Rico Ramos showed heart and guile in outlasting Efrain Esquivias in an eight-round war Saturday evening at Sportsman Lodge in Studio City, California.
Scores were 76-76 even and 78-74 (twice) in favor of Ramos, fighting for the first time since his letdown against Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this year.
Eyebrows were raised when Ramos and his handlers agreed to a tough, unbeaten opponent such as Esquivias for a first fight back from the worst performance of his career. Ramos hadnt fought since watching his title reign go one-and done, mailing it in against Rigondeaux live on Showtime in January just six months after rallying back to knockout Akifumi Shimoda on HBO to win the 122 lb. title.
To go from scheduled 12-round fights on HBO and Showtime to an eight-round club fight on Telefutura in the span of less than one year is a clear indication of Ramos far fall from grace. Still, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before clawing your way back to the top.
For Ramos, that giant leap forward took place Saturday evening.
Make no mistake, Esquivias made him work every step of the way. Ramos wasnt going to get away with boxing and moving, nor did the Californian ever show any sign of backing down. Instead, he uncharacteristically stood his ground every step of the way, making for perhaps the best fight seen on Telefutura since Solo Boxeos newly adopted format earlier this year.
The difference in the fight was where the action took place. Esquivias enjoyed his best moments whenever he was able to force Ramos to the ropes. Ramos controlled the action whenever the two stood center ring, perhaps confident that he had room to move whenever he pleased.
Fortunately for the crowd on hand, Ramos never chose to travel very far. The two stood shoulder-to-shoulder for much of the fight. The style greatly favored Esquivias, who made a fight of it in the middle rounds.
Ramos knew he had to dig deep in order to avoid the embarrassment of a second straight loss. That determination led to a strong finish down the stretch, getting the better of his opponent in the midst of terrific two- way action that brought the crowd to its feet.
Anxious moments resonated between the end of the bout and the reading of the scorecards, but Ramos was able to breathe a sigh of relief as his arm was raised in well-deserved victory. The former 122 lb. titlist advances to 21-1 (11KO), securing his first win in nearly a year.
Esquivias suffers his first loss as a pro, falling to 16-1 (9KO).