LAS VEGAS – Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns sat at ringside. Manny Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach worked a corner. It was a good night to get an autograph for everybody but Raymundo Beltran.
Beltran (27-6, 17 KOs) had a job to do Thursday night and he did it in workman-like fashion for a unanimous decision over Ji-Hoon Kim ( 24-8, 18 KOs) at the Mirage on an ESPN2-televised card.
But Beltran, one of Pacquiao’s sparring partners for many years, had to overcome a rocky first round to complete the assignment. Beltran was knocked to the canvas midway through the first by a left from Kim. Before the round ended, Beltran returned the favor, unleashing a short left that dropped Kim.
In the second, Kim, a South Korean, was warned for a low blow that a ringside wise guy said was below the 38th Parallel. Beltran rested, recovered, suffered a cut near his left eye and stole the round with a furious rally in the closing seconds.
Those late moments seemed to sum up Beltran’s strategy. He would fight sporadically, yet effectively when he did. Kim appeared to tire late in the third. He began to drop his hands and Beltran began to capitalize with head-rocking blows. But Kim was as stubborn as he was awkward. Beltran could not finish him in a fight that was dramatic in the beginning, yet deadly dull in the end.
Best of the undercard: Las Vegas super-bantamweight Jessie Magdaleno (13-0, 9 KOs) scored two knockdowns and learned at least a couple of lessons in a bruising, unanimous decision over Jonathan Arellano (13-2-1, 3 KOs) of Ontario, Calif.
“He caught me a few times, but I wanted to go eight rounds,’’ said Magdaleno, who knocked down Arellano in the second round and again in the sixth.
It looked as if Arellano was finished in the sixth. He slumped along the ropes as Magdaleno swarmed him with a cascade of blows. But Arellano would not surrender. In the end, Magdaleno was glad that he didn’t.
“The work was good,’’ he said.
The rest: Super-featherweight Felix Verdejo (1-0), a Puerto Rican Olympian, won his pro debut, winning a four-round, unanimous decisionLeonard Chavez ((1-1, 1 KOs) of Los Angeles; featherweight Evgeny Gradovich (15-0, 8 KOs) of Oxnard, Calif., scored a seventh-round TKO of William Villanueva (10-5-1, 2 KOs) of Albuquerque; and Las Vegas lightweight Robert Osiobe (14-5-4, 6 KOs) survived and eight-round knockdown for a split decision over Jose Roman (14-1-1, 11 KOs) of Garden Grove, Calif.