He has his own website, an iPhone app, an Android app and has broken every major amateur record in his sport. Still, you probably haven't heard of Jose Ramirez.
Currently the No. 1 ranked amateur boxer by USA boxing, Ramirez has 115 wins and eight major titles in the prestigious 132 lb. weight class. As an amateur, Ramirez has broken records held by boxing greats. Shane Mosley. Floyd Mayweather. Oscar De La Hoya. Ramirez has broken them all.
It's an "unbelievable amount of records" says Rick Mirgian, Ramirez's promoter. If history is a guide, Ramirez is headed toward boxing greatness.
"All of [those] guys went on to have great boxing careers. There's been no fall-outs," says Mirigian. Ramirez has "got a no-quit attitude. He will get there."
But Jose Ramirez's story goes way beyond boxing glory. It is a story of family, determination and one distinct promise to his father.
During a time when athletes consistently forfeit amateur status and education for the lure of fame and money in professional sports, Ramirez has done just the opposite.
Ramirez told his father he'd attend college and become the first person in his family to graduate. He can box as much and often as he wants as long as he gets his degree. So, every day, with his father in mind, Ramirez ignores the pressures to turn pro and start earning top dollar and international exposure. Instead, he says outside the limelight, enduring a gruesome schedule tailored around three things: school, work and, of course, training.
"I wake up very early on Mondays," Ramirez says during a phone interview. "At 5:30 in the morning, I drive to [Fresno St. University], which is an hour away. I get off at 2:00, and then I drive back home. Then I go to the gym around 4:30. I finish at 7, then I go home and spend a little bit of time with the family. Sometimes I go running in the evenings. I do my homework and go to sleep."
Tuesdays are the same, except Ramirez works eight hours a day at Starbucks instead of going to class. The rest of the week is no different. There's no glamour, no fame. Just hard work. His days are long and exhausting, but it's the only way he knows.
There is also a personal dream holding Ramirez from turning pro: He wants to compete in the 2012 Olympics, where he is a favorite to win gold. Armando Mancinas, Jose's grandfather, coach and manager, says in an email that "Jose has the speed, power, endurance, and technical boxing skills to accomplish his Olympic Dreams."
Ramirez wants to win for his career of course, but gold goes way beyond his own personal agenda.
"My goal is to hopefully bring a gold medal back for [the] USA, for my community, for my family," Ramirez says. "After that, I am trying to turn pro and become a world champion one day, take my family out of the small town, and give something back to all the people that have believed in me."
Mancinas says it's been on his grandson's mind since day one. "At the age of 12, Jose began to talk about boxing in the Olympics. I told him if he decided to turn professional, that an Olympic experience would be beneficial to him."
For many boxers, boxing is simply an individual sport, but for Jose Ramirez, it's a team sport. And the same team has been around him his entire life: his family and his small community.
He's fighting to make something of himself, and be able to help others. He compares himself to Oscar De La Hoya, but not merely in terms of fighting.
He's quick to point out that De La Hoya "won the gold medal, and later on he went on to become a champion," but Ramirez also talks at length about how he "admires" all of the charity work the former champ has done, and how the sport has helped shape him.
For Ramirez, boxing is about so much more than the third round knockout or TKO.
"Boxing as a sport has become part of me. I think of it like a job. [It's] made me the person I am now," said Ramirez. "I've become disciplined and hard working; [I've learned] how to get back up, and how to be a good champion and be a good person."
Mancinas, who has been in boxing for 50 years as a fighter, then coach, manager and trainer, realized his grandson was a special talent at an early age.
"When Jose entered the gym at the age of eight, he was a quick learner, hard worker, very disciplined, very mature for his age and carried himself with great respect," Mancinas said.
Over the past year and a half, Ramirez has entered the pantheon of boxing's elite. The success has been good, for obvious reasons, but is can also be dangerous. In other words, as Jose's star has risen, the sharks have come out.
"I wanted to put Jose in the best possible position so he can make the best possible deal someday when that time comes for him to turn pro," Mirigian says. "Usually there are guys that pick [young boxers] up with limited resistance. They can steal talent like [Jose]."
"[Jose] is getting calls from everyone" wanting him to turn pro, Mirigian says. "But he won't do it. He refuses to do it."
Ramirez hails from Avenal, Calif., a small farming town smack between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The work ethic and honor he displays was instilled at a young age. While he grew up poor, the 18-year-old saw how hard his parents worked in the fields, which is why he made his promise to his father. His parents never had the opportunity of going to school that he has, but its certainly not stopped them from being there for their son. "They have always been supportive in his desire to box," Mancinas says.
Such work ethic and dedication is why many people, especially Mirigian, believe the kid won't fail.
"I have never seen anything like this in boxing," Mirigan says. "He's a very unique kid. If he gets [knocked down], he gets right back up. This kid is going to be the change in USA boxing. You'll see quotes from three-time world champion Vargas, top boxing scouts, trainers and agents heralding him. Boxing's elite are saying he has it all."
Ramirez is cognizant of the pressure, but not bothered. Of that Mirigian is certain.
"One day, we'll be seeing him inside the MGM Garden Arena or Mandalay Bay."
Photo Credit: Sal Hernandez/Lasher Photo
