Jose Ramirez isn’t the type to seek a soft touch.
The former WBC/WBO 140-pound champion has typically taken on the toughest challenges, even near an opponent’s hometown, during his ascent from prospect to one of the top performers in his division. His 12-round fight with Jose Pedraza on Friday night provides more evidence of Ramirez’s willingness to face championship-caliber opposition.
Ramirez’s longtime promoter, Bob Arum, respects the ex-champion’s approach. Arum also is adamant that Ramirez-Pedraza is just the type of challenge Ramirez should embrace even in his first fight since Josh Taylor dropped him twice, won a majority decision and became boxing’s fully unified champion in their division nine months ago.
“I’m not paying these guys the money that they want at this level to fight tomato cans,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “I mean, that’s not the business I’m in. I’m happy to pay them significant money as long as they’re in real fights. Now, Jose never said a word. We gave him a couple of names, including Pedraza. He said he’d fight any of ‘em. Pedraza was available, so we made that fight. But again, these big fighters can’t expect to get big money fighting non-competitive fights.”
Caesars Sportsbook lists the 29-year-old Ramirez, of Avenal, California, as nearly a 6-1 favorite over Puerto Rico’s Pedraza. Arum considers Pedraza, a former IBF junior lightweight and WBO lightweight champ, to be more of a live underdog than that.
“I think it’s a tremendous fight and it’s the kind of fight we wanna put on because you’re not sure who the winner is,” Arum said. “Would you be shocked if Pedraza won the fight? I wouldn’t.”
Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) and Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) will headline a nine-fight card ESPN+ will stream from Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. Coverage from ESPN’s streaming service is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. PT.
Arum hopes Ramirez-Pedraza begins a run of competitive, non-pay-per-view fights Top Rank offers either on ESPN or ESPN+ over the next few months.
“You can see what we’re trying to do with all of our schedule,” Arum said. “Shakur [Stevenson] and [Oscar] Valdez [on April 30], even [Edgar] Berlanga and [Steve] Rolls [on March 19] is not a bad fight. So again, I don’t think it’s good for boxing or for these fighters to put on non-competitive fights on ESPN or on ESPN+. They’re paying good money to get competitive fights, particularly now when ESPN is connected with a gaming company, with Caesars Gaming, and everybody else is lining up with a gaming partner. Having a gaming partner means that, to the extent possible, you do competitive fights.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.