Junior featherweight prospect Rico Ramos trailed on the cards, was cut and bleeding badly and feared that referee Benjy Esteves Jr. was about to stop his challenge to WBA 122-pound titleholder Akifumi Shimoda last July.
“I was fighting his fight, and I really didn’t fight my fight. I was letting him take over,” said Ramos. “I knew that I was down on the scorecards, and I didn’t want the fight to be stopped on the cut.”
So the 24-year-old speed-boxer stepped up the pressure and threw caution to the wind, along with an assortment of crushing blows that produced a thrilling one-punch (from a left hook) seventh-round knockout of Shimoda (24-3-1, 10 knockouts).
“I knew that I was in great, great shape, so I knew that I had to come forward and take that win from the sixth round,” said Ramos, who improved to 20-0 with 11 KOs and earned a No. 2 rating in THE RING’s junior featherweight rankings with the HBO-televised victory.
“Fourth and fifth round, I felt like he was starting to slow down, and that’s when I realized that I had to take it to him, and I was able to knock him out in the seventh.”
Ramos was down, 59-55 on the cards of two judges, and, 60-54, on that of the third at the time of the stoppage.
In victory over the Japanese southpaw, Ramos set himself up for what could be his most difficult rival yet in a Showtime-televised title defense against two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux, another left-handed fighter, on Friday in Las Vegas.
Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs), who is 31, won the WBA’s interim belt by split-decision in November over Ricardo Cordoba on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s unanimous decision over Antonio Margarito. Rigondeaux’s most recent win was a first-round knockout of Willie Casey last March.
RAMOS TRAINED WITH THE MAGDELENO BROTHERS
Ramos’ preparation included sparring the unbeaten southpaw Magdeleno brothers — Diego, a junior lightweight contender, and Jess, a junior featherweight prospect — duiring his two-month camp in Las Vegas.
“I’m ready. I’m anxious. Training camp went really well. I sparred with Diego and Jesse Magdeleno, and we did a lot of [rounds]. My workouts were at [Floyd] Mayweather’s gym,” said Ramos.
“We know that he’s a crafty guy, but we prepared for everything that he’s going to do in training camp. We’re prepared for if he runs, and if he comes forward. But my plan is to just come out that first round and take over and dominate from the first to the 12th.”
Trainer Reggie Jackson agrees.
“Unlike the last fight, Rico just has to dictate the tone right from the first bell and not get behind on the score cards,” said Jackson. “Rigondeaux is slick and crafty, but Rico is just as quick and we should be able to break him down.”
Ramos once sparred with Rigondeaux, according to Jackson.
“We know that he likes to throw that left hand a lot to the body from the sessions at the Wild Card Boxing Gym [in Hollywood, Calif.]. They sparred, and Rico had his number. Rico kind of handled him pretty well,” said Jackson.
“But that’s not saying too much. Guys grow over the days and months, but Rico knows that he’s going to have to take it to him and let them hands go to the head. We’re prepared for him.”
A VICTORY ENTERS RIGONDEAUX INTO THE NONITO DONAIRE SWEEPSTAKES
Donaire, a former WBO/WBA bantamweight beltholder, will make his HBO-televised 122-pound debut against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. on Feb. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Donaire-Vazquez will be for the WBO’s vacant junior featherweight belt.
Donaire (27-1, 18 knockouts) is coming off October’s unanimous decision over WBO junior bantamweight beltholder Omar Narvaez.
Rigondeaux was considered one of the all-time great amateur boxers before he defected from Cuba to the United States.
Photo by Fightwireimages.com
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank Inc.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org