A pair of top-tier junior welterweights square off Friday night in Fresno, California, looking to get back to title level
In the 10 months since suffering his first loss to Josh Taylor in their 140-pound undisputed championship bout, former unified titleholder Jose Ramirez has gone through a plethora of self-discoveries.
Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs), who went down twice in a close decision loss last May, believes he has discovered the necessary adjustments to fuel another run at the junior welterweight world title. And luckily for boxing fans, the proud California Central Valley native doesn’t need a soft touch to test himself first.
Instead, Ramirez, 29, heads back into the deep end of the pool on Friday when he returns home to Fresno to headline a 12-round test against former two-division champion Jose Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) at Save Mart Arena (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
“My goal is to stay at the highest level of competition, my goal is to become world champion again,” Pedraza said at Wednesday’s final press conference. “You have to fight the best to be ready for those fights. I don’t want any easy fights. I don’t want to fight fights that are going to be tune-up fights.”
The timing of Ramirez’s return is interesting, as it comes exactly one week after Taylor fought to a split decision victory over mandatory opponent Jack Catterall in a fight that most observers felt Taylor, who was knocked down and cut, had clearly lost. After the bout, Taylor was inclined to vacate all four of his titles to move up to welterweight, again leaving the top of the division wide open.
Ramirez, who not only regularly sells out crowds of more than 12,000 every time he fights in Fresno, but still has the best resume in the division after Taylor, including back-to-back wins over Amir Imam, Antonio Orozco, Jose Zepeda, Maurice Hooker and Viktor Postol.
“The biggest thing I learned about myself when I faced Josh Taylor is that the only person who can beat me is myself,” Ramirez said. “I feel like that’s a fight I lost. I don’t think he beat me because he’s the better fighter. That fight I lost because I wasn’t at my best, mentally and physically. I learned to accept that and I want to earn my title shot with my actions. I hope to show the best of my skills on Friday.”
The task of retracing his steps back to title contention is no easy one with someone as skilled and crafty as the southpaw Pedraza, a native of Puerto Rico and aptly nicknamed “Sniper,” facing him.
Pedraza, 32, has won three straight since a competitive 2019 loss to Zepeda and is not far from giving former unified lightweight champion and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko all he could handle in a thrilling 2018 title bout at 135 pounds that wide scores in Lomachenko’s favor don’t accurately describe how competitive it was.
Given his technical but aggressive style of straightforward boxing, it’s hard to imagine a Ramirez fight that won’t be exciting. Pedraza’s equally bold style should be no different, especially given their natural contrast in styles, as Pedraza is the natural counterpuncher who, like Ramirez, is not afraid to operate at close range.
While Ramirez is a bit fresher of the two fighters, the wide odds do not indicate that Pedraza is still a good player. What they do indicate, however, is that Pedraza has not proven to be the same type of puncher at 140 pounds as he has in the lower weight divisions. He’s also not as busy as Ramirez, which ultimately should be the difference.
Look for Ramirez to attack the body, but do so in a much more calculated manner than he did against Taylor. Barring some sort of strategic mishap, this fight should be fun and go the distance as Ramirez lays claim to his name among the elite junior welterweight fighters.
Pick: Ramirez over UD12