Jose Ramirez refuses to view Regis Prograis as the be-all, end-all of the 140-pound division.
The former unified 140-pound titlist from Avenal, California, found himself engulfed in controversy lately after he declined a title shot against New Orleans’ Prograis, the WBC champion, because he objected to the purse split, which was 65-35 in favor of Prograis.
Ramirez has since had to defend himself from accusations that he ducked Prograis. Purse split aside, a fight between Ramirez and Prograis is unlikely because Ramirez’s longtime promoter, Top Rank, refuses to do any business or conduct negotiations with Probellum, Prograis’ promoter. Top Rank believes Probellum is backed by alleged Irish drug cartel leader Daniel Kinahan and its head, Bob Arum, publicly stated earlier this year that it would do any business with Kinahan-related entities. Probellum has continually denied those accusations.
So long as these promotional conflicts persist, it is difficult to envision a scenario in which Ramirez and Prograis can actually swap punches inside the ring.
In a recent interview, Ramirez noted that his contract with Top Rank will be up after two fights. After that, he said, he would be more than willing to consider linking up with another promoter who can stage a fight with Prograis, free of any corporate baggage.
On the other hand, Ramirez said he believes Top Rank will provide him with plenty of options at the junior welterweight limit, including compelling fights with newly arrived 140-pound contender Teofimo Lopez and current undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney, who is expected to move up to 140 after his projected spring fight with Vasiliy Lomachenko. Ramirez says he feels less anxious about his future because his prospects are not completely bound up in a Prograis fight, given that there are possible bouts with Lopez and Haney down the line.
“What I’m excited for is that there are great 140-pound fighters,” Ramirez said on The Boxing with Chris Mannix Podcast. “Devin Haney, he’s moving up to 140 soon. Teofimo Lopez just moved up to 140. Ryan Garcia is at 140 now. Those names, especially Teofimo and Devin Haney, who are in-house fighters on this side of the pond, those fights can be made.
“So I don’t need Regis, at the end of the day. And that’s what gives me a little bit of stability and is what keeps me composed, knowing that sooner or later those fights will come.”
Ramirez made it clear, however, that he will require Top Rank to offer him a Haney or Lopez fight next year— or he may end up walking away from the company. Ramirez is expected to take on former lightweight titlist Richard Commey in March in Fresno, California, in an ESPN main event.
It is not clear whom Prograis will face next. The fighter next in the WBC rankings is Lopez, but Lopez is not likely to fight Prograis for the same reasons as Ramirez.
“Being a free agent opens up a whole amount of opportunity,” Ramirez said. “Top Rank obviously wants me to resign with them. They need to feed me a guy like Teofimo or a guy like Devin Haney. Because that’s who I am. I have to take care of my future, you know? I’m not just a dumb guy. I would like to fight early this year, that’s why I want to move forward with my career, to get one fight out of the way, and the second one will be my last one with Top Rank. Either they give me a good name [Or sign with another promoter].
“Again, the minimums are in my bag, so financially I’m gonna be OK. I’ve done OK in my career. I’ve done just fine. But I’m in the driver’s seat. I’m gonna start asking for fights. Let’s get it on. I know Teofimo isn’t dumb enough to take 30% of an unknown number (in a fight with Prograis).
“I know Top Rank has had inside talks and are interested in making that fight happen," Ramirez said of a potential match-up with Lopez. "It’s a big fight on ESPN, it’s in-house. Now Devin Haney is moving up too. That’s another big fight. I can put myself in the rankings in the WBO and work my way up. If I beat Teofimo, that puts me real high in the WBO.”
Ramirez (27-1, 17 KOs) fought once in 2022, a unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza in March at Save Mart Arena in Fresno.