Antonio Orozco gets chance to rewrite the script in Jose Ramirez title fight
Antonio Orozco was in the right place at the right time when the handlers of Jose Ramirez came calling.
Orozco had been preparing for an August 3 fight with Pablo Cesar Cano when Ramirez’s first defense of the WBC 140-pound title was called off after Danny O’Connor was rushed to the hospital after collapsing from a failed attempt to make weight. O’Connor had spent four hours in a sauna, with news reports stating that his kidneys were in near dysfunction.
With that July 7 date squashed, Top Rank, which represents Ramirez, reached across the aisle to Golden Boy Promotions, which handles Orozco, and made a deal for a quick reschedule of Ramirez’s homecoming.
“I was pretty much at the closing phase of my training camp and working, getting everything into rhythm and now, I just stepped back a little bit and regrouped,” said Orozco (27-0, 17 knockouts).
Orozco had been in a similar situation in December of 2016, having fainted trying to make weight for a nixed fight against Fidel Maldonado Jr. He had reportedly been several pounds overweight before that, and the fallout touched off a dark period in which he spent nearly a year out of the ring, made some personnel switches, before he re-emerged back onto the boxing landscape.
“Before last year he didn’t have any issues at all. It was a surprise to us,” said manager Frank Espinoza Jr.
Now Orozco gets a chance to change the narrative of his career when he faces Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs) on September 14 in Fresno, California.
For this fight, Orozco is back with trainer Carlos Barragan, who had trained him since he was 17 up until the Maldonado mishap. Orozco then switched to Manny Robles for his last fight in March, another unanimous decision win over Martin Honorio. After training with Robles in Mexico, Orozco returned to the House of Boxing Gym in San Diego to work with Barragan and his father Barragan Sr.
“It’s not that things weren’t working with Manny, it’s just another suggestion. I’m being open and this is a sport that you never stop learning in,” said Orozco. “This is an opportunity I have to come prepared to for my fullest potential.”
A fight with Ramirez, which matches two fighters of Mexican descent, harkens back to the first boxing match Orozco ever saw, the initial meeting between Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez in 1996. Unlike that all-Mexico matchup, both Orozco, 30, and Ramirez, 25, are in their physical primes, and Orozco expects the fight to have much of the same all-action exchanges expected of Mexican vs. Mexican battles.
“Once we got the call we didn’t even think twice about it,” said Espinoza. “Orozco is a live dog and I’m excited for it. I think we’re gonna go home that night with a world title.”
There are some adjustments that the Orozco team has made. They’re following the same meal plan from the last Honorio fight, when he made the 140-pound limit right on the nose, and Espinoza says they’re in the process of hiring a strength and conditioning coach.
Orozco says he only saw the last few rounds of Ramirez’s title-winning effort, an entertaining brawl at The Theater at Madison Square Garden against Amir Imam in what was essentially Ramirez’s first real test.
“He’s a very busy fighter, he’s aggressive and determined, that’s great. That’s what you want to do when you win a title. He’s gonna defend the title and I want a title, this is a fight where something has to happen,” said Orozco.
Orozco knows he’s going to have to deal with the deafening crowd roars at the Save Mart Center, which is nearby Ramirez’s hometown of Avenal. It’s no easy ask, but Orozco has dealt with enough adversity in his career to know there are few easy nights at the top of this sport.
“You gotta take risk to get reward, and you gotta look at the circumstances. He is a world champion, it is under his promotional company, it has to be under his terms and conditions. That just makes me get even more excited,” said Orozco.
“Excuse my language, but you don’t f—k around with this.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].