"He could move and slip and throw lethal combinations. He had a great uppercut. An amazing talent"
Former welterweight champion Carlos Palomino
By John J. Raspanti
A prodigy? Yes.
The youngest fighter ever to win the lightweight world title. Yes.
A natural. Yes.
In the International Boxing Hall of Fame? No.
Never assume. I thought former two-time lightweight champion Armando “Mando” Ramos was already in the hall. I thought wrong.
In the 1960s, Ramos, born November 15, 1948, could have been the fifth Beatle. He was good looking, charismatic, wildly popular, and above all, he could fight. His jab was sharp, his right solid and his left hook powerful. Ramos could box but preferred to brawl.
Legendary matchmaker and promoter Don “War-A-Week” Chargin knew Ramos well. A few years ago, Chagrin told me about meeting Ramos for the first time.
“He was fifteen,” remembered Chargin, “and was working at his mother’s Mexican restaurant. My best friend (trainer and manager) Jackie McCoy and me went out to talk to his brother. The brother was a pretty good amateur. This skinny kid came from behind the counter and said to Jackie and me, “You’ve got the wrong Ramos - I’m going to be a world champion.”
After a short but impressive amateur career, Ramos turned professional three days after his 17th birthday. His debut was at the legendary Olympic Auditorium, a place he’d fight 26 more times and routinely sellout.
“At the height of his career,” said Chargin, “there’d be five to six thousand people at the weigh-in just to see him. People went completely crazy for him."
Ramos was a mass of contradictions. Loaded with God given talent, he was irresponsible and haunted by personal demons.
"His parents were alcoholics,” Chargin said. “A really nice guy, but very self-destructive."
"I never really trained, not for a single fight," Ramos told the Los Angeles Times years ago. "Oh, I went to the gym every day. But I drank every night. Fighters never beat me. But drugs and alcohol did.”
In 1968, Ramos defeated junior lightweight champion Hiroshi Kobayashi in a non-title bout. Knocked down in round nine for the first time in his professional career, Ramos rallied to almost stop Kobayashi. The upset victory propelled Ramos to a world title shot against tough Carlos “Teo” Cruz. The fight was close with Cruz edging Ramos by a few points.
After the fight he told the Associated Press:
“If I ever fight him again, I’ll knock him out. In fact, if he ever agrees to fight me again, he’s crazy. And, I hope he’s that crazy."
Cruz was that crazy. They threw hands nine months later at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. Ramos stopped Cruz to become the youngest lightweight champion in history. He didn’t hold the title long, losing it a year later to Ismael Laguna. His comeback fight was against former super featherweight champion Sugar Ramos. A bloodbath ensued. Ramos had cuts over both eyes. His nose dripped crimson. Sugar Ramos was a pulpy mess. Mando Ramos, his vision effected, dug deep to take the final round and the fight.
Chargin, at ringside, never forgot the roar of the crowd as the two champions tore into each other.
“My favorite fight,” said Chargin. “They were holding each other up.”
Four months later, Ramos faced former sparring partner Raul Rojas in a grudge match. Rojas told reporters a few weeks before the fight that he expected to win by knockout. A knockout did occur, only, it was Rojas who found himself on his back in round six.
In 1971 Ramos traveled to Madrid, Spain to fight champion Pedro Carrasco. He dominated from the onset, knocking Carrasco down four times until being disqualified for low blows. A rematch was ordered and went down at the Sports Arena in Los Angles. A wrong was righted as Ramos officially captured the lightweight crown for the second time. Ramos defeated Carrasco again before facing tough Chango Carmona back in LA.
In a shocking upset, Ramos was battered and beaten. The drugs and alcohol had done the job. The party animal was finished. Ramos was 24. He lost a few more fights and retired in 1975. The shooting star had fallen to earth.
"People around him really gave up on him,” Chargin said.
Ramos made one more comeback, but it wasn’t in the boxing ring. He beat drugs and alcohol and was clean the last 28 years of his life. In 1983, he created Boxers Against Alcohol And Drugs, a program to help keep kids clean.
A year before he died in 2008, Ramos was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame. The International Boxing Hall of Fame should be next.
Nowadays, being a member of the hall isn’t all about a fighter’s ability. I campaigned hard for Arturo Gatti to be inducted, not because he was the most talented of fighters, but because he was memorable.
Ramos was the same way.
How good he could have been is open to debate, but his achievements are without question. Ramos was champion twice in the ring, and later, after crashing and burning, he became a champion out of it.
In my view, Mando Ramos is deserving of a place in The International Boxing Hall of Fame.