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Boxer Ray Beltran, a Mexican national, is fighting for more than just an International Boxing Federation World title, he is also battling the U.S. Immigration Service to have his immigration status approved, and his green card issued.
Beltran, who grew up in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, will face Jonathan Maicelo in an IBF world title eliminator at Madison Square Garden in New York City this weekend.
“This fight is the key. It is the key to everything,” lightweight boxer Beltran said according to USA Today.
The boxer is being literal in several ways. Not only will it give him a shot at gaining a title for his professional boxing career, but a win could also prove to U.S. Immigration Services officials that he is worthy of permanent residency.
“(In boxing), the green card process is unique,” Beltran’s manager, Steve Feder, told the media. “You have to prove yourself unique to anyone else, not just in the world but within the sport itself, you have to be a great fighter among great fighters. It is twice as hard. It is not about how long you have been here if you pay your taxes, it is nothing to do with that.”
For Beltran, a winning career would prove him to be of “exceptional ability” and would mean he would be afforded an EB-1 green card. But, this upcoming fight in New York is an important milestone in both his career and his immigration application process.
“It is like a championship belt,” Beltran said in a recent interview. “It is like winning the lottery ticket because I know that being (permanent) here I will have a lot more opportunities. (If) I can be deported at any time, who will provide for my family and take care of them? I want to grow and do something and contribute to this country.”
The boxer entered the U.S. illegally with his mother when he was 15-years-old, and now, as he climbs the ranks in the world of boxing, he is also trying to rectify the problem of his legal status.
The boxer has had an equally rocky road to boxing stardom as to legal status. After an early career that floundered a bit, he recently began to pick up speed by winning a few bouts he wasn’t expected to win. But, even that didn’t goad some of the higher ranked boxers to take his fights. Now, with his 32-7-1 with 20 knockouts record, he is advancing to a spot where other, high-ranked boxers will be forced to meet him in the ring.
So, this weekend’s match with Jonathan Maicelo has deep personal significance for Beltran. It will prove a lot of things. If he wins it will show that he is a sportsman to be reckoned with, it will prove that sticking with his career choice was the right one, and it just might mean he can finally be a legal citizen of the United States of America.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.