It long has been a dream for Jose Ramirez to reach the pinnacle of the pro boxing ranks.
The Avenal fighter and 2012 U.S. Olympian to date has done his part, building a 13-0 record with 10 knockouts, most of those coming in the early rounds, and holding the North American Boxing Federation junior welterweight title.
But what shapes up as a bigger challenge looms.
Ramirez, 22, will face Denver’s Rob Frankel (33-15-1, 6 KOs) on the “Fight for Water 4” card Saturday night at Selland Arena.
At stake for Ramirez: a move to contender status. That’s according to none other than Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who reiterated as much to The Bee on Thursday. And for those who needed further confirmation that it’s a big fight, Arum himself will be in attendance.
“This is the toughest test he has faced,” Arum said. “Frankel has fought just about everyone, and even the fights he lost, he gave guys tough fights. It’s a real test for Jose. It’s a test that he has to pass if he’s going to go up the food chain.”
A victory for Ramirez means the feast continues, the next step likely a 10-rounder on HBO this summer in Macau, China.
A loss, to put it mildly, would “set (Ramirez) back,” Arum said. Way back.
His progression toward a title fight would be on hold while he “builds himself back up fighting guys on the lower level until we feel he’s ready to step up and fight more experienced fighters,” Arum said. “We’re not going to abandon him, but he goes back to the level below.”
That’s exactly what Frankel’s team plans on doing.
“I promise you … Jose has his hands full,” said Frankel manager/trainer Steve Mestes, whose other fighter, Alfred Romero, took Ramirez to eight rounds in August in Las Vegas. “We respect Jose and he’s a great fighter. A lot of respect … represented the U.S. in the Olympics, and his toughest test was one of our guy from our (House of Pain gym in Denver).
“It’s good to have Bob Arum coming because I hope he brings a handkerchief, because we didn’t come to party. We came to hurt somebody and we don’t come to lay down for nobody.”
Ramirez’s promoter/agent has confidence in his man.
“Can this fight get any bigger?” Rick Mirigian said. “We are on our way and I know Ramirez is ready.”
Frankel, 34, has been training with three-division titleholder Adrien Broner in Cincinnati. Frankel said he doesn’t view this bout as being any different than ones he’s fought before — including when he stopped Bobby Pacquiao, the brother of Manny, in 2008.
Bobby Pacquiao has since retired. Then there are the other championship bouts on Frankel’s résumé, against the likes of Lamont Peterson, David Diaz and Paul Spadafora.
“I’ve been in the ring with young guys like this,” Frankel said. “Won some and lost some. I feel like winning this fight would be good for me. Losing would be devastating for him. He has a lot to lose.”
Arum, however, said Ramirez remains in control of his destiny.
“No one is going to give him anything,” Arum said. A pro boxer “can’t fight the top contenders or champions until he proves himself fighting experienced fighters and he mounts the ladder one step at a time.”
Ramirez understands the Saturday night stakes.
“I’m so focused. I have so much to motivate me. … Obviously this fight is happening for a reason, and my company, Top Rank, the matchmakers, my team, believe in me and I believe in myself,” Ramirez said. “Every time I sparred I feel better and stronger, I really am, and you’ll see on Saturday.”