Beltran will fight Crawford for lightweight title

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Ray Beltran knows he'll be facing a monumental task when he steps into the ring at CenturyLink Center on Thanksgiving weekend.

Beltran not only will square off against unbeaten Terence "Bud" Crawford, he'll do it in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 in Crawford's hometown.

If that's what it takes to win the WBO lightweight championship that many observers believe should have belonged to him a year ago, Beltran says, so be it.

"I want fans to remember me for fighting anybody they put in front of me, wherever I have to fight them, to get respect and recognition," Beltran said Tuesday at a news conference to formally announce the 12-round fight on Nov. 29.

The 33-year-old Beltran went to Glasgow, Scotland, in September 2013 and fought to a controversial draw with champion Ricky Burns. Beltran knocked down Burns and broke his jaw in a dominating performance that impressed everyone except the judges. Crawford traveled to Glasgow last March and was so convincing against Burns that he couldn't be denied the decision and the title.

Beltran won a unanimous decision against Arash Usmanee in April in Las Vegas to earn another shot at the belt. Crawford stopped previously undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa in June in his first title defense in front his raucous "Team Crawford" backers at CenturyLink Center and more than 1 million HBO viewers.

Unlike the tense news conference to announce the Crawford-Gamboa fight, Crawford and Beltran expressed admiration for each other.

"This fight is going to be a tough fight, I can tell," Crawford said. "Ray Beltran, he's a good, crafty fighter and everybody knows, and I know, he went over there (to Scotland) and won that belt. So he feels like he's coming back to get what belongs to him. He's going to fight with a chip on his shoulder. Me, I can't let that happen."

The 27-year-old Crawford is 24-0, and Beltran is 29-6-1. Both have 17 knockouts.

"I've been working so hard to get this point in my career," said Beltran, who was Manny Pacquiao's longtime sparring partner. "I'm fighting a great champion. Not only that, he's a great, classy guy and a good person. I respect him."

Promoter Bob Arum also announced Tuesday that the Crawford-Beltran card also would feature IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich against Jayson Velez in a match of unbeatens.

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