By Michael Norby: IBF Latino featherweight champion Fernando Beltran Jr. retained his title in impressive fashion on Friday night by out-working tenacious featherweight battler Monty Meza Clay en route to a clear unanimous decision nod at The Laredo Entertainment Center in Laredo, Texas, USA.
After suffering a massively disappointing stoppage loss against Jorge Solis earlier this year, Meza Clay 28-3 (19) was determined to respond in grand fashion but, against former world title challenger Beltran 33-3-1 (18), the 5ft 2” firecracker encountered a brick wall. Beltran out-fought and out-landed the hard charging Meza Clay from the opening bell – using sharp and precise punching from range to compliment his stunning work rate (1361 punches thrown) on the inside to win by a wide margin.
Meza Clay began predictably as he steamrolled his way forward but Beltran was able to touch him solidly to the head as he charged forward – scoring well with both hands in the first half of the round. The Mexican was off to a bright start but his momentum was halted midway through after a left hand strayed low and forced his opponent to take a painful rest. Both guys fought at a blistering pace from the restart – taking turns at tagging each other to the body but Beltran’s success from range was the telling story of the opening round.
They went at it again to begin the second and Meza Clay was able to score well against the ropes as Beltran backed up. The American had greater success at getting inside undamaged in this round but his opponent was also extremely effective at short range which led to tasty exchanges throughout the three minutes. Beltran again seemed to land the cleaner shots – most notably by snapping Meza Clay’s head back with a sharp left uppercut in the final minute.
Meza Clay elected against jabbing his way inside and he paid a price in the third as Beltran continued to time his advances – ensuring a connect advantage before the pint sized Pennsylvanian reached punching range. Beltran’s hands were moving constantly and, although he was being put under awesome pressure by his opponent, he handled it supremely well and clearly out-landed Meza Clay thus far.
By the fourth round, however, Meza Clay, switching back and forth between southpaw and orthodox, was able to force the combat to the inside and, most importantly, he kept it there for extended periods – ensuring his best round of the fight so far as he thumped Beltran to the body and head with short sequences. Initially, this momentum rolled forward into the fifth round but it wasn’t long before Beltran turned the tables and he tattooed Meza Clay with both hands relentlessly as the shorter man retreated to the ropes.
Meza Clay was fighting with an apparent right hand injury as the fight entered the middle rounds but nevertheless he surged forward and met his opponent in the center of the ring – trading punches with the confident Beltran at a fiery pace. He came on strong in action packed seventh and eighth rounds, employing sheer will to trap his opponent against the ropes where he forced his fists into the body of the taller man. Beltran, though, was still able to stiffen Meza Clay regularly with combination punching behind his jab as the 28-year-old thundered forward.
Surely behind on the scorecards and pressing to get back into the contest, Meza Clay became highly reckless in the ninth round and he started to wither as Beltran punched cleanly and effectively throughout the frame. The American was stunned in the final minute of the round as Beltran planted a steady flow of straight left hands into the chops of the brave challenger to further his lead and make the already improbable knockout that Meza Clay needed even more unlikely.
Beltran sensed that Meza Clay was ready to go and he attacked him viciously in the tenth. Things were going swimmingly for the Mexican until a moment of sloppiness in the final seconds allowed his opponent to tee off with a stunning right hand that landed cleanly and offered a glimmer of hope to the tiring Meza Clay as the fight entered the final stretch.
Beltran ensured that Meza Clay’s moment of success remained a fleeting one, however, after another low blow in the 11th and penultimate round sapped whatever energy the American could muster for a final charge. Referee Rafael Ramos deducted a point from Beltran but it didn’t matter as all three judges scored the fight clearly favor of the former world title challenger.
Scores: 117-110; 115-112; 117-110
Undefeated junior middleweight contender Mean Joe Greene scored a unanimous decision victory over game Arkansan Delray through eight hard fought rounds.
This was a showcase bout for Greene 21-0 (14) who had not fought in almost a year due to an injury that forced him to pull out of a world title challenge against Sergio Martinez last January. Tonight, he out-worked Raines 15-6 (10) throughout the contest and unfurled big combinations from the beginning – ignoring referee Ruben Carrion’s low blow warnings to maintain a steady and bruising body attack en route to a clear victory.
Greene found no difficulty in closing the gap against his taller opponent and he scored heavily in the opening rounds with fast, short combinations to the body and head – trumping Raines honest but limited output with volume and power. Blood leaked from the nose of the Arkansan in the third as Greene continued to stuff both fists through his loose guard and, even though Raines fought bravely and answered regularly, he was unable to stub out his opponent’s charge.
Greene slowed a little in the fifth and allowed Raines to score against the ropes in the first half of the round but the New York southpaw responded in the final minute by shooting his right jab and sneaking in three and four punch combinations as Raines tried to walk him down.
Raines’ damaged nose acted like a crimson beacon for Greene’s straight left hand in the final rounds but, to his credit, the wounded fighter battled on and gave as good as he got down the stretch. Although trumped by his opponent’s higher output and accuracy, Raines gave a terrific account of himself and provided the returning Greene with eight valuable rounds of work.
Scores: 78-74; 79-73; 79-73
Highly touted junior middleweight prospect Demetrius Andrade was brought the distance for the first time in his short professional career after he scored a unanimous decision victory against Californian Tony Hirsch.
Andrade 5-0 (4) was uncharacteristically raw throughout the contest as he abandoned his usually terrific technique – choosing instead to jump forward looking to land haymakers against the jaw of his opponent. The 2008 US Olympian had nothing to worry about in Hirsch 8-2-1 (4) and, even though his effort tonight was verging on sloppy and not representative of his stellar amateur experience, he still won the fight hands down.
Scores: 40-36; 40-36; 40-36