Jose Ramirez went the distance Sunday evening to successfully defend his world boxing title before another sellout crowd at the Save Mart Center.
The Avenal native beat challenger Jose Zepeda by majority decision before 14,034 appreciative fans who loudly saluted Ramirez’s closing flurry in the 12th and final round.
“I knew it was a close fight,” said Ramirez, who improved to 24-0 in his second defense of the WBC super lightweight belt. “I think the championship round (12th) is where I came out and made the difference.”
The judges scored it:
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Reynate Danseco: 114-114
Chris Tellez: 116-112
Glenn Trowbridge: 115-113
Ramirez suffered the first cut of his professional career, which he attributed to a head butt (the fighters often bumped heads as they each tried to finish punches with power) that Zepeda continued to pound on.
“I really didn’t know how big it was,” Ramirez said of the cut. “It did feel at the end of the fight, blood was kind of dropping into my right eye, but I kept on putting that pressure and kept fighting through that adversity.”
“Watching that was torture,” said Rick Mirigian, Ramirez’s agent/promoter who was recently voted 2018 Manager of the Year by Supreme Boxing. “Going into the 12th it was anybody’s fight. They call it a championship round for a reason. and that’s what the 12th was. That’s when a champion steps up and does what he does.”
Ramirez’s trainer Robert Garcia said it was “difficult the first four rounds” but liked how Ramirez overcame that.
“Round by round Jose kept pushing forward until he started landing punches and took over after five rounds,” Garcia said.
More body blows
The last six rounds proved to be the difference for Ramirez who outlanded Zepeda 145-84, according to CompuBox stats. Ramirez’s 58 of his 200 landed punches were body shots. Zepeda landed 16 of his 149 body punches.
Ramirez’s former trainer Freddie Roach, who was in Zepeda’s corner, credited his former pupil for continuing to push forward.
“I couldn’t keep my fighter in the center boxing all the time,” he said. “Jose’s pressure was so great and he’s so strong coming forward. He did get him to the ropes in the corner and caught him a couple times and caught him with a big body shot and hooks and that’s one of his favorite weapons.”
Zepeda (30-2, with both losses in title challenges) called it a “tough fight” but had a game plan heading into the fight.
“I said what I was going to do and that is box him,” he said. “At the end, the judges gave it to him, which is fine. It was a close fight. I thought I was boxing really good.”
Next for Ramirez
What’s next? Ramirez said, “I want champions. I felt like I beat the top contenders, now it’s time to go unify” the world championships. And if he can’t do that, Ramirez said, “I might give it a shot at 147” pounds, the next weight class up. (He’s at 140 now.)
Ramirez could face Maurice Hooker (if he retains his WBO super lightweight title in March) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Garcia said maybe there’s a potential fight against Vasyl Lomachenko, if he moves up to 140.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum had indicated before that Ramirez could face WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford depending how he fares in the next couple fights.
Mirigian said a fight in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden is possible. In any case, Ramirez’s next fight will take place outside of Fresno.
“This is what it’s all about at this level,” Ramirez said. “You’re facing the best.”
Undercard: Fresno native wins on TKO
Isidro Ochoa’s onslaught of blows to the body and head was too much for Jesus Guzman.
Referee Ed Collantes agreed.
The Fresno native improved to 7-0 with three knockouts when Collantes stopped the fight in the fifth round, winning by technical knockout over Guzman (7-3). Time of the stoppage was 1:19 in the featherweight fight.
Gabe Flores Jr. kept his undefeated record intact when he defeated Alex Rynn Torres by unanimous decision in a six-round lightweight bout.
The Stockton wasn’t threatened in the fight, outpointing his opponent in every round. Flores is 12-0.
San Jose’s Andy Vences (22-0) returned after a shoulder injury and picked up the unanimous decision victory over Darden Zenunaj (14-6) in a super featherweight bout.
Three judges scored the fight 80-72.
Ray Beltran made his debut at 140 and made a statement when he won by a knockout over Hiroki Okada in the ninth round.
Beltran improved to 36-8-1 with 22 knockouts, while handing Okada his first loss at 19-1.
In the other fights:
▪ Heavyweight: Guido Vinaello (2-0, 2 KOs) d. Andrew Satterfield (4-2), KO, 1:54, first round.
▪ Super lightweight: Cristian Coria (29-7-2, 13 KOs)) d. Joel Diaz (24-2), KO 1:50, third round.
▪ Super bantamweight: Carlos Castro d. Genesis Servania, unanimous decision for the WBC Continental Americas title. (98-92, 100-90, 99-81).
Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, agalaviz_TheBee