Friday, August 12, 2022  |


Arum pushes politics, undercard fighters talk future at media workout

Bob Arum (center) joined three Top Rank fighters on the Pacquiao-Bradley PPV undercard, Gilberto Ramirez (left), Oscar Valdez (right) and Jose Ramirez (top). PHoto by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Bob Arum (center) joined three Top Rank fighters on the Pacquiao-Bradley PPV undercard, Gilberto Ramirez (left), Oscar Valdez (right) and Jose Ramirez (top). PHoto by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

The April 9 rubbermatch between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley is supported by an undercard that trumps most prior pay-per-view undercards put on by Top Rank Promotions in recent years. However, the media press release announcing this week’s media workout, the undercard was billed as the “No Trump Undercard” – referring to Donald Trump, the famed mogul and current vote-leader for the Republican nominee of this year’s United States Presidential election. spoke with all the fighters involved in the public workouts held at Fortune’s Gym in Hollywood, California, including Top Rank’s founder, Bob Arum.

“Well, everything came together. I have these three young men fight for Top Rank, they’re all Hispanic, and I thought it would be really something special to show them on the same card,” Arum told “Let’s be frank about it, Pacquaio and Bradley have been around for a long time, and at best, they’re not gonna be around that much longer. So you have to build new stars and these three young men have star quality.”

Inspired by his disdain for Trump, Arum was the one to name it the “No Trump Undercard” because of its heavy Mexican influence. He first threw verbal jabs at Trump at the press conference announcing the undercard, and continued during the media workouts. “Like other Americans, I’m very very disturbed at the hate that he’s spewing and people have to stand up and be heard. If he ever became president, it would be really difficult for Hispanics in this country, and because I’m involved with the Hispanic community, with the fights and some of my biggest customers are Hispanic, I have to speak out, and I took this opportunity to speak out, and a lot of people have came up to me and thanked me for what I’ve said.”

Arum had much more to say about Trump but the real focus of the media event was the three promising young boxers – Gilberto Ramirez, Oscar Valdez and Jose Ramirez – on the “No Trump Undercard.”

Serving as the co-feature of the HBO PPV telecast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ramirez will challenge Arthur Abraham for the veteran’s WBO super middleweight title.

Gilberto Ramirez. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Gilberto Ramirez. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

“I’m looking forward for this opportunity to become the first world champion at 168-pounds, that’s what motivates me, and that’s what I look forward to, to give Mexico that world title,” said Ramirez on the historic implications that surround his first world title opportunity. The Spanish-speaking 24 year old from Mazatlan, Sinaloa, is not only head and shoulders above most of his fellow citizens standing 6-feet 2-inches, but his confidence was just as high as his frame.

“I’m not very concerned about him,” Ramirez said about Abraham. “I know how hard I work, and I now what I need to do to win this fight. He doesn’t come out of Germany a lot, so I’m sure he’s a little nervous getting out of Germany for this fight.”

Abraham (44-4, 29 knockouts), a two-division world champion, is a seasoned veteran who established a vast majority of a successful career in Germany, and hasn’t fought in the United States in close to five years. After winning an elimination bout last November over Gevorg Khatchikian, Ramirez (33-0, 24 KOs) became the mandatory challenger for the 36-year-old Armenian transplant.

“Of course,” Ramirez said on whether or not he would’ve flown overseas to fight Abraham. “We knew that might be a possibility. We were looking forward to going to Germany and fighting for the title. It didn’t happen, but we were ready. It didn’t matter where the fight was, the important thing was to fight for the championship.”

To make him an even more extraordinary Mexican, Ramirez is also a southpaw, and his “Zurdo” alias translates to his left-handed quality. With his considerable power, size, and Mexican fan base backing him, the upside to Ramirez’s star power is being overlooked for the time being. “Without a doubt the biggest honor of my career having an opportunity on a big card like this,” Ramirez said about fighting on an undercard that features the greats of Pacquaio and Bradley. “People will be watching all over the world, and I’m representing Mexico. I’m really looking forward to this kind of attention.”

