After 43 professional fights, Arizona’s Ray Beltran achieved one of his dreams when he won the World Boxing Organization lightweight championship. Now at Gila River Arena Aug. 25 he will fight for his second dream, remaining in the United States.

“Boxing has given me the opportunity to give my family a better life and all the opportunities that I struggled to get,” Beltran said during a recent interview. “That is why I do this and why I will continue to fight, because I love my family and I love the United States.”

Beltran, 37, a native of Mexico living with his wife and three children in Phoenix, migrated to the U.S. in 1996. He worked on temporary visas for years while trying to get legal status.

“I started boxing when I was 8 years old. I did a couple of amateur fights, then I retired,” Beltran said. “I came back when I was 14 or 15 and had about 30 amateur fights altogether, that was the beginning of this career.”

After living in Los Angeles, he returned to Arizona where he currently lives with his wife and children.

“I was 15 when I moved to the United States. My family moved to Phoenix. I did a couple more amateur fights after I moved there. I lived in L.A. for five or six years, but now I moved back to Phoenix,” Beltran said. “I love Phoenix and it is home for me and my family.”

Beltran, 37, said he is a fighter, having grown up around it, and knows it is the way to support his family. Over the years, he was known as “the opponent,” because he would take any and all fights offered.

“I am the type of person who just can’t give up or quit, and when somebody is offering me opportunities, I take them,” he said. “Boxing was my way to make it in life and give my family a future, so when they came to me, I would say yes.”

He has trained with some of the top fighters in history, including Manny Pacquiao, who he said taught him how to be a better boxer and also how to be a better person.

“(Pacquiao) was a great person to train with, because he taught me how to work hard, and he also showed me how to be a better fighter,” Beltran said. “Training with him was a big positive and key for me in my career because he showed me how to be patient with any struggles I may face.”

Now, as Beltran (35-7-1) heads into his first title defense at Gila River Arena Aug. 25 against No. 2 ranked Jose Pedraza (24-1-0), Beltran says he has been training hard to showcase his talents in front of his hometown crowd.

“I have never felt better than I do in this camp, and I am so excited to fight at home,” Beltran said. “I just expect a good fight and I plan to be ready for a tough challenge from (Pedraza) and showcase a great battle in Arizona.”

Plus, thanks to a work visa that expires soon and his winning a world title, he has the chance to clear what would probably be the final hurdle to obtaining his EB-1 green card that would give him permanent resident status in the United States.

“It hasn’t been easy and I have been trying to do everything correct in getting my green card,” Beltran said. “I have worked hard, and boxing has been the way for me to get this so my wife and kids can have a better life.”

While he knows his boxing career is closer to the end than the beginning, he said he knows what the most important thing to him is.

“I love the United States and I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have gotten and, like I have said in the past, if I had to go to war to defend the country, I’d do it,” Beltran said.

As he continues to prepare for the defense, his goals are the same from family to boxing, as well as showing that if he works hard enough, he can achieve his goals.

“I have gone through so much to get to this point, I just don’t want to mess it up for my family. I don’t want to let them down, and am focused on continuing to fight to make it possible for them to have every opportunity to succeed,” he said. “Plus, if I can inspire people not to give up on their dreams and I can change just one life and one person to keep working hard, that would be incredible and complete my dreams.”