By Jake Donovan
For some, boxing is a means to fame and fortune, neither of which are ever guaranteed and all too often are afforded to a very small few.
As good as he was at it, Luis Ramos Jr. never quite saw the game bringing him to that level. In fact, he never saw boxing as anything more than just a game.
“I remember when I first walked into TKO Boxing Gym as a kid, thinking this would be a fun sport,” Ramos Jr recalls as a 7-year old when first hooking up with trainer Hector Lopez, who still trains him 16 years later and running. “I never saw it as a career. I fought as an amateur thinking it’d be cool to win some trophies. I never saw it as a chance to make the Olympics or to turn pro.”
Ramos had his chance to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing squad, but fell just short in the Olympic Trials the year prior. It still made for a brilliant amateur run, amassing a record of 120-16 before deciding as a 19-year old to give the pro ranks a try.
Even as he began punching for pay, Ramos still wasn’t quite sure what to make of things.
“All I remember thinking was, ‘I finally get paid.’ Never did it dawn on me that all of my dreams would begin to come true.”
It took all of two years for Ramos Jr. to endure the opportunity of a lifetime, signing with Golden Boy Promotions in 2009. It came less than two years into his career, and right at a time when the California-based company was set to launch its Fight Night Club series, designed to give rising young fighters a little more shine than is normally afforded to those on the club circuit.
Ramos became an instant hit, scoring four straight wins on the series in the span of eight months before graduating to the under cards of major shows such as Floyd Mayweather’s high profile points win over Shane Mosley in May ’10. It was on that night that boxing fans began to sense that he was for real, knocking out Allen Litzau in less than four minutes and in spectacular fashion.
The Santa Ana product has since been a fixture on Telefutura, appearing on the revamped Solo Boxeo series in each of his past five fights. His most recent showing was the first of his career that carried a hint of personal gratification, taking out David Rodela in the fifth round of their long awaited grudge match this past September.
To date, most of Ramos’ wins have merely been means to improve with each fight. Stopping Rodela with a one-punch body shot knockout was satisfying on the professional and personal level.
The fight was supposed to take place earlier in the summer, only for Ramos to be forced to withdraw and postpone. Rodela and his handlers used the opportunity as bulletin board material, claiming the unbeaten southpaw was looking for a way to get out of the fight.
Ramos, in turn, used those comments to fuel his own performance.
“I never dodged anyone. I’m not scared of any fighter. When I went in there, I was focused and knocked him out. I was motivated for this fight, to show the people that it wasn’t an excuse. I was well-prepared. They said I’d struggle and I made it look easy. I shut the mouths of his people.”
He did just that, scoring his first stoppage in more than a year. Four straight decision wins had preceded his September 30 headliner, including competitive wins over Jose Hernandez and Francisco Lorenzo.
If a familiar theme is sensed over some of the names mentioned as recent in-ring victims, it’s not by accident. Ramos and his handlers have every reason to take the cautious approach towards title contention, but that’s just not the way it’s done in his camp.
One thing you can expect when signing with California-based manager Frank Espinoza is to find out what you’re made of very early in your career. There is no such thing as a soft touch when it comes to selecting opposition, especially when the belief is that you’re a fight or two from moving on to bigger and better things.
Such is where Ramos is at in his career, further evidenced by the manner in which he ended the fight against Rodela.
“We’re very pleased with his progress,” Espinoza states of his rising star. “Fighting Rodela was meant as a stern test and Luis proved that he is ready to compete on that next level.”
Helping Ramos’ cause is the company that he keeps. Right alongside with him prior to his showdown with Rodela was fellow unbeaten stablemate Ronny Rios. Things played out much tougher for Rios, who didn’t have an opponent until 72 hours prior, when Roger Gonzalez accepted the fight on short notice.
It turned out to be a war, one that could’ve went either way but was ultimately rewarded to Rios, who suffered a broken orbital bone and experienced blurred vision over the course of the bout. If Ramos needed any more inspiration for his own bout later that evening, it came in watching his gym mate survive the toughest test of his career.
“Ronny proved himself against a veteran and showed he can handle the pressure. We need tough fights to prepare us for the championship level. Challenges this early in our career is for our own good. Hector challenges us in the gym, to see if we perform or if we choke. We love the challenges and look forward to fighting the best.”
Further proof is offered in the training camp that went into Ramos’ most recent fight, one that he says was tougher than any fight he’s had to date.
“So far, the training is the toughest part. We train so hard that the fighting itself becomes the easy part,” Ramos insists. “Hector sees what I’m capable of. I was sparring with Jorge Linares in preparation for this. They kept asking for more in the gym.”
Things wouldn’t turn out quite as grand for Linares, who two weeks later suffered a heartbreaking 11th round stoppage loss to Antonio DeMarco. It remains to be seen what the future holds in store for the Venezuelan, who has all of the talent in the world but just can’t seem to put it all together.
It’s a reminder to Ramos that you have to be ready for anything to happen at any given time. Such is why he carries himself the way he does – hard work in the ring, feet firmly on the ground beyond the ropes. Not even the thrill of riding a career-best performance leads the 23-year old to believe that greatness is a next step.
“My thing is to be one of the best, and to prove it in every fight. I’m ready to take my skills to the next level. Everything gets tougher from here, and it’s what I want. I’m looking forward to what waits ahead of me to find out where I belong.”
As luck would have it, where he belongs is the one place he once never imagined he would be at this stage of his life – in a boxing ring, as the sport has now become a career.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].