Jose Ramirez left the comforts of California to chase his title shot across the country.
Ramirez won his first world title Saturday night with a unanimous decision victory over Amir Imam to win the WBC's vacant 140-pound belt.
Ramirez pulled away in the late rounds, swelling Imam's right eye in the process to take the title that became open when Terence Crawford moved up to welterweight.
Ramirez relentlessly pressured Imam and pounded away with hard left hooks, and Imam just couldn't keep him off for all three minutes. Ramirez won the final three rounds on all three scorecards after Imam had gotten back into the bout with some good work in the middle rounds.
"There was a point in the fight that I said to myself 'Jose what are you doing?'" Ramirez said. "That's why I caught my second wind and I gave it my all in the championship rounds."
Ramirez, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, won by scores of 120-108, 117-111 and 115-113. He improved to 22-0 with 16 knockouts.
"Two judges need to be investigated and one judge was being honest. He won every single round," trainer Freddie Roach said. "A hometown fight for Jose next would great, but New York was great to us tonight. By the end of the fight, everyone was on our side."
Ramirez is an Avenal, California, native who has done most of his fighting around home, and his first title defense will likely be back there. Promoter Bob Arum said they would look to do something in an outdoor stadium in the Fresno area, where Ramirez has a loyal fan base because of his talent and also his commitment to help the farming community.
Imam fell to 21-2.
"I should have done more to the body," he said. "And I needed to. I just keep thinking about all the things I should have done."
The WBC's 2,000th world title fight was the first time promoters Arum and Don King went against each other since March 12, 2011, when Miguel Cotto stopped Ricardo Mayorga in a WBA super welterweight fight.