Blake Chavez reports from ringside
Before a robust and zealous crowd of 14,000 at the Save Mart Center on the campus of Fresno State University, Jose Ramirez was awarded a winning title defense over Jose Zepeda by the judges by scores of 114-114, 116-112, and 115-113. It was an engaging fight between evenly-matched world-class fighters.
It appeared to me that Ramirez, the defending champ, benefitted from a sumptuous and ample serving of home cooking from the judges. The bout was promoted by powerhouse Top Rank, and Ramirez is one of Top Rank honcho Bob Arum’s promotional crown jewels.
Never was the boxing axiom, "styles make fights’, more on point than in this compelling battle.
Ramirez, now 24-0 with 16 KO’s, started the match with cement shoes. The challenger, now 30-2 with 25 KO’s, had on his dancing shoes and surprisingly controlled the first three to four rounds rather comfortably. I say surprisingly, because Ramirez is the one with the Olympic pedigree, and that usually translates into a fighter having outstanding boxing skills, as scoring is the name of the game, usually accomplished by a superior jab accompanied by polished movement. Ramirez utilized an educated, solid jab, but is just not a very nimble warrior.
To summarize the fight, Zepeda out-boxed Ramirez, albeit not by a landslide by any means. He was just a little bit better than the champ. At least on fight night when it counted.
Ramirez was Ramirez. He is a hard-working, resolute machine that is blessed with one of the strongest wills in boxing. Though troubled early stylistically, the champ just put his nose to the grindstone and stalked his prey until the distance favored his body attacking strengths. So we had The Terminator Ramirez, who lacks devastating KO power, constantly, and methodically attempting to walk down the elusive and game and effective Zepeda, who was over-matched at close quarter combat.
That theme carried throughout the bout, but what made the fight interesting was that Zepeda, though mobile, was not running from The Terminator, but was rather just trying to be evasive, whilst dropping and landing his own excellent bombs and calculating stinging counters. He controlled the distance for the most part, but it was a scary control that he couldn’t maintain when the machine cornered him, and he cornered him enough to make Zepeda pay.
The problem for Zepeda, is that he did not bring enough power to knockdown or badly hurt The Terminator no matter what shot he zapped him with. So he was faced with a determined zombie that does not have the word quit in his programming. Despite an angry gash Ramirez under his eyebrow suffered in the early-going, Ramirez stayed determined until the final bell.
So Zepeda boxed and Ramirez slugged, but Zepeda did some slugging of his own. It all came down to the last three rounds and who you felt did more to claim victory. The last two rounds-- the championship rounds-- were just that.
The Terminator did enough to enthrall the crowd and allow the judges to stamp Ramirez the winner without getting a ton of shade hurled their way. It was an action fight that gave the crowd what they came for; some blood, some damage, and a victory for their hero.
Zepeda took some shots, make no mistake about it. His face was bruised and battered, and his body had to be hurting from those body shots. But just because Ramirez’s DNA allows him to absorb massive punishment without suffering the expected welts and bruising most would exhibit, does not mean that he didn’t get hit by numerous scoring shots. He did, and that’s why I gave Zepeda the edge.
The strange thing is that, though I had Zepeda winning the fight, I’d rather watch Ramirez’s next fights over Zepeda’s. Zepeda’s just not a charismatic figure, nor one that appears stamped for greatness.
I also see no compelling need for a re-match, as it appears Ramirez would just need to hit his stride a couple of rounds earlier to dispatch Zepeda without controversy. I don’t think Zepeda can fight any better, whereas I believe Ramirez can, and will, have better nights. Rather than this bout serving to expose Ramirez, I see it more as a call to arms for trainer Robert Garcia to put his foot in Ramirez’s azz and have his charge warmed-up to go full-steam from the opening bell.
Ramirez, if he is to get the big fights and be in each and every one of them, needs to start swinging with serious money shots from the get-go. He’s a huge junior welter and his close-quarter game is serious. His chin is granite, so he needs to get his azz in gear and Joe Frazier his opponents by overwhelming them with punches and pressure. But it must be effective pressure.
