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Avila Perspective, Chap 138: The Journey of Jose Carlos Ramirez

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Avila Perspective, Chap 138: The Journey of Jose Carlos Ramirez

Unification has a certain solid ring to it. Undisputed sounds even better.

Jose Carlos Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs) and Josh Taylor (17-0, 13 KOs) meet on Saturday May 22, to decide who wears the title of undisputed super lightweight world champion. Their fight takes place at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada. ESPN will televise the prize fight.

“I’ve always been the underdog. That’s my mentality. I am fighting for my place in boxing history. No boxer of Mexican descent has ever held all four world title belts. I’m aware that most people are picking against me, but that only fuels me further,” said Ramirez the WBC and WBO titlist.

Scotland’s Taylor is slotted as the favorite to win the unification clash.

“This fight means the world to me. Puts my name in the history books as one of the {best} Scottish fighters in history,” said IBF and WBA titlist Taylor who trained in Las Vegas for this fight. “I’m so confident. This is a pure boxing fight. “I’m confident I’m getting the KO on Saturday.”

Northern California has long produced its share of talented prizefighters from Diego Corrales to Andre Ward. Though not as populated as Southern California the Northern Californians still have been able to groom standout fighters.

When Ramirez first emerged on the amateur boxing scene he was a mixture of hurricane intensity and manic focus as he battered foes to gain a spot on the US Olympic team in 2012.

Unlike many Olympians, the Mexican-American fighter from Avenal, California had a fighting style that favored pro boxing. But there were elements of the amateur sport that lingered with Ramirez and took a few years to eliminate.

The first time I saw the 2012 Olympian step in the prize ring as a professional, he was one of the opening bouts on the night Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao with one punch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Also, that night, Ramirez stopped his foe in one round. Few remembered.

His second pro bout was on the undercard of Mike Alvarado’s win over “Bam Bam” Rios in a bludgeoning rematch battle between the two super lightweights. Those two battered each other three times. That night Ramirez won by first round stoppage again.

In Ramirez’s first Los Angeles fight card he made his first appearance at the StubHub now called the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson on September 2013. That day he bludgeoned his way to a four round decision win over Daniel Calzada. Bludgeon was the correct term to describe Ramirez’s style.

Some fans were erroneously calling him “Rancho Ramirez” after the Mexican fighter with the same surname who fought in the late 90s. This Ramirez was a blunt instrument who out-punched and overpowered opponents in brutal fashion, but I wasn’t impressed.

Though trained by Freddie Roach at the time, the 2012 Olympian seemed intent on knocking out everyone but didn’t seem to pack that one-punch power that others possessed.

Several years passed before I saw Ramirez again on a Top Rank card. It didn’t seem like he would develop into an elite fighter. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Fighting on the third encounter between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley that took place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in April 2016, the super lightweight fighter Ramirez took on Manuel Perez, a solid veteran from Denver.  It was a true test. That night the fighter from Avenal showed vast improvement in his overall skills. No longer did he try to bludgeon his way to victory, he seemed to have a plan and focus.

Ramirez continued to improve.

A change of trainers resulted in Ramirez switching from Freddie Roach in Hollywood to the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Riverside, California. Though Roach is an outstanding trainer, the move allowed Ramirez to immerse himself into a virtual boot camp of Mexican-style fighters. Every day he’s among pugilists like Mikey Garcia, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Joshua Franco, Saul Rodriguez and many others.

It’s an army of different styles all encamped on a steep Southern California hillside.

Yuriko

Title Fights

It’s easy to win when everything is stacked on your side, but try traveling to New York and beating a fighter from the East Coast. That’s what Ramirez did when he met Amir Ahmed Imam for the vacant WBC super lightweight world title at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 17, 2018.

California fighters are not welcome on the East Coast, especially aggressive fighters of Mexican descent. It’s not a racial thing, it’s a fighting style preference. New Yorkers, in particular, prefer shoulder rolls to double left hooks. They prefer jabs and slippery moves to pressure style fighters that use offense for defense. They prefer ring generalship to pure physical domination.

Ramirez used his pressure style to break down Imam and win his first world title match by unanimous decision.

He defended the title twice in epic battles with Antonio Orozco and Jose Zepeda that showcased the pressure style West Coast fighters prefer. No backing up. Both of those battles were memorable brutal affairs. Ramirez emerged the victor.

Unifying the super lightweight division was one of the goals Ramirez sought so there was no hesitation to accept a match against WBO titlist Maurice Hooker on July 2019. They met in Hooker’s neighborhood of Arlington, Texas and immediately Ramirez dropped him to gain advantage. Hooker quickly recovered and showed how he became a champion with determination and ranginess.

Not to be thwarted, Ramirez rebooted his attack and stopped Hooker in the sixth round to win the unification war.

Josh Taylor

Scotland’s Taylor captured the IBF super lightweight title with a strong effort against Ivan Baranchyk to win by unanimous decision in Glasgow in May 2019. He then challenged WBA super lightweight titlist Regis Prograis of the USA in a unification match in October 2019 at London, England.

Taylor displays a gritty style and solid chin that even physically strong Prograis could not crack in their rugged 12-round fight. Bloodied, bruised and battered, the Scotsman withstood nonstop assaults by the American slugger and won by majority decision that could have gone in Prograis’s favor. It was very close, but he survived to unify the IBF and WBA titles.

A first defense saw Taylor run over Apinun Khongsong in a one round demolition via a body shot Mexican’s call “el gancho.” The road was now clear to determine the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

“You don’t become a unified champion out of anywhere. You have to be a great fighter. I highly respect him. He is a great fighter and a great person, but on Saturday night, as soon as that bell rings, all that goes out the window,” said Taylor.

RGBA

Jose Ramirez arrives at the Virgin Hotel with a small army of Robert Garcia Boxing Academy fighters who all train in Riverside, California.

Luis Coria (12-4, 7 KOs), a slender slugger from Perris, California, meets Jose Durantes (20-1, 11 KOs) in an eight-round super featherweight battle. Despite losing back-to-back fights in the Bubble last year, Coria gained respect for quickly accepting fights against Adam Lopez and Robson Conceicao and putting on two great shows. He’s a real prizefighter.

Another RGBA fighter is Raymond Muratalla (11-0) a slick-fighting lightweight out of Fontana, California who meets Jose Gallegos (20-10) in an eight-round fight. Muratalla bedazzles with his defense but can pop.

Completing the quartet of RGBA fighters is middleweight Javier Martinez (3-0) a tall southpaw from Milwaukee. He meets veteran Calvin Metcalf (10-5-1) in a six-round bout. At 25 years old Martinez is in a sink or swim situation and this fight provides a litmus test for the Wisconsin fighter.

But in the main event Ramirez leads the way in pursuit of the undisputed super lightweight crown.

“I can’t afford to lose. That’s always been my mentality. I always find a way to win,” Ramirez said.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Telemundo 11:30 p.m. Jonathan Gonzalez (23-3-1) vs Armando Torres (26-18).

Sat. ESPN+ 1:45 p.m. Luis Coria (12-4) vs Jose Durantes (20-1)

Sat. ESPN  5 p.m. Jose Carlos Ramirez (26-0) vs Josh Taylor (17-0).

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

Photo of Ramirez sparring by Yuriko Miyota

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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