From Las Vegas to Selland Arena to China and now this.
Nothing like this.
Unbeaten Jose Ramirez, the Avenal Avalanche, spun Save Mart Center history into yet another victory – albeit a bit humbling – escaping with a blistering-paced, eight-round unanimous decision over Johnny Garcia on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 13,120 at Save Mart Center.
In the first night of boxing in the venue’s history, Ramirez, 23, improved to 16-0 while having an opponent go the distance for only the fourth time.
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And it was only the second time he was extended to eight rounds, the other against Alfred Romero at Las Vegas on Aug. 2, 2014. That also resulted in a unanimous decision for Ramirez, who has 12 knockouts – seven in the first round.
Further, in a bout for the WBC Continental Americas super lightweight title, Ramirez was dropped to a knee for the first time in his career – as an amateur who reached the 2012 Olympics at London or a three-year pro – on a night he made about $100,000, Top Rank chief Bob Arum said.
“It was not the best of my performances,” said Ramirez, who was taken down briefly by a Garcia straight right to the chin in the second round. “I just couldn’t let my punches go because my whole body felt tense.”
We want Jose to fight for a world title and the place to do it is here.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum
Ramirez was coming off a thumb injury that canceled a September fight, required surgery and, consequently, limited his sparring while preparing for Garcia, a 33-year-old from Holland, Mich., who arrived in downtown Fresno with a 19-3-1 record and 11 knockouts.
Garcia was sliced up in every corner of his face by the end of a “Fight for Water V” that didn’t begin until 9:53 p.m.
However, while buckled repeatedly by a combination of Ramirez hands and likely saved by the bell in the fourth and seventh rounds, Garcia never went down.
“No, I feel good,” Garcia said while walking away from the ring following an applause from many still standing at their seats. “He’s tough and strong, a very good fighter.”
The 140-pound Ramirez, per his style, tried to get inside of Garcia and deliver body blows. But Garcia routinely counter punched with effectiveness.
Never in a career launched with a first-round TKO of Corey Seigwarth on Dec. 8, 2012 at Las Vegas has Ramirez taken so many shots.
“I started sparring late because of the thumb,” he said in the middle of a blood-showered ring. “And that makes me learn a lesson that just running outside of the ring is not enough to be conditioned. Sometimes a boxer needs to suffer an experience like this to mature, get back to the gym and train harder.”
A loss would have been “devastating,” Arum said. “It would take maybe two years to build him back up. There’s all these fighters competing for HBO slots where real good money can be made. A lot are knocking on the door. Jose loses and now he goes to the back of the line.”
Arum said the plan is for Ramirez to fight twice more, assuming he wins both bouts, before fighting for a world title maybe in September – and back at the Save Mart Center.
“We want Jose to fight for a world title and the place to do it is here,” Arum said. “You have to build up a local fighter in his hometown; we’re a big advocate of that.”
Arum said Ramirez would make roughly $250,000 for his first world title fight.
“Win that and he’s on his way,” Arum said. “Then he probably gets $750,000 in his next fight. That’s the way the game works.”
And, Arum emphasized, it’s a game grounded with Hispanic passion.
“Why are we (at Top Rank) spending so much time and effort on Jose? Not only because we think he’s good, but because he hits the sweet spot on our radar: He’s Mexican-American, and the largest percentage of people that buy Pay-Per-View are Hispanics. A future star being Mexican-American is worth a lot of money.”
Ramirez, who is paid via his contract with Top Rank and share of each gate, is making “extraordinarily” good money for a boxer at his level, Arum said.
Arum, who turns 84 on Tuesday, then pointed to Ramirez’s promoter/agent, Rick Mirigian: “He’s the hardest-working guy and comes up with a new idea all the time. One of the biggest things is bringing the Latino Water Coalition on board, and now they’re the biggest fans and help move tickets. He’s made the right moves.”
Regarding the belt Ramirez won in addition to the North American Boxing Federation junior welterweight he already held, Arum said: “Those are regional belts and, very frankly, steppingstones. They’re a dime a dozen.”
Ramirez had fought in China in July, the last of three bouts at Selland Arena in May and at Las Vegas before that. Those fights at Selland totaled 24,000 fans.
It was amazing to have such a big, loud crowd. It was very motivating, definitely.
Jose Ramirez on the 13,120 who turned out for the first fights in Save Mart Center history
But nothing like Saturday night, where tickets ranged from $23 per person to $3,500 for a table of 10.
“I’m very thankful,” Ramirez said. “It’s a big blessing to have all the support. And it was amazing to have such a big, loud crowd. It was very motivating, definitely.”
▪ The arena’s first fight, about 6:30 p.m., had Fowler super lightweight Alex Rojas (2-0-1) land several head shots while defeating Nebraska’s Emilio Hernandez (2-3) by TKO 36 seconds into the second round.
▪ Sacramento’s Guy Robb (17-1) followed by beating Newhall’s Juan Ruiz (24-20) by an eight-round unanimous decision at featherweight.
▪ Then came a string of three consecutive wins by TKO by Fresnans as a swelling crowd substantially raised the decibel level.
That began with Eric Altamirano (6-0) pummeling Washington’s Ricardo Maldonado (5-4) in a corner before the lightweight bout was stopped 47 seconds into the fourth.
1:32 time into the first round when Fresno’s unbeaten Saul Lomas was declared a winner in his first bout since 2007
The crowd then stood and roared as welterweight Saul Lomas, 28, following an eight-year absence because of a shoulder injury, defeated New Mexico’s Eduardo Dominguez at 1:32 in the first.
Middleweight Joe Louie Lopez (7-0), who appeared to be getting beat, floored Spokane’s Dave Courchaine (2-7) at 2:32 into the second.
▪ The undercard closed in a hurry with San Jose super featherweight Andy Vences (14-0) knocking out Dallas’ Manuel Rojas (12-3) in the second round as UniMas television coverage had begun – live on the East Coast and delayed in the West.