By Thomas Gerbasi
Julian Ramirez is fighting tonight in Los Angeles. That wasn’t going to be the case if the 1.6 billion dollar Powerball jackpot ended up in his bank account.
“Some guy asked me in the gym if I hit the lottery would I fight on the 29th,” he said. “I said ‘hell no, I’m not gonna fight on the 29th.’ I’ll be gone.”
Who could blame him? This is a hurt business, and while his fists are likely to lead him to where he wants to go financially, if he can avoid the punches and let those five lottery tickets do the job, why not?
“I love fighting,” Ramirez said. “I’ll always love it, but it’s a love-hate relationship with me and boxing. I train, I do what I gotta do, and everything’s going to play out the way it does. A lot of people in boxing want to train for fame and to be rich and be flashy. I just want to train, buy a little house, and get out of here. I’ll stay on the low and start my life.”
That honesty is refreshing, and at just 22 years old, he’s got a better grip on life as a professional athlete, especially a professional boxer, than most of his peers. That’s not only going to ensure a successful career, but a success in even more important endeavors, like fatherhood.
A little over two months ago, the unbeaten featherweight welcomed Julian Christopher Ramirez into the world, and now everything takes on an added weight. But it’s a positive one for the new dad.
“I stopped going out more and it changed me a little bit,” he said. “Everything happened so fast. But I look at it in a positive way. I was talking to my friends the other day, and when everybody found out I was having a baby, everybody talked about me like if I was dead or something. (Laughs) Everybody was surprised. But I think it’s for the better.”
Being a father can change the way you see everything. For Ramirez, it may not have changed the way he views his sport, but when asked for his reaction if Julian Jr. wanted to follow in his fistic footsteps, he doesn’t hesitate in his response.
“I would say no,” he said. “We’re crazy. (Laughs) We’re boxers, we get hit in the face every day. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. I wouldn’t want him to be a fighter, but whatever he becomes, I’m gonna support him. If he’s gonna be a boxer, I’m not gonna let him go out there and get beat up. I’m gonna make sure he trains two hundred percent to be ready, but I wouldn’t want him to be a boxer.”
So why does Ramirez do it? Sure, he’s one of the top young talents in the sport, a popular 15-0 fighter who sold out tonight’s bout against Christopher Martin at the Belasco Theater, but at 22, he could conceivably do anything he wants to. Why boxing?
“I should have stayed in school,” he said. “I should have been a doctor. (Laughs) My parents always said stay in school, it’s a lot easier. Boxing is the hard way out. A lot of people think it’s the easy way out because we’re athletes and we get a little bit of fame, but as for me, I would rather just kick back, cruise, stay on the low. I don’t care if anybody knows me or everybody hates me. I wouldn’t care. I don’t know, it’s crazy. I would rather be in school right now talking to girls and getting my work done.”
He chuckles, perhaps knowing that these are things that usually don’t come from the mouth of a rising star in the ring. Then again, you don’t hear 22-year-old prizefighters talking about taxes either, but Ramirez is on top of that too as April 15 approaches. As for his day job, don’t get him wrong, he loves to fight, but he also knows of the dark side of it as well. It creates a tug of war that he has comes to accept.
“Every fight has struggles and every fighter has ups and downs,” Ramirez said. “There are a lot of things that come with it. I love boxing, but I hate boxing, and it always goes back and forth. One day I might love it, one day I might hate it, but win, lose or draw, I’m happy with boxing and happy with life. I give it my all, and when I win, it feels good. If I was to lose, of course I would feel bad, but I’ll still be happy because the most important thing is being healthy.”
He pauses before continuing.
“It’s a fight. It’s not a sport. You go in there and you might not come out. It’s not a game. You’re risking your life all the time, and I don’t think people really understand. I think you have to be a fighter to understand.”
Heavy stuff from such a young man. But when it’s pointed out that his maturity can make those more two decades his senior a little jealous, he laughs.
“I’m a clown, don’t listen to me,” Ramirez laughs. “I still got a whole lot of learning to do.”
We all do, but he’s on the right track. Ramirez has got good people around him, he’s a helluva fighter, and whether he likes it or not, the odds are pretty solid that he’s going to be a star in this sport one day.
When this is pointed out to him, he laughs.
“Fame is the least of my worries.”
That may be the secret to his success, the ability to have his priorities in the right place and not read his press clippings. Those are lessons he says he learned from his mother and grandmother.
“They told me you can’t make everybody happy no matter how hard you try. And I think that’s how it is when you’re an athlete. No matter how good you look, there’s going to be somebody out there saying ‘he could have done this or that.’ And that’s just how it’s going to be in life.”
So basically, all Ramirez can really do is work hard in the gym, show up on fight night, and do his thing against whoever is placed across from him in the ring.
“I don’t really look too far ahead,” he said. “I’ve always said it, I’ve been living like that, and it’s been working. So I say one fight at a time, little by little, and I live day by day, so I don’t say this year I’m going to do this or that. With this fight coming up, it’s a big fight for me, I fight for the youth title, which will put me in the rankings, and after this fight, whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen.”
And about that star stuff?
“It’s kind of selfish, but as long as me and my boy are happy, I’m cool,” Ramirez said. “I don’t really care if I become a star or don’t become a star. I’m not in it to be famous. That’s not the name of the game for me. It’s cool, but I’m really in it to make money, retire young, get out of the sport healthy and enjoy my boy. That’s my main focus.”
Sounds like hitting the lottery.