Jose Ramirez aims to please in first title defense
One week ahead of their fight, Jose Ramirez and Antonio Orozco held a joint media lunch in downtown Los Angeles to avoid getting lost in the fray of this weekend’s Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez II pay-per-view event. This Friday night, in Fresno, California, they will square off in the main event of an ESPN (10:00 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) card, in hopes of setting the table for a big boxing weekend.
“I hope to go out there and show what a boxing fight should look like – an exciting one,” Ramirez said to room full of reporters last Thursday afternoon, before lunch was served at Wolfgang Puck’s.
Last March, Ramirez, 22-0 (16), beat Amir Imam via unanimous decision to claim the vacant WBC junior welterweight title. It was a contest between top contenders that would’ve check-marked Ramirez’s description of what a boxing match should be and his first defense of the belt is designed to do the same.
“It’s a fight that’s going to be an exciting fight, I think, for the Mexican community, for the Hispanics,” Ramirez further explained to UCNLive.com after lunch. “I should emphasize that a little bit more. In boxing, there’s (IBF welterweight titlist) Errol Spence (Jr.) and there’s (IBF/WBC lightweight beltholder) Mikey Garcia, who’s not as aggressive but show good technique and good boxing. There’s (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.), who always shows good boxing. ‘Canelo’ is not the most aggressive but shows good boxing. I think, for the Hispanics – or what I think the Hispanic boxing fan in my mind likes – when they look at fights, they want to see action. I think this is a fight they’re going to be excited to see and pleased to watch.”
Ramirez, 26, had cultivated a sizable fan base in Central California before going to New York City to win the belt and his return home was already scheduled for last July but was abruptly canceled after challenger Danny O’Connor could not make weight for the fight the day before, ending in a scary trip to a hospital for dehydration.
“The first thing that came into my mind was being a little bit surprised that I heard my fight would get canceled,” remembered Ramirez. “That was disappointing because a fighter gets ready for nine weeks and sacrifices personal stuff. We go through a lot in training camps and we want to be rewarded for it. To know that the award will not be there because the fight is canceled, that’s disappointing for me. Then the thought of everyone who bought tickets came into my mind. It was also disappointing to tell my fans the fight will be canceled. But it happens; I guess. I did my job. I made weight; I was prepared, ready and I’m glad that fans understood it was out of my control. We took a week-and-a-half off; then from there, the name of Antonio (Orozco) came across and I’ve always been a fighter that always says yes. I don’t like to think too much about who they throw out there. It’s yes, yes, yes, no matter who it is. By the second week, I was back in Riverside training again, getting ready for Antonio.”
Riverside is a far cry from Hollywood, where Ramirez was getting prepared to fight until becoming a world titleholder. In a move that surprised many, Ramirez left longtime coach Freddie Roach, soon after beating Imam, and hired Robert Garcia, whose Boxing Academy resides in the big rural city in Southern California, far east of Los Angeles.
“I wanted to have that feeling of loyalty,” Ramirez said about the change in trainers. “I wanted to have that feeling of being secure because of someone that is so excited to be training me and motivated to be training me. There’s so much negativity in the sport of boxing sometimes and we want a solid team from a trainer to a manager to our promoter to work together to protect – more than anything – my confidence and my security in boxing. I think Robert is excited and motivated to train me. I think he’s excited to know that he has the opportunity to train me. I’m excited that I have the opportunity to be training with him. That’s pushing me as a fighter, more than anything, along with my confidence and my mental (state). To feel like a world champion. To feel like a future superstar.
“Everything happens for a reason and I feel much more prepared now. We had such a long training camp and we had more time to get to know each other,” Ramirez continued. “I think it’s good. I think it’s a positive. It gives us more time to develop a better chemistry with each other and to feel more secure now, as part of his team, as well as him feeling good about being a part of my team. I’m excited. I think he has a lot of great fighters, prospects, undefeated fighters who have pushed me in sparring and that has prepared me well for this fight. I feel like a much more prepared Jose Ramirez than I was in July.”
One of the first things to ponder about this change is not only the dynamic of having new eyes on Ramirez but the sparring available for him in Garcia’s gym, particularly with the trainer’s younger brother Mikey, one of the best talents in the sport. Mikey Garcia has been helping many of his brother’s young prospects over the years and surely the practice Ramirez will now get is sure to help his progression. However the iron-sharpening will have to wait for another camp.
“When Mikey Garcia was getting ready for Robert Easter (Jr.), I think I could’ve been good work for him cause of my long reach. However I was getting ready for a southpaw in July,” said Ramirez, when asked about sparring Mikey. “I got to spar him once, just a couple rounds, but, after his fight on July 28th, he got to enjoy his time off. I felt like Mikey would’ve been good work for me in this fight but because of the schedules and times, I didn’t get the opportunity but those couple rounds I sparred with Mikey, I was impressed. He’s so composed and so patient as a person. He’s calm; he’s quiet. He’s collected and, when he’s in the ring, he doesn’t waste any energy. So there’s a lot to learn, even if I didn’t get to spar with him. The work at Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy is great work. I was also excited because of that. His list of fighters is one that will push you to become a better fighter.”
Along with his promoter Top Rank and manager Rick Mirigian, the Save Mart Arena in Fresno has been where Ramirez has consistently fought to build a legitimate fan base over the years. It’s expected to be filled this Friday night, as the fans have been forced to be patient for Jose’s return.
“Since I became a world champion, the fans in Fresno are very excited to see me perform,” said Ramirez, who is from nearby Avenal. “They’re excited to cheer on their local world champion. They’re excited to see bigger fights. All this is new to the market in Central California. I’m honored to be in this scenario and that setting to do that for the community.”
Fighting out of San Diego, Orozco, 27-0 (17), will be entering an atmosphere unseen before by the 30-year-old. It’s also the first world title shot for Orozco, who is handled by Golden Boy Promotions and has had a rough year since not showing up to weigh-in last September to fight Roberto Ortiz, then slated to be televised on HBO. Orozco was reportedly overweight by seven pounds and there were some serious ramifications to the mishap. The day before Ramirez won his title, Orozco fought former 130-pound title challenger Martin Honorio on a small club show that didn’t prove much, other than his ability to make 140 pounds. Certainly the jury will be out until he steps on the scale again on Thursday but once that hoop is jumped through, he’ll have a much tougher hurdle to get over in fighting an action-friendly boxer with thousands of fans cheering him on.
“I’ve had my downs. I’ve had my ups,” Orozco said to reporters. “I’ve been working tremendously for this. I’ve been asked how my camp has been and it’s been horrible. I have been getting worked to a point where, you know, the work has been tremendous, coming from my sparring partners, my trainer, my physical trainer. This is an opportunity we’re not going to let go. I’ve been waiting for this my entire career and for it to be here, I’m not going to let myself down. I don’t want to let anybody down. We know Jose is a tremendous fighter. We have nothing but respect for him. His team is also tremendous. It’s a great fight that is upon us and the moment is almost here. It’s going to be a great weekend of fighting. I want to give everyone a great fight and I’m sure Ramirez is coming in with everything. With both styles, this is a fight that has a lot of potential. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
In the co-feature of Friday night’s ESPN card, Jamel Herring, 17-2 (10), will make his network debut, when he faces John Vincent Moralde, 20-1 (10), in a 10-rounder for a regional junior lightweight belt sanctioned by the IBF. Kicking off the telecast is 18-year-old prospect Gabriel Flores Jr., 9-0 (5), of nearby Stockton, making his national television debut against Roger Gutierrez, 7-1-1 (4), in another 130-pound affair scheduled for six rounds.