Remember Rico Ramos?
It’s been over six years since Rico Ramos – who fights this Friday night, at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California – was the WBA junior featherweight champion. And yeah, he’ll admit it does seem like ages ago.
“Yes, it does; it really does,” Ramos said last week, reflecting on the high point of his career. It was a short-lived reign. After defeating Akifumi Shimoda in seven rounds to capture the belt in the summer of 2011, he had the misfortune of facing the talented Guillermo Rigondeaux, who mastered him in six rounds, the following January.
Since then, his career has had its share of ups and downs but he’s currently riding a five-fight winning streak, as he faces Daniel Olea. Originally Ramos was slated to face former WBO 122-pound beltholder Jessie Magdaleno. Regardless Ramos says, “We’re just training and we’re focused on getting back to the top and doing what we have to do to get back to that world championship.”
It’s said that youth is wasted on the young and when you ask the 31-year-old Ramos if he perhaps took things (such as his world title) for granted, he contemplates for a few seconds before answering. “I didn’t know about the game back then,” he said. “Right now I know and I have people behind me and things like that; they have my best interest. So right now I’ve learned – I’m still learning – back then, I was just fighting. I didn’t care who or what or where.”
After losing his title to Rigondeaux, Ramos would then lose to Ronny Rios, Oscar Gonzalez, Jesus Cuellar and Claudio Marrero in subsequent years. When asked about just what he meant by “the game,” he seems to be talking more about the politics of the game more than the actual prizefighting. “Yes, politics; there’s a lot of politics. Everybody knows it; I’m just focused now,” said Ramos, 29-5 (14).
When asked to give a specific example, he says, “When you’re up, you’re up. When you’re down – nobody cares. But it’s all good; I just keep moving forward.”
Ramos admits that, as his career slumped, while he didn’t get to the point where he wanted to quit the game, “I didn’t care no more. After my first loss, after Rigondeaux, when I lost the title, that’s when it went downhill.”
And yeah, that old cliche about having a multitude of friends and newfound relatives as a champion who vanish after losing that title? “It happened,” said Ramos, with a chuckle. “You just gotta move forward and do your best. I’ve got a couple of more years in this game. I haven’t been in no wars or anything like that, so I feel that I’m good. I feel like I’ve got about four or five years left and, yeah, we’ll just take everything right now.”
The sport can leave an individual embittered, even one who has reached the top. For Ramos it was just a cup of coffee as a champion. The big money and everything else never really came to him and, for years, he was relegated to the fringes of the sport. Ramos, who is now much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, insists, “I’m focused; I’m prepared and I’m ready for anything and everything, mentally and physically ready. I have a great team behind me and everything, so that makes it totally different and we’re happy. I’m ready. We’re going to go.”
After his 2015 loss to Marrero (in which Ramos was stopped in three rounds), Jimmy Karambelas was put in touch with Rios by a mutual friend who was had trained him in the past. Soon Karambelas was managing him and under his guidance, Ramos has five consecutive wins.
“His talent speaks for itself and I felt he just needed a few victories to get back into contention,” explained Karambelas, who says of his client, “He works hard; he’s dedicated and he comes in shape all the time and never misses a day in the gym.”
There was obvious disappointment that Magdaleno pulled out but Karambelas says, “The most important thing is getting a win and everything will play itself out.”
Ramos believes he’s inching toward a title shot, “I’ve been talking some fights, not big fights but getting back in the rankings, and I’m creeping back through the door. It’s going to be hell once I get back to the top.”
Who knows? Maybe this is an audition for Top Rank (which has booked WBO junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe on its December 8 card at the Madison Square Garden). When asked if he would accept a bout with Dogboe or WBA titlist Danny Roman, Ramos makes it clear whom he prefers to face, “I don’t see a big paycheck or a big fan-base for Danny Roman. I feel that Dogboe is the top guy right now. That’s the one I would like.”
A lot has happened since the last time Ramos had a championship belt around his waist. For a while he was forgotten but never completely gone.
“I don’t look at the past; it’s about the future now. So we’re just ready for anything.”
Top Rank formally announced that, on December 8, the lightweight unification bout between the WBA’s Vasiliy Lomachenko and the WBO’s Jose Pedraza will take place at the Hulu Theater at MSG, on ESPN. Expected to round out that card are Dogboe and Teofimo Lopez…The Top Rank card on Friday, from Oakland (which features IBF 115-pound beltholder Jerwin Ancajas and IBF super middleweight titlist Jose Uzcategui), will be streamed on ESPN+…Speaking of “The Plus,” I really enjoyed the latest “30 for 30” on Junior Seau…Really enjoying “Liberty City Warriors” on STARZ…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.