Jose Carlos Ramirez is a young man doing great things both in and out of the ring.
The turbo-charged Californian is undefeated in 22 paid starts and is presently nestled on the WBC Super-Lightweight throne after defusing Big Apple bomber Amir Imam at Madison Square Garden’s Theater in March.
But the 26 year old from Central Valley is proving even more of a champion beyond the ropes by using his status to highlight the California water crisis and the plight of the state’s immigrant workers who have been so mocked and maligned by President Trump recently.
Son of humble bell pepper pickers and raised in the prison town of Avenal, JC has allied with the California Latino Water Coalition for a series of ‘Fight for Water’ cards at the Save Mart Arena in nearby Fresno, that have attracted fanatical 14,000 sell-outs and a forest’s worth of publicity for the causes Ramirez’s promotes. Rick Mirigian, who co-manages the champion claims: ‘Not since Muhammad Ali has a fighter been this socially active.’
Ramirez became passionate to the plight of the migrant workers after grafting 12 hour shifts on the land himself, from the age of 14. Though to uprooted to the East Coast for his world title win, he was quick to don a ‘Pro Immigrant and Proud’ cap for his TV interview and proclaim: ‘I dedicate this to all the immigrant workers. I fight for them.’
Prolonged success between the ropes is imperative if Ramirez is to advance his campaigns and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he has the core talent to supplement his spiraling popularity.
His voyage began, aged eight, when papa Carlos marched him to the local fight nursery to expend some of young Jose’s excessive energy.
The work ethic instilled in the fields transferred to the gym and three successive national titles (2010-12) established Ramirez as the USA’s number one lightweight, whilst moonlighting as a student at Fresno State University and a cashier at Starbuck’s.
Though Ramirez deferred to Vasyl Lomachenko at the 2011 World Senior in Azerbaijan, victory over 2008 US Olympic rep Raynell Williams at the 2012 Olympic Trials, saw him board the plane to London as a strong medal hope.
His teammates included Jo Jo Diaz and Errol Spence but, for the only time in history, the US men’s squad returned without a medal – Juan Carlos bombing against Uzbek Fazlidden Gaibnazarov, the 2016 Olympic champion.
Nevertheless, with a final amateur slate of 145-11, there was an almighty clamour to secure his signature to a pro contract and it required a personal visit from CEO Bob Arum to convince him to commit to Top Rank in December 2012.
Hall of Fame coach Freddie Roach was recruited to supervise his transition to the paid sphere. Within 22 months the stalking, slashing Ramirez had scooped an NABF 140lb belt, icing fellow Californian David Rodelo inside a round.
That was a second successive 6,000 sell-out at Fresno’s Selland Arena and as Ramirez’s record and political campaign continued to soar, he was required to upscale to the 16,000 Save Mart Arena when he challenged Michigan’s Johnny Garcia for the WBC Continental Americas title.
With the hall heaving and several thousand more locked out, Ramirez showed he had the minerals to match the mechanics, rising from the canvas to claim a second belt on points after eight.
That remains the only time in six sell-out gigs in Fresno that his opponent has not fallen to the 10 count. Subsequent blowouts of 18-3 Issouf Kinda (KO6) and world rated 23-0 Washington DC southpaw Mike Reed (KO2) before five-figure audiences helped land the WBC title shot.
Operating from the away corner, he expanded his fan base by trouncing the feared Imam – 18 kayo wins from 21 – by margins of 12, 6 and 2 points in the WBC’s 2000th world title fight. The Central Valley kid became just the third fighter (alongside Virgil Hill and Brian Viloria) that Roach has maneuvered from 0-0 to a world title.
For all his commendable social conscience, it’s unlikely the 5ft 10in Ramirez would empty Avelan on fight night if he weren’t wildly exciting once the bell rang.
Sixteen of his 22 victories ended early, with 11 of those stoppages executed in the opening two frames. Seven victims endured the ’10 toll’. Already a masterful exponent of the signatory Mexican left hook to the liver, he is also renowned for his inexhaustible two-fisted torrents.
Mission accomplished under Roach, he has since re-aligned with coach Robert Garcia whose Riverside gym is closer to home and, Ramirez believes, will provide a more ‘hands on’ service. ‘Jose’s jab is the strongest I’ve ever felt,’ states the ex IBF Super-Featherweight king who also schools Mikey Garcia and Abner Mares.
The punching pioneer gets another chance to showcase his wares and spread his sermon to his adoring farming faithful and a live ESPN audience, when he defends against Mexico’s 27-0 Antonio Orozco, back at his Save Mart citadel next Saturday. BoxNation screen live in the UK.
With combined stats of 49-0 with 33 stoppages and 16 shared count outs, it promises to be combustible.