That’s all it took for Adan Gonzales to teach Robeisy Ramirez last August 10 that amateur boxing and professional prizefighting are two entirely different endeavors. Gonzales’ left hand to the side of Ramirez’s head turned him around and made Ramirez use his gloves to keep from falling to the canvas.
Less than 30 seconds into the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s pro career, Ramirez had already been knocked down. The rest of their four-round featherweight fight further exposed a promising prospect Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. signed to a lucrative multi-fight contract just 2½ months earlier.
When it ended, the judges declared Denver’s Gonzales a split-decision winner. Rose Lacend (40-35) and Alan Rubenstein (39-36) scored their fight for Gonzales, who lost 38-37 on Dave Braslow’s card.
Not only did Gonzales ruin Ramirez’s pro debut, he caused considerable doubt about Ramirez’s ability to live up to the hype that accompanied numerous amateur accomplishments at the professional level.
The 26-year-old Ramirez admits he underestimated Gonzales (5-2-2, 2 KOs), whom he’ll fight again Thursday night in a six-round, 126-pound encounter ESPN will televise from Las Vegas.
“I didn’t expect [Gonzales] to be as hard of an opponent as he was,” Ramirez told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I was expecting a weaker opponent. That’s basically what I learned from the first fight, that no opponent is a weak opponent in professional boxing.”
Ramirez (3-1, 3 KOs) also learned that he needed a new trainer, whom welterweight contender and fellow Cuban Yordenis Ugas helped him choose. A devastated Ramirez replaced comparatively inexperienced Rob Mendez and Nick Gonzalez with respected Cuban trainer Ismael Salas, who convinced Ramirez to move from the Tampa area to Las Vegas to live and train.
“I take full responsibility for what happened in that fight,” Ramirez said. “It wasn’t that I had a bad corner or anything like that. It just wasn’t an experienced corner in big events, but it wasn’t a bad corner. The thing that happened was I didn’t feel the trust and the confidence in what they were teaching me. That’s why I went to Ismael Salas.”
With Salas helping him adapt to the pro game, Ramirez has won three straight bouts by knockout since stunningly losing his pro debut. The skillful, strong southpaw needed only 54 seconds to stop the Dominican Republic’s Yeuri Andujar (5-4, 3 KOs) on June 9 in Las Vegas, which initiated this quick turnaround for Ramirez’s rematch against Gonzales.
“When you lose a fight that you’re not supposed to lose, you feel bad and you’re sad,” Ramirez said. “But I’ve been in those situations before in the amateurs, where people are expecting me to win and I lost the fight. It happened to me in the amateur rankings and in life. That’s why I contacted Ismael and came to Vegas. We connected very well. There’s a connection because we’re both Cubans, but also because he’s a great teacher, a great master in boxing.”
The 23-year-old Gonzales, who was contractually obligated to give Ramirez a rematch, has not fought in the nearly 11 months since he upset Ramirez at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
“It would mean a lot to me to beat him,” Ramirez said. “I don’t see it necessarily as a dangerous fight. I’m just trying to correct what happened in the first fight. I just want people to know that I’m not that fighter that lost. That night wasn’t my night. But I didn’t have all these Olympic and amateur accolades for nothing. It’s because I’m a good boxer. And I need to erase that from the people’s minds, what happened in the first fight.”
Ramirez has looked like a different fighter since he began working with Salas. Arum, who was stunned by Ramirez’s loss to Gonzales, called Ramirez “a spectacular fighter” and a “future major star” during a recent interview with BoxingScene.com.
“People have been seeing the boxing skills that they’ve seen from me since the amateur days,” said Ramirez, who edged WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson in the bantamweight gold-medal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “With those victories I have gotten since my debut, I’m feeling great. I’m confident and I’m believing in myself again. We have won by knockout because we have showed my boxing skills, not because we were looking for knockouts. So, that gives me even more confidence. I want to keep looking good. I know, little by little, [Arum’s] company is gonna trust in me again and see me as a future star. I want to climb up the rankings and eventually fight for a world title.”
Ramirez expects a professional rematch versus Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs) to happen at some point, either at 126 or 130 pounds. For now, however, he is concentrating completely on righting his own wrong when he squares off against Gonzales in the opener of ESPN’s six-bout broadcast Thursday night from MGM Grand Conference Center (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“I don’t wanna say it’s gonna be an easy fight because I learned my lesson from my pro debut,” Ramirez said. “I now know there’s no easy opponent in professional boxing. But now I know what he brings to the ring, and me and Ismael Salas have worked very hard to weaken the strengths that he has inside the ring. I know what he’s gonna bring, so I’m prepared for that. I wanna show the fans and [Top Rank] that what happened in the first fight was just a bad night, and that this fighter is not on my level.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.