World Boxing Council super lightweight title holder Jose Ramirez electrified a near-capacity crowd on Fourth of July afternoon at the Tioga Sequoia Brewery’s beer garden with his lightning-quick hands. But he may not get to use them any time soon.
Ramirez, an Avenal native, was scheduled to defend his title in a 12-round bout against Danny O’Connor of Massachusetts Saturday at Fresno’s Save Mart Center. However, O’Connor did not make weight the following day and was dropped from Saturday night’s card, according to the Fresno Bee. As of Friday afternoon, it was unclear if there would be a replacement for him.
Regardless of what happens in the ring, there will be a message Saturday night. Ramirez said Wednesday that the message will be a pro-immigrant one. A representative from Top Rank added that groups and people who advocate on behalf of immigrants will be on hand on Saturday. The predominantly Latino crowd at Wednesday’s event welcomed Ramirez’s comments.
Ramirez, 25, claimed the title by beating Amir Iman in New York City on March 17. The title was held by Terence Crawford from July 2016 until October 2017, when it was vacated. Ramirez is also the WBC Continental Americas light welterweight titlist. He won that title on Dec. 5, 2015, at the Save Mart Center. He has since defended it four times in Las Vegas, Lemoore and Fresno.
Since turning professional in 2012 after representing the United States at the London Olympics, Ramirez is undefeated, with a record of 22-0 and 16 knockouts. He briefly attended Fresno State before competing in the Olympics.
Ramirez’s abortive opponent is 33 and is from Framingham, Massachusetts, where he’s a full-time firefighter. He is the current WBC international silver super lightweight champion. Coincidentally, O’Conner won his title by defeating Steve Claggett the same night as Ramirez won. O’Connor usually boxes light welterweight and has compiled a 30-3 record since turning professional in 2008. Along the way, he has knocked out 11 of his opponents.
The Boxing News said O’Connor was not highly regarded as an opponent for Ramirez. According to Chris Williams of the News, Ramirez should really be fighting an opponent in the World Boxing Super Series tournament, which usually draws the best fighters in Ramirez’s weight division. Williams described O’Connor as “bottom feeder” competition for Ramirez.
A highlight of Wednesday’s media event was the ‘bout’ between the Fresno Grizzlies’ Parker and the Fresno Football Club’s Zorros. Both “fighters” seemed evenly matched. Although Zorros put Parker on his back on the mat early on, the match was called a draw by the ring announcer turned referee.
Another highlight was Gabriel Flores Jr., the youngest fighter to turn professional. An 18-year-old Stockton native, Flores Jr. graduated a month ago from Cesar Chavez High School. He turned professional two years ago and is currently undefeated after six bouts as a super featherweight. He is scheduled to box James De Herrera in a six-round match Saturday night.
Flores Jr. is managed and trained by his father, Gabriel Sr. The match against De Herrera will be his first professional fight for him in California. Flores Jr. was a top-ranked amateur boxer when Top Rank signed him to a multiyear deal when he was 16½, according to RingTV.com He compiled a 91-7 record before turning pro and won the 2016 U.S. junior national championships at 138 pounds and a silver medal in the 2015 world junior championships.
Flores Jr. comes out of the Stockton barrio and has experienced his share of personal tragedy. His mother was struck by a stray bullet and died in March 2013 at a house party in Stockton. He adds that four of his cousins also died violently. He said he wants to use the sport as a platform against violence and bullying in his hometown.
Boxing starts at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Ticket prices range from $10 to $150. They can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com; by phone at 800-745-3000; or at the Save Mart Center box office.