The stretches are too long between engagements for Ramirez, the stalking not eager enough, not blood-thirsty enough. He needs to cut-off the ring pronto. Right now. He should do less hunting and more warring. Now he operates as if he’s got time on his side and that eventually he will get to his foe. That used to be true. No longer.
The level of opponents boxing fans will demand from him from now on won’t fall at his feet if he sticks to his usual formula. It’s time to fight, Jose. And fight every damned minute of every damned round. Because you must do that to win. Your skills are not "special’. But your chin and your heart are very special.
This fight woke Ramirez up. He realized his time may be up and the train he’s been riding almost got derailed. He’s no dummy. After the bout, Ramirez spoke about the time being past in which he is matched against top contenders. I believe he realized that losing to a top contender can happen much easier than he had previously allowed himself to envision.
And since he was at-risk for a loss--which this fight clearly demonstrated is true-- then he’d much rather cash some real checks. Like seven-figure checks, before a loss kills the possibility of such purses.
I believe that’s precisely why, in the dressing rooms, post-fight, Ramirez made a call-out for unification bouts or a move to the lucrative welterweight division. As an undefeated Olympian with a potent crowd following and a massive Hispanic audience that loves boxing, Ramirez can cash much, much bigger checks against the likes of Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Bud Crawford, Danny Garcia, and the winner of Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia.
A loss against any of them just allows for another Ramirez match (and nice purse) against another of the Big 6, as a known measuring stick for how the others in the Big 6 might fare against one another. A loss against any of the above does little to hurt his brand as they are champions and he’s a guy moving up. It could be a cottage industry for both the PBC and Top Rank.
Would the PBC allow a ESPN fighter to face their primo stable of welters? If Ramirez were a monster-risk--hell no. But he’s not. He’s the perfect opponent. Packs the house, brings a big set of nutz to the ring and has a chin on which the champs can pound on like the keys to a cash register.
Arum has most likely already led him to the apex of what Ramirez can accomplish, so the cash-out... and a lucrative one at that makes sense. Of course, Bob would probably feed Ramirez to Crawford first. It’s his nature and we can’t blame him. But after that, all bets are off and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of a sudden Uncle Al Haymon makes an exception and welcomes some Ramirez Top Rank -co-promotions versus his glittering stable of welter studs.
The Way I See It:
Tank Davis was fed a featherweight. So, yeah, he tank-rolled him. The FatBoy barely made weight. The lightweights will smash him. He’s just too short and I believe the Hennessey and low-rent bars he and Adrien Broner frequent have robbed them both of some of their reflexes. Can’t last in the game if reflexes slow. It’s obvious on Broner, and it will become obvious very quickly with Tank. Plus, the boy loves to eat. He greezin’ for a reason: zero discipline.
Abner Mares and his twice-detached retina needs to retire. He won’t, and that’s a shame. So he’ll either end up with a cock-eyed look on his face or go the Israel Vasquez route. I love Vasquez. He gave us everything. Hate to see the results the Marquez fights left him with.
Timothy Bradley agreed with my opinion on Ramirez/Zepeda. Gotta give Tim props as he works for ESPN which is in bed n cozy with Top Rank. I know Arum is not pleased with Tim’s honesty and I can see him being phased out sooner rather than later. If Max Kellerman smells an opening, he’ll jump right in and shill for Top Rank just like he did for HBO. Kellerman is the best houseman/yesman in the history of the business. Jim Lampley was a close second. No remorse from either of them. Classic n crazy; but true.
Deontay Wilder knows Anthony Joshua hits much harder than Tyson Fury, and Fury whupped Wilder’s azz. So he’s taking the trilogy route he’s been blessed with by the phony decision win he blatantly was awarded at Staples Center in their first fight. Wilder got a hail Mary to land in the 12th and will live off that for decades.
This way he gets two monster paydays from Fury after a mini-monster payday for the first bout, and he’ll get a major monster payday when he gets served up to Joshua. So any way it goes, God bless Wilder and enjoy those purses and thanks for going for broke every fight night on those skinny legs. LOL.
Blake "RaceHorse" Chavez answers all his emails: