By Thomas Gerbasi
Julian Ramirez is stumped. Granted, it might be an unfair question, but “El Camaron” comes up empty when asked what the first HBO fight he ever saw was.
“I’ve watched so many fights, I don’t know,” he laughs.
And though the point of the question was to set the stage for how big of a deal it is for a young fighter to be in an HBO co-main event, like Ramirez will be when he faces fellow featherweight prospect Abraham Lopez, he didn’t need any extra prodding.
“It is a big deal,” he said. “Roy Jones, Max Kellerman, all those guys – I don’t know if they’re going to be on the broadcast, but those are guys I look at all the time. I look at all the fights on HBO, and it’s huge.”
Ramirez’ placement on the Francisco Vargas-Orlando Salido Boxing After Dark card at StubHub Center in Carson, California shows just where he stands in the eyes of his promoter (Golden Boy Promotions), the network and the boxing world. In other words, he’s a rising star that can introduce himself to the world this weekend. No one knows that better than Ramirez, who, despite being only 23 years old, has a better grip on the business than most of his peers.
Maybe that comes from being born into a boxing family that includes the late Genaro Hernandez and respected trainer Rudy Hernandez, or just a healthy dose of common sense that allows him to see through the smoke and mirrors boxing is known for.
“Boxing is a dirty business,” he said. “Right now, I’m a young guy, so everything is going good for me, but at a certain point, instead of being the guy that’s supposed to win, I’ll start becoming the opponent or stuff like that. People who are real boxers and know about the business know how dirty it is.”
It’s why, while he listens to folks like Jones and Kellerman when watching other people’s fights, when he watches his own, he listens to no one.
“I don’t really pay attention to what anybody says,” Ramirez said. “I do turn off the sound and just watch the fight. My last few fights, I’m the guy who’s the favorite, so they talk good about me. You know how TV works. So I don’t listen to that. I want to judge my fight and see what I did good and what I did bad. I don’t want to hear just one side.”
Call him the A-side who fights with the attitude of B-side, one that has him taking nothing for granted, in or out of the ring. It may make you wonder why he does this, but he has a ready answer for that question.
“I like competing and I love to fight, and I always like proving everybody wrong,” he said. “Since I was a little kid, everybody always doubted me a little bit. They would say ‘Oh yeah, he’s good,’ but then you hear people say ‘We don’t think he’s gonna win.’ I think that’s what keeps me going, the competition.”
Keep winning and the doubters will disappear, right?
“There will always be somebody,” he laughs. “Look at Floyd (Mayweather). He won all his fights, and they always talk bad about him.”
Nothing gets by the East Los Angeles product, especially not on fight night, and it’s led him to a 16-0 record with eight knockouts. His last three wins have seen a step up in competition, as he’s defeated Raul Hidalgo, Hugo Partida and Christopher Martin in succession, but fellow unbeaten Lopez will be the biggest test yet, especially with both fighters being unfamiliar with losing. Ramirez disagrees with that whole unbeaten thing, though.
“It’s been a long time since he’s lost, but he’s lost before in the amateurs,” he said. “I’ve lost in the amateurs, and we know what it is to lose. He don’t like it, I don’t like it, and now we’ve got to fight each other. We both know we’re good and it’s going to be a good fight.”
I mention that most fighters will ignore any amateur losses if they’re unbeaten as a pro. Ramirez never forgets a loss, no matter what the venue.
“I’ll be mad at losing a FIFA match on Xbox,” he said. “So I know what it’s like to lose and I don’t like it.”
And he doesn’t plan on getting that feeling again. At least not in the ring this weekend. That doesn’t make it personal with Lopez, but at the same time, Ramirez makes sure he keeps a respectful distance from prospective foes.
“I knew I was going to fight this guy,” he said. “I know all these guys, but it’s a business. I’ve got to fight this guy and I’ve got to fight all the other Golden Boy fighters. I know who they are and I know that one day I’m probably going to have to fight them, so I don’t try to become too best of buddies with anybody.”
It could make boxing a lonely sport for those who participate in it. Bad enough that you’re alone once the bell rings, but to even have the days and weeks ahead of fight night be a solitary existence could wear on a person’s psyche. Ramirez is fine with that aspect of the game.
“I’ve never been a guy that has a lot of friends,” he said. “I have a few friends that I can count on my hand, and I have my family, and that’s it. So it’s not just boxing. That’s how I look at it. Growing up, my family always taught me there’s not a lot of friends out there and be careful who you trust. But when it comes to boxing, I can talk to any boxer and I can have a conversation with them, and I don’t hate on any fighter. But if we’ve got to fight, I’ve got to fight you. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
It’s a business. And Julian Ramirez has a firm grip on it.
“Money talks,” he said. “At the end of the day, a boxer just wants to get paid and wants to keep fighting. That’s every boxer’s dream. Every boxer wants to get paid more and some boxers just want to fight more. Me, I want both. I want to keep fighting and I want to keep making more money.”
This Saturday, he makes some money against Abraham Lopez. He wins and he’ll make some more money, and so on and so on. That doesn’t mean he has to hate his opponent. In fact, the two could even have dinner after the fight.
“I know that after this fight, I’ll have some money and I want to invest it,” Ramirez said. “So that’s what I’m looking forward to. And after that, whoever wants it, they can get it. But I don’t hate this guy Lopez at all. For my last fight, he was my co-main event. And we had King Taco after. We didn’t have it together; he was there and I was there. So after this fight, if he wants King Taco again, I’ll treat him or he’ll treat me, and we’ll both have some good money.”