at WBC Featherweight champion Oscar Larios. Unfortunately for the Japanese fight it also saw him suffer his first defeat. Despite the loss Ao would claim a world title 5 months later when he avenged the loss to claim the title.
Sadly Ao's reign didn't last long and he lost the belt just 4 months after winning it, coming up short against Elio Rojas. That loss was put down to weight issues and he immediately made the move to Super Featherweight where he quickly won the WBC title, defeating touted German based fighter Vitali Tajbert. As the Super Featherweight title holder Ao made 3 defenses of his title, including a notable decision win over the very talented Terdsak Kokietgym, though his reign was surprisingly ended in October 2012 by Gamaliel Diaz. That loss was again put down to weight issues and lead to Ao moving to Lightweight where he began the search for a 3rd weight world title.
Stylewise Ao is a boxer at heart. He's a talented southpaw boxer who has nice speed and throws nice combinations off his jab whilst also having a sharp and educated southpaw left. He's got solid speed, technique and timing though he's really lacking lacking in power, especially at the top level where he has scored only 1 stoppage in 8 world title bouts. What he is good at however is controlling the distance and pace of a bout with clever footwork and sharp accurate shots from range, it's not always exciting but is something he has developed after being dropped a few times early in his career.
The key to this bout is the style match up of the two men. If Ao can keep the bout at range, following the gameplan set by Terence Crawford, then the odds are he'll manage to rack up the points needed to win. That however is easier said than done and Beltran has made his name out of his ability to apply a lot of intense pressure and he'll be looking to rush Ao and force the bout to be fought at close quarters. If Beltran can do that there is only going to be one winner.
Who ever manages to enforce their gameplan is almost nailed on to win here though it's unlikely either man will have things all their own way. Early on it seems likely Ao will have his best success with the middle of the bout being the most interesting in terms of competitive action before Beltran manages to close the fight late. Who manages to claim the middle rounds will almost certainly take the bout, and that is the part of the fight where the game plans of the two men will decide the outcome.
Unfortunately for Ao we suspect it'll be Beltran who manages to impose himself in the middle and that the work rate he forces will tire the Japanese fighter out and slow his footwork. If that happens then Beltran is likely to claim a close and very competitive decision. We would however love to see Ao claim the victory in such a high profile bout and really put himself on the map for those who have over-looked him this far in to his career.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.