On Friday night, tough veteran journeyman Ray Beltran, 26(17)-6(2), traveled to boxing mecca Atlantic City, New Jersey, and staked his claim for "Upset of the Year" honors by taking a hard-fought majority decision from top-10 ranked lightweight Hank Lundy, 22(11)-2(1), in front of Lundy's hometown crowd.
Lundy entered the night on a four-fight winning streak since his July 2010 TKO loss to John Molina. He was ranked No. 8 by The Ring and number one by the WBC.
Beltran, who had lost his last fight to undefeated prospect Luis Ramos Jr. last January, was expected by most observers to give Lundy competitive rounds without seriously challenging him. In other words, he was supposed to be a stay-busy opponent while Lundy marked time, waiting for his shot at the belt.
Instead the 31-year-old Beltran showed up ready for war. He pressured the quicker and more athletic fighter all night long, making every round close, and ultimately out-landing the hometown favorite by a narrow margin en route to a scorecard victory of 96-94 twice and 95-95 on the third card.
Beltran has been a sparring partner of Manny Pacquiao, logging many rounds with the pound-for-pound great. His experience showed through against Lundy. He never got ruffled by Lundy's renowned explosiveness, continually moving forward and engaging; his patient aggression carried the night.
The third round was a thriller, as Beltran opened up on Lundy against the ropes, scoring big. At the bell both fighters landed crushing hooks at the exact same time.
While Beltran deserves tremendous credit for his gritty performance, Lundy can only blame himself when he looks in the mirror tomorrow morning. In round after round he made the tactical mistake of letting himself get stuck on the ropes and in the corners, relying on his superior speed and athleticism to duck out of trouble.
In general, he looked very comfortable on the ropes, slipping and deflecting many of Beltran's punches and often landing clean counters. I actually had Lundy winning 96-94. But by making himself a stationary target so often, he allowed Beltran to appear to land more than he probably was, and also to legitimately land more than he probably should have.
Friday Night Fights has invested a lot of time and effort into building Lundy up as a potential title challenger, even after his loss two years ago against Molina. But Molina, at least, was another top-10-ranked fighter.
Beltran, while an accomplished and skilled pro, will never be mistaken for an all-time great. He has lost decisively against guys who never had the popular cache that Lundy entered this fight with.
Lundy's natural talents were often apparent, even in defeat. He is quick and punches accurately. But his defense, once again, proved to be shaky, and his sense of ring generalship severely lacking.
It is hard to guess where he goes from here. The same mistakes that a determined Beltran was able to capitalize on Friday would very likely get him knocked cold against a true, A-level fighter.
Lundy is an exciting fighter and he will get more opportunities. He might very well make good on them. But at 28, no youngster in the fight game, he still has a lot of work to do before anybody will start talking about him as an elite talent again.