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WBC 140 lb CHAMPION JOSE RAMIREZ: PLAYING THE LONG GAME

When Regis Prograis blasted out former WBA & IBF Titleist Julius Indongo in just two rounds, fight fans started salivating at the prospect of the new ‘interim’ WBC belt holder facing off with that bodies ‘full’ champion Jose Ramirez. However, Bob Arum, the head honcho of Top Rank Inc and promoter of Ramirez, decided that this fight has the potential to be so much bigger and, for the time being, would steer his man on a different path until each fighter’s profile had risen to a much greater level. It appears to have been a shrewd move, with Prograis’ inclusion in the second World Boxing Super Series meaning that by the time that has ended Prograis, if successful, would be the holder of two world titles making a unification match with Ramirez big business indeed. In the meantime though, Ramirez (22-0, 16 KO’s) will go about his business, starting with his first defence next month against former amateur standout Danny O’Connor. And it is a chance for him to make a statement.

Born 12 August 1992 in Avenal, California, Ramirez started boxing at the age of 8, the only person in his family to have ever put the gloves on, and excelled, capturing numerous amateur titles including the Jr. Golden Gloves championship and the Jr. National Olympics (twice) before earning the position of the number one rated lightweight in the United States, representing them at the 2012 Olympic Games. But remaining true to his Mexican heritage is what drives him forward in both his personal life and career. Aged just 14, he felt that he should play his part in the family and chose to work alongside other immigrants to earn his own money. This experience of the life of picking bell peppers gave him a much greater appreciation of what so many go through just to make a living.

This carries itself over into his professional career. Several years ago when the great California drought put the interests of local farmers up against those of environmentalists, Ramirez joined forces with the California Latino Water Coalition. This started the “Fight for Water” cards, which kept selling out in support of Ramirez. Then Arum started the “No Trump” prelim cards, supporting Mexican fighters and furthering the backing of Ramirez and so many others during this difficult period in modern times.

Quite rightly, Ramirez has been vocal in his opinions regarding his people, and others who are just trying to make a better life for themselves. And as his popularity grows he will be able to reach a much greater audience. But for now, he must focus on his green and gold belt and defending it in impressive style.

Under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, Ramirez moved up the rankings, capturing the WBC Continental Americas title, and then sealed himself a shot at the WBC title vacated by Terence Crawford when he impressively demolished unbeaten Mike Reed in just two rounds, with vicious body shots contributing to his downfall. Once beaten Amir Imam was then outpunched over twelve as Ramirez became super-lightweight champion.

At 5 feet 10 inches tall and with a 72 1/2 inch reach, his aggressive, pressing style is punctuated with the classic Mexican overhand right-left hook to the liver combo, clearly evident throughout the Imam victory, and this could well lead to Ramirez becoming a very fan-friendly fighter.

He recently made changes to his team though, departing from Roach to join up with the highly respected Robert Garcia. The switch surprised many, but a big part of this was due to the time Roach, whose attention is spread throughout many top fighters, could spend with Ramirez. Also, switching to Garcia halved the time it took to travel to the Wild Card Gym (6 hours) allowing Ramirez to spend more quality time with his family, a huge factor in any athletes life.

For Ramirez, the path to potential greatness starts now. First up is his 7 July date with O’Connor. After that, a date with number one contender Josh Taylor, an impressive winner over former WBC champion Viktor Postol, looms. Then maybe Omar Figueroa or even Jorge Linares? At the end of this period though, Prograis could be waiting, and maybe even a possibility to crown an undisputed champion. If that is the case, then Ramirez v Prograis will definitely be worth the wait.

Dean Berks

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