While Julio Cesar Chavez became a dominant force in the sport of boxing in the 1980’s and 90’s, he inadvertently put the Mexican state of Sinaloa on the boxing map.
After Chavez retired, a number of prizefighters, such as Fernando Montiel and Humberto Soto, continued to carry the torch of talented fighters who represented that state.
While the state has gotten a bad reputation in the past due to narcotics and drug cartels, boxers from Sinaloa continue to flourish in the sport, including Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
However, there is one fighter, whom few have heard of outside of the region, who wants to break out in 2014, win a world title belt, and earn bragging rights in the state. Before all of that could happen, Gilberto Ramirez Sanchez must get by his most difficult test as a pro.
Sanchez, an undefeated middleweight prospect, will face former world title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., on Friday night.
The bout will headline a Top Rank card and will be televised live on ESPN2 as part of a Friday Night Fights telecast.
In his last bout on Feb. 1, Sanchez stopped rugged gatekeeper Don Mouton in the first round at the Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas.
While he enjoys training in his hometown of Mazatlan, Sanchez understands quality sparring is essential to improve his overall ability as a fighter. He has left his family behind and now trains at The Rock gym in Carson, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. So far, he likes the work he has done thus far.
“We’re here because we spar against fighters more my size,” Sanchez told RingTV.com in a recent interview. “You get good sparring in Mexico, but here the quality of sparring is great. I’ve sparred with many Olympians who are my size. We want to keep learning so we could keep improving.
“I feel the difference because I feel more comfortable. I also feel much quicker and stronger than in previous fight.”
While Sanchez (27-0, 21 KOs) has reveled thus far against limited or modest opposition at best, he understood that it was only a matter of time before he would begin facing tougher opposition.
He will get that on Friday against Lorenzo (33-6, 25 KOs). The hard-hitting Dominican Republic-born fighter is 4-4 in his last eight bouts, but those losses were to Felix Sturm, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, Sam Soliman, and Daniel Jacobs.
Despite the recent losses, Sanchez knows Lorenzo is still a dangerous fighter.
“Lorenzo hits hard and moves well,” said Sanchez, who turned pro at the age of 17. “He has a lot of experience, which matters a lot in boxing. We’re very confident of the work we put in the gym. We’re very prepared for whatever Lorenzo brings with him that night.”
While a victory over Lorenzo is an obvious short-term goal, Sanchez has his eyes set on bigger things later this year. He believes he is a fight or two from a world title opportunity later this year or sometime next year.
As if that is not enough, he also wants a fight against Chavez, Jr. Sanchez believes a fight would be big back home in Sinaloa, which would be accompanied by a big payday. Then again, bragging rights would be huge for both men.
While Sanchez currently fights as a middleweight, he has no problems going up in weight to face Chavez.
“I think Chavez (Jr.) is a great fighter and he’s had a great career. I respect him out of the ring. In the ring, I don’t respect him. I want to fight him and I believe a fight between us will be a war and will be huge in Sinaloa.
“That’s why I’m glad I’m fighting the day before the (Manny) Pacquiao-(Timothy) Bradley fight. People will get to know me more. I feel ready for this and I’m looking to make the most out of this opportunity.”
Sanchez has big dreams for 2014 to match his 6-foot-3 frame. Although he may have a long road to reach those dreams, he is in it for the long haul.
Whether he earns a world title opportunity remains to be seen. As long as he continues winning and has a fan-friendly style, Sanchez could find success down the road.
While he may not have the success Chavez Sr. had about 20 years ago, he may be the right ambassador to represent the state of Sinaloa.
“I have lots of ganas (desire). I just want to fight the best.”
Photo by Rene Perez
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing