Jose Ramirez

The Champ is Home: Jose Ramirez to Make First Title Defense in Front of Hometown Fans

Ramirez defends WBC super lightweight title against Danny O’Connor, Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno

Broadcast LIVE on ESPN beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.

COARESGOLD, Calif. (July 5, 2018) – The dream has been realized. Now, it’s time for Jose Ramirez to get down to business.

Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs), from Avenal, California, will make the first defense of his WBC super lightweight world title against Danny O’Connor (30-3, 11 KOs) on Saturday in front of a projected sold-out crowd at the Save Mart Center in Fresno. It’s the building Ramirez packed several times on his journey to a world title.

Ramirez-O’Connor and the 10-round welterweight showdown between NABF champion Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Juan Carlos Abreu will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.

The entire undercard will be shown on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET and includes heavyweight contender Andy Ruiz Jr. (30-1, 20 KOs) against Kevin Johnson (32-9-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-rounder, undefeated Andy Vences (20-0-1, 12 KOs) defending the WBC Continental Americas super featherweight title against Frank De Alba (22-3-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-rounder, and 18-year-old wunderkind Gabe Flores Jr. (8-0, 5 KOs) against James De Herrera (4-3, 3 KOs) in a six-round lightweight contest.

The fighters gathered Thursday at the final press conference at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. This is what they had to say.

Jose Ramirez

“It’s quite an honor for me to bring this type of fight, this type of entertainment, to Central California. To fight my first title defense in front of my biggest fans, my closest friends and my family, it’s a blessing.”

“We’re calling this event ‘Protecting Home’ because we’re protecting those that belong here in this country, who fight every day and contribute to this community. We’re also protecting what belongs to us, which is a world title.”

On switching from Freddie Roach to Robert Garcia as head trainer

“I think what went on with that change was loyalty and the fact that we do so much outside of the ring as well. Robert is a guy who is from Oxnard, a very similar community to Central California. He understands the work ethic and what we represent, what we do. And he wants to be a part of it. He’s very motivated to train me. He’s very excited to train me. That makes it easier for me to be motivated and to be excited to stay in this sport. Freddie is a great man. He’s very respected. He always respected me as a fighter, but he had so many world champions, and I needed to feel more of that loyalty and excitement from him. And I think I found it now in Riverside with a lot of undefeated prospects, good prospects, and future world champions at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy.”

Danny O’Connor

“First and foremost, I’m a father and a husband, so that’s the most important thing. After taking a knockout in that form {a first-round stoppage loss versus Gabriel Bracero in October 2015} when I had never even been dropped in the gym before, I had to assess my personal health to make sure I was able to be that father, that husband I needed to be. It wasn’t so much taking time away from the sport, it was kind of just re-evaluating to make sure I was OK mentally and physically and still able to compete at the level I needed to be in a fight like this.”

“I feel grateful to be in this position. I’ve worked very hard inside the ring and outside the ring to overcome so much adversity to be here today. I never quit. I never gave up on myself. I never lost hope.”

Egidijus Kavaliauskas

“I’m just happy to fight in Fresno. It’s close to where I live in Oxnard. It’s very nice here. It’s very hot. On Saturday, it will be even hotter inside the ring. It’ll be a very good fight.”

Juan Carlos Abreu

“I feel very good. I’m ready to take the title back home to the Dominican Republic.”

Andy Ruiz Jr.

“My goal is to fight the big names out there. The main thing is to stay on track, stay on the right side and in shape, and get ready for whatever comes in 2018.”

“I’m in good condition. After my last fight March 10 {a first-round stoppage over Devin Vargas}, I’ve been in the gym ever since. I’m training really hard, taking it more seriously. It’s my time for this year and next year. The main thing is to stay in shape and be prepared.”

Gabe Flores Jr.

“I sold a bunch of tickets out here. I’m glad a lot of people are supporting me, and for my family to see me fight, it’s beautiful. There’s only one person that I wish could be here, and it’s my mother. She’s up there, but she’s going to be watching me, and she’s going to give me the energy I need to fight.”

On building his hometown of Stockton, California, as a boxing market

“I have amazing support in Stockton, California. We’re going to be there eventually. It’s going to take some time, but I can’t wait to fight in front of my people.”

Andy Vences

“{The Erick De Leon fight} was a technical fight. It ended in a draw. I do what I always do. I looked back at the fight, saw what adjustments I could’ve made, and moving forward, those are adjustments I’m going to show for this fight. The fans are in for it. They’re going to get their money’s worth because every time I fight at the Save Mart Center, I bring action, I bring knockouts.”

All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

 
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