Jose Ramirez: ‘Danny O’Connor has nothing to lose and everything to gain’
You can take Jose Ramirez out of the California farming community of Avenal, but you cannot take Avenal out of Jose Ramirez.
The WBC junior welterweight titleholder has fought under the bright lights of Las Vegas and New York City, but there is nothing like fighting in Fresno, which is just a short drive from his home in Avenal.
The larger purses from fights and the endorsement money he receives from pitching products throughout the Fresno area give him more piece of mind, but they do not change who he is or where he comes from.
Ramirez, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring at 140 pounds, will make the first defense of his title on Saturday night when he faces Danny O’Connor at the Save Mart Center. The 12-round bout, along with the 10-round welterweight contest between Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Juan Carlos Abreu, will air live on ESPN (9:30 p.m. ET/ 6:30 p.m. PT).
Ramirez (22-0, 16 knockouts) won a vacant world title on Mar. 17 in New York City, defeating Amir Imam by 12-round unanimous decision. He now faces O’Connor, who has won his last four bouts following a highlight reel first-round knockout loss to Gabriel Bracero in October 2015.
The new titleholder is expected to win convincingly, but Ramirez is not overlooking the challenger who resides in the Boston suburb of Framingham.
“O’Connor has nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Ramirez told The Ring in a recent interview. “He’s fighting for a world title and getting this type of shot. They’re willing to work hard in training. It’s in my mind. I have to train hard and make a statement to stay on top. I had a great camp and I’m looking forward to putting on a good performance.”
The 25-year-old Ramirez has seen his celebrity grow throughout the San Joaquin (Central) Valley. Local businesses, through manager Rick Mirigian, have sought Ramirez to pitch everything from taquerias, supermarkets and local car dealerships.
It is a long way, literally and figuratively, from tagging along and working with his father in the agricultural fields around Avenal. The money and fame have not gotten to Ramirez’s head which has endeared him more to the those who live in the area.
“I talk to (people) as a friend,” said Ramirez, who represented the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. “I think that’s why they get excited and listen to me. I talk to them like they know me. I give them confidence and advice. I’m glad when people talk to me. Communities are similar to one another (here in the Central Valley). They can’t forget that I’m a world champion.”
Saturday will mark the first time the new titleholder will work with new coach Robert Garcia. Since turning professional, Ramirez has utilized the services of Freddie Roach and some questioned the switch given that it was Roach who took the Mexican-American to world title triumph.
Ramirez began working with Garcia in late April, even renting an apartment in the Riverside, California area where Garcia’s gym is located. Ramirez remains grateful for Roach’s guidance, but believes the change to Garcia was necessary.
“I have a lot of respect for Freddie,” said Ramirez. “He’s an amazing coach and person. He’s always been respectful to me and my family. Robert’s younger and he’s there over my shoulder, whether it’s hitting the speed bag or the timing bag. He’s there. I get to see that excitement from his eyes. That pushes me in training camp. It’s bringing the best out of me.”
Garcia recognizes qualities in his new charge.
“He is a humble guy,” said the former IBF junior lightweight titleholder. “I see how hard he trains in the gym. He’s such a hard worker. I see a lot of myself in him. His father works in the fields and my father worked in the fields in Oxnard.”
Ramirez has options after O’Connor, but a proposed fight against mandatory challenger Regis Prograis now looks unlikely. Prograis faces Juan Jose Velasco on July 14 and the winner has already agreed to take part in the World Boxing Super Series.
However, there is the possibility of Ramirez facing fellow Top Rank fighter Alex Saucedo who is also of Mexican-American heritage. The pair have traded insults since Saucedo’s thrilling seventh-round stoppage over Lenny Zappavigna on Saturday.
No matter what’s next, Ramirez claims he’ll face any 140-pounder.
“I’m ready to fight them all,” he confirmed. “This is what I signed up for – to fight the best. They know that I’m going to bring it. I know that all the champions and contenders at 140 pounds are going to bring it. This is what boxing needs. It’s guys like us that are very hungry. All the top fighters at 140 pounds are talented and hungry. I’m excited to be in the mix with them.”
Ramirez could remain a hot commodity in the San Joaquin Valley for the next several years. Win or lose, he will remain a fan favorite in the area thanks largely to his persona and willingness to assist others.
“It’s from my upbringing,” Ramirez said. “It started from a young age. The communities (here in the San Joaquin Valley) are family oriented. We relate to each other. I never feel superior over others, just like I wouldn’t want people to feel superior over me. I’m fighting for myself, my family, and the hope and future of the youth. I want them to be motivated. If (they) stay focused and work hard, they could become champions of what they do.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV.com since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and FightNight.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing
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