The comeback. Boxing’s dirty word. These days, it’s pinned on every fighter who suffers a loss, even if that fighter lost for the first time, and in a title unification bout, no less.
So, as Jose Carlos Ramirez prepares to make the walk to the ring for the first time since a May defeat at the hands of Josh Taylor, it’s all about the “comeback,” the return, the homecoming to Save Mart Arena in Fresno.
Yet for Ramirez, it’s about continuing the journey he began professionally in 2012, and on Friday night, it’s former lightweight titlist Jose Pedraza in front of him. There are no world championships on the line, but it is as important as a title fight for the 29-year-old from Avenal.
“José Pedraza is a tough test,” he said. “He is a very good fighter and has looked good since he adjusted to the 140-pound division. I want to earn another shot at the title. I am not one to talk much. I come to face the best and let my performances in the ring speak for themselves.”
For the first 26 fights of his career, those performances did the talking, and while Ramirez was always in the news for his work in the community as well as his work between the ropes, when it came to the fighting end of things, there wasn’t any rivalries, bad blood or trash talk. Ramirez was a blue-collar fighter who refused to engage in any extracurricular nonsense.
And while the lead-up to his unification bout with Taylor got a little heated briefly on fight week, that was more the result of the two best 140-pounders in the world about to test each other with all the belts on the line. But after Ramirez got dropped twice en route to a unanimous decision loss, the questions began, and he’s still answering them more than nine months later. But he takes every query, as always, with class.
“The loss against Taylor taught me a lot,” said Ramirez. “It was the first of my career, and I feel like it brought back my hunger for boxing again. I've really enjoyed this training camp preparing to get back on the winning path. I've had a lot of fun training with Robert Garcia in Riverside. I have corrected the mistakes that I made in that fight against Taylor. Maybe I had been making them for a long time, but when you are winning all your fights, you do not always look at the mistakes. I had a hard time accepting it, but I've already turned the page. There's nothing I can do about it.”
It's the best attitude to take. Put the loss away, learn from the mistakes made, and move forward. But what did he feel went wrong against the Scotland native?
“I was fighting too nice against Josh Taylor and he took advantage of that,” Ramirez explains. “Clinching, there were some things I did wrong there, I could have been more aggressive and, of course, I could have protected myself and probably been more careful and things like that. But I learned a lot as a fighter. To be able to get back up and finish a fight that strong and go all 12 rounds, it showed me the fighter that I am.
“But there were small things I needed to work on that I focused on, and part of it is going back to my amateur style and bringing that back to professional boxing, such as hitting and not getting hit, being more in my rhythm,” he continues. “If you see me fight, every time I get into my good rhythm and I’m in and out, in and out, using my speed, using my angles, I’m hard to get touched and I always push my opponents to the ropes, and they respect me every time I show that type of boxing. It’s when I get a little flat-footed and try to be the macho man that sometimes I get hit. I plan to balance that a little better.”
Ramirez will not be trying to reinvent the wheel against Puerto Rico’s Pedraza, who has won three straight over Mikkel LesPierre, Javier Molina and Julian Rodriguez. If you’re wondering, those three had a combined record of 65-3 heading into their fights with the “Sniper.” That makes him a live underdog at the very least as Ramirez fights at the Save Mart Center for the first time since a hard-fought win over Jose Zepeda in 2019. After that, it was Texas and two stops in Vegas for a fighter who will be happy to put on a show for fans that have packed the venue for his previous five headlining gigs there.
“Coming back to fight again in front of my people in Fresno makes me very happy,” Ramirez said. “I am training very hard because I want to bring joy and happiness to my fans again. I want them to feel proud, and that is why I am here to leave everything inside the ring on March 4 at Save Mart Center.”
If Ramirez’ team has their way, he won’t have to leave everything in the ring to beat Pedraza. In a perfect scenario for them, Ramirez will get through the fight unscathed, get a win, and then start thinking about the next step. For the man in the arena, he’s not looking back, but he does want to see a past rival in the future. That name is no secret.
“I know in order to stay at my best, I gotta face the best and push myself and be ready for, say, a Josh Taylor rematch, so I have to fight these types of fights (against Pedraza),” he said. “I can’t get to the world title fights taking the easy way.”
Taylor, fresh from a close and highly controversial decision win over Jack Catterall last weekend, has made it clear that his days at 140 pounds are numbered, or perhaps already over. Ramirez, who wants to get at least one of his 140-pound belts back soon, is also ready for a future at welterweight.
“I’ve been in the 140-pound division my entire career, and there’s a point where I feel if I let my body develop, I might be a stronger, better fighter,” he said.
So could it be Taylor-Ramirez 2 at 147 pounds? Maybe. But there are other matters to take care of first.
“I am ready to return to the top of the division,” Ramirez said. “I know that I am one of the best fighters at 140 pounds. I want to regain my titles and win all of the belts. It doesn't matter if it's in a rematch against Taylor, challenging another champion, or in a vacant title match against another top contender. I want my titles back.”
Comeback? Jose Ramirez never left.