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Crawford to defend title vs. Beltran

After lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford thrilled his hometown fans in Omaha, Nebraska, with a ninth-round knockout of then-undefeated former featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa in June, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum vowed that he would bring Crawford back for his next fight.

That is exactly what Arum is doing. Crawford will make his second title defense at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the arena where he knocked out Gamboa, when he takes on mandatory challenger Raymundo Beltran on Nov. 29 (HBO).

"After the way the people of Omaha responded to the June fight, there is a hunger now there for boxing, especially for Terence Crawford," Arum told ESPN.com. "We had over 10,000 for the fight in June and we'll have another big crowd for this fight.

"And I think we have a good fight with Beltran, an interesting fight. It's a style contrast that should make it an exciting fight with Beltran putting on pressure and Crawford being the better boxer, but a guy who can also put on pressure."

Crawford (24-0, 17 KOs), 26, won his version of the 135-pound world title in March when he traveled to Ricky Burns' home turf in Glasgow, Scotland, and put on a boxing clinic to take the title by unanimous decision before returning home for the exciting defense against Gamboa, which turned out to be a clear fight of the year candidate.

Crawford is happy to be fighting at home again.

"It's gonna be great. The feeling that I get when I'm at home is unreal, especially not being able to fight in my hometown before [June] and coming off a great victory like I did in my last go-round," Crawford said. "To bring this one home also, it will be great."

In front of him is Beltran (29-6-1, 17 KOs), 33, who many view as the uncrowned titleholder. Last September, Beltran, who is from Mexico and lives in Southern California, also traveled to Glasgow and challenged Burns for the title. But despite knocking him down, breaking his jaw and dominating most of the fight, Beltran was saddled with a controversial draw, which allowed Burns to keep the belt. In his next fight, Burns lost it to Crawford.

"In the view of every rational viewer, Beltran beat Burns," Arum said. "In a fair world Crawford would have been the challenger to Beltran for the title. At least Beltran is getting the opportunity as the challenger, but it's not the same thing as getting the fight as the champion because of the disparity in money."

Crawford said Beltran deserves the opportunity and that he believes he was robbed against Burns.

"No question about it, my next opponent ain't a bum," Crawford said. "He's tricky, he's smart, he's a veteran. He's tough and he can take a punch. I'm not cutting any corners.

"I saw the fight because I was the No. 1 contender and going to fight the winner for the title," Crawford said. "I felt Beltran did more than enough to win that fight. Unfortunately, he didn't get that victory over there. I went over there and did my job and got the victory. Now we're fighting.

"I know coming into the fight he feels like I have something that belongs to him. He feels like that belt belongs to him and he will train extra hard to get what he thinks belongs to him, and that makes for a good fight."

After the draw with Burns, Beltran rebounded to outpoint Arash Usmanee in April on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. II undercard in Las Vegas. Before that fight, Beltran lamented the draw in the Burns fight.

"I should be defending my title. But only God knows why it happened," he said. "I just focus and try to stay positive. I've been through a lot in boxing."

There was some discussion in the Crawford camp about a possible move up to junior welterweight for his next fight, but he is staying put at lightweight for at least one more bout.

"He's going to fight at lightweight at least for this fight and then we'll decide after this fight," Arum said.

Crawford said he talked with managers Cameron Dunkin and Brian McIntyre about a move up, but the decision was made to stay at lightweight for the time being.

"Right now my body is getting bigger and I am filling out a little more, but as I have said, my next goal is to move up in weight and win more titles," Crawford said. "But as of right now, me and my managers and promoter feel like a couple of more at 135 and then move up. I wanted to move up, but this is not just my decision. We're a team and my team felt it would be better to take another fight at 135 and then think about moving up and that's what we're doing right now.

"So we are focused on Beltran. I can still make 135 and be strong, so our main focus is on Beltran. Moving up is later on in the future."