Still the Champ

Defending his title and community causes

By Eddie Hughes |  Photos by Cary Edmondson

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Just as he always does, Jose Ramirez entered his nationally televised February title fight representing the Valley. From his many local sponsors to the community causes he represents, Ramirez has the backing of an entire region every time he steps into the ring.

In what may have been his toughest professional fight yet — his first time suffering a cut — he was fueled by 14,000-plus fans at the Save Mart Center during the critical moments of a 12-round, back-and-forth match in which he edged out Jose Zepeda to retain his World Boxing Council super lightweight championship belt.

“It was amazing to see so many people show up and support the cause and support boxing,” Ramirez says. “The cheering definitely pushed me forward. It really does help.”

The Avenal native attended Fresno State for three semesters in 2010-11 before taking a break to train for the 2012 Olympics in London. He turned pro shortly thereafter and has a 24-0 record with 16 knockouts.

This event, tabbed as a fight to “KO Cancer,” was personal to Ramirez, who says he lost two grandparents to cancer, and to his manager, Rick Mirigian, whose mother is battling cancer.

“I’m very thankful that people really respect the cause, really respect the boxing here in Central California,” Ramirez says. “People showed respect toward other families fighting through cancer. It was a beautiful thing to witness when I was walking into the ring.”

Ramirez visited patients and staff at the Community Cancer Institute in Clovis two days before the fight, and two patients who had recently beaten cancer were invited to ring the bell before the main event. A portion of all ticket sales and Ramirez’s auctioned purple gloves from the fight went toward supporting the institute.

Ramirez has become well known as an advocate for community causes like water rights, just as he has for his powerful jabs. In 2015, he established a scholarship endowment with the Fresno State Alumni Association to help students from Avenal attend the University. He also joined Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro and first lady Mary Castro in distributing 1,200 backpacks filled with supplies to students in Huron in 2018.

“I’ve got the opportunity to show the people that there are bigger and better things out there,” Ramirez says. “I’m doing it by my persona, by who I am and by my goals that I continue to reach. I think that motivates the youth to go out there and do bigger things.”