When asked if he could see himself as a PPV attraction one day, “Zurdo” responded, “That’s what the dream is – become a world champion, become a big star. Being the main event on a PPV card means you’re fighting some of the best fighters in the world. That’s what you work for all your life.” What Ramirez gains in size, youth, and power over Abraham, he lacks in experience. Although he turned pro at the age of 18, Ramirez only had 45 fights as an amateur, however, it doesn’t hinder his confidence going into this fight. “My pro experience has been great. I’ve learned a lot the past few years. The fight couldn’t have come at a better moment for me, and I know I’ll be ready for it.”

On the contrary, the amateur pedigree of featherweight contender Valdez can’t be matched in this generation’s crop of talent south of the border. He takes on Evgeny Gradovich in the second fight of the PPV card.

Oscar Valdez. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Oscar Valdez. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Valdez (18-0, 16 KOs) was born and raised in Nogales, Sonora, but his well-versed English would make you think otherwise thanks to his time spent in Tucson, Arizona as a youth. “Being on this undercard of Pacquiao-Bradley, it motivates me to go out there and put up a good fight,” said Valdez, a representative of Mexico in the past two Olympic Games. He’s traveled the world thanks to his talent, but when asked how this stage will compare to his past experiences, Valdez admitted, “It’s bigger. Ever since I was a little kid, I would dream about these times. I’m enjoying the ride.”

The 25 year old goes into this fight with plenty of momentum having two thrilling knockouts over Chris Avalos and Ernie Sanchez with a left hook that has garnered itself a powerful reputation. “I’ve seen Gradovich fight before and he’s the same Gradovich,” said Valdez about his upcoming opponent. “He just comes forward and throws a lot of punches. I’m expecting the best Gradovich.”

A former world titleholder in the 126-pound class, Gradovich has garnered a reputation of his own having a balls-to-the-wall fighting style. So much so that the 29-year old adopted the nickname, “The Mexican Russian.”

With that considered, Valdez may have to revert to his days as an amateur by using a technical style that can thwart the propulsive style of Gradovich. “Oh yeah,” Valdez agreed, “I have a plan A, plan B, and plan C, it’s a good thing the amateur career left me – train for any fight. If he wants to brawl, we can brawl. If he wants to box, we could also box. We could do a lot of things, but I’m going to be ready April 9 to be the better fighter.”

Ranked in the top 10 of all four recognized sanctioning bodies, the stakes are high for Valdez in regards to his first shot at a world title. His highest ranking, the number one contender slot in the eyes of the WBO, puts him first in line at their belt holder, Vasyl Lomachenko.

“If I win, I wouldn’t mind taking that fight,” said Valdez. “I don’t like saying because I got a fight in front of me, but if everything goes well, any guy that has a belt, I’d like to take that fight.” Lomachenko, THE RING’s No. 1-rated featherweight, is also promoted by Top Rank, and as of this writing, is still looking for a dance partner for June 11 – a date revealed by Arum at the media workout for a card to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Gradovich (21-1-1, 9 KOs) wasn’t referred to by Arum in his trio of Mexicans that is the cornerstone to this undercard, but he was also there to take questions.

“The scar is nothing,” said Gradovich in his thick Russian accent when asked about the remnants of a cut that ultimately led to him losing his IBF belt last year. That fight with Lee Selby across the pond ended abruptly in the eighth round after the cut was deemed too sever to continue fighting by the ringside doctor. To make matters worse, it was caused by an accidental clash of heads, and “When they send me to England, I already knew – if I knock him out, I win. If not, I can’t win,” Gradovich reflected in a frustrated tone. Even though he was seemingly bothered by how it all played out the 29 year old from Igrim, Russia has had two wins since, and shrugged it off by stating, “It is what it is.”

Rounding out the card in it’s opening bout, junior welterweight prospect Ramirez, looks to make his name known with his performance against Manuel Perez.

“We’ve been training hard. More sparring, more rounds, but everything else is the same. For this camp I’ve been really consistent with my conditioning,” Ramirez said on preparing for the first 10-round contest of his career. Perez (25-11-1, 6 KOs) has been nothing more than a measuring stick for contenders the past few years, but Ramirez isn’t looking past him. “I expect a fighter who has nothing to lose and everything to win. I hope Perez comes well-prepared and shows me his best. I’m ready, and the best Manny Perez will bring out the best Jose Ramirez.”

Training out of the famed Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California, Ramirez has also had the opportunity to train and spar with the card’s main attraction. “It’s always motivating to be training next to Manny Pacquiao,” said Ramirez. “You see the position he’s in and that’s the position I want to be in one day. I feed of his energy, his hard work. When he’s hitting the heavy bag working hard, I might be on a different bag, but I’m trying to keep up with him.”

Jose Ramirez. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Jose Ramirez. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Ramirez (16-0, 12 KOs) was adamant about the satisfaction of his current mind state. It’s one that he says is stemming from his last fight where he went through some adversity. “It was embarrassing,” Ramirez admitted after suffering a flash knockdown against Johnny Garcia last December. He then conceded, “My baby was born so I missed a lot in my camp. I had a procedure done on my thumb that kept me away from sparring. I still have the skills to have beaten my opponent in more fashionable way. Sometimes you go through doubts in your mind, sometimes you get more nervous than other times. Sometimes you have bad days, sometimes you have good days.” Although he won in a wide unanimous decision over Garcia, Ramirez ended the experience on a positive note, “I’m glad I was able to see this. I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t afraid throughout the fight, I took control of it, but I wasn’t happy with my performance.”

While the 23-year-old Mexican-American is likely the lesser known act of the undercard, it would be remiss not to mention his grass roots effort of building a fan base in Central California. Born and raised in Avenal, he’s been the top billing of sold out Fresno arenas that have headlined plenty of cards televised on UniMas. Couple in his experience of representing the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics, Ramirez is no stranger to the spotlight, but he’s well aware that April 9th will be the most important night so far in his young career. “I’m very excited to deliver, and excited to showcase my talent that I’ve worked on, and what I have to offer to the sport.”

For years it’s been the standard that PPV undercards have been an unadorned collection of fights that merely serve has background noise leading up to the main attraction everyone paid to see. After all, it was Arum who introduced the enigma of “Butterbean” through these PPV undercards. Considering this will be the third time boxing fans will have to fork over extra money to watch Pacquaio-Bradley, perhaps a bulky undercard was needed in order to sell a fight not many clamored for. Sticking with the theme of support, every interview conducted with the final question of who has been the biggest support for their careers.

“My family. They have been supporting me since day one. My trainers, my promoters, we have been together for 12 years since I started fighting,” said Ramirez.

Valdez answered, “My father. My family in general, but my father, because he’s been with me since day one. He’s the one who brought me in the gym. There’s a lot of fathers that are in the corner and sometimes that can start problems because they don’t know how to manage being a father and a trainer at the same time. My dad is different – he knows his position, he gives a man his space, he doesn’t have to tell me a lot of things. We know each other very well, and by a simple two words I know what he’s trying to say. He’s the reason I’m right here right now.

“Biggest supporter is my family, my wife, my daughter. They always support me. I do everything for them,” said Gradovich. Who went on to proudly say, “I live in the U.S. already six years, they lived one and half. I did a lot of things to bring them here. I became world champion and I got green card.”

“Both my mother and my father have been my biggest fans and supporters, said Ramirez, “No matter what I do, they’re always proud and show support to motivate me.”

Lastly, Arum reflected for a moment, and answered, “Well, I didn’t start promoting fights. I started promoting Muhammad Ali, and everything I learned about promotion, I learned from him.”

Fitting, Ali wasn’t shy on race either.