By Jake Donovan
Showtime officially kicks off its 2012 season tonight with a dandy of a doubleheader on its prospect-based Shobox series (11PM ET/PT), featuring three unbeaten lightweight prospects and one trialhorse.
The co-feature pits Michael Perez and Omar Figueroa against one another in a bout where someone’s “0” has to go. That leaves Luis Ramos Jr. in the main event and the only guy on the televised portion of the show not facing an unbeaten fighter.
That doesn’t make his showdown with divisional spoiler Raymundo Beltran any less competitive. In fact, he has perhaps the most dangerous assignment of the evening in a card that takes place in Indio, Calif., a couple of hours east of his Santa Ana hometown.
“We’re not taking him lightly, not at all,” Ramos Jr (20-0, 9KO) says of the 30-year old who has proven to be hell for nearly everyone he’s faced throughout his 12-year career. “We’re at the point in my career where the fights keep getting tougher. We’re ready.”
Ramos was matched as tough as they come in a 2011 campaign that provided a different kind of success. While most prospects are lauded for dominant wins in a breakout year, more often than not it comes against made-to-order opposition.
The exact opposite held true for Ramos, who faced a trio of stiff tests last year and improved with each fight. The year saw the unbeaten Cali-based lightweight score a narrow points win over Joey Hernandez, a more convincing win over former title challenger Francisco Lorenzo, and a one-punch knockout over local rival David Rodela.
A less confident staff would bring him back softly to begin the new year in their best efforts to tread water while eying the safest path towards title contention. But that’s just not how it’s done in the world in which he plies his trade.
“It was a progressive year for Luis. Every fight we want to keep moving him up and gain more experience,” noted Eric Gomez, chief matchmaker and Vice President for Golden Boy Promotions, who signed Ramos in 2009 and have moved him briskly ever since. “We’re starting 2012 with a bang, and he’s ready for tough tests like this.”
A young prospect has no choice but to be ready for someone as challenging as Beltran (25-5, 17KO), or else they will get swallowed whole. It was a lesson that Sharif Bogere nearly learned the hard way in barely outlasting the Mexican veteran last May in their own Shobox appearance.
Ramos’s handlers took note of that fight, and combined it with the fighter’s own learning experiences in three separate victories last year in mentally preparing for tonight’s contest.
Whether or not a title fight is in store in the near future for Ramos remains to be seen. What the 23-year old is well aware of is the fact that he’s reached a point in his career where all eyes are on him.
Two fighters in particular who wouldn’t mind taking a swing at him – in the ring, of course – appear on this very card.
Some will argue that the co-feature between Perez and Figueroa will be the fight of the night, given that they are risking their unbeaten records at such an early stage in their respective careers. One of the few who won’t be able to watch the fight is Ramos, who will be a little busy preparing for his main event bout moments after their fight ends. That doesn’t mean he won’t keep track of what occurs.
“It’s a great co-feature. I wish I could sit ringside and watch it myself,” Ramos commented. “Both guys are in my division and I know they’ll be keeping an eye on me and what I do in my fight. Right now, I’m fully focused on Beltran, but know that everyone else on the show will be taking notes. I have to stay ready for all comers, beginning with (tonight).”
The possibility of any of the four lightweights fighting each other in the future was a theory not lost on Golden Boy in putting together this card. The beauty of matching fighters tough early in their career – in addition to the invaluable learning experiences gained – is the long term gains to come of the night.
“It’s going to be an exciting card. As a boxing fan, I’m going to enjoy it,” notes Gomez, who prefers to match his fighters from the perspective of what he’d enjoy as a ringside observer. “This show is a little tournament in itself. The winners can fight each other. The guys that lose can fight each other as well.
“We’re proud to deliver a show like this to start off the year and on a free preview weekend for Showtime. As a fan, I can’t wait for this show. As a matchmaker, I can’t wait to see how Luis performs and to see what’s next in his 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 JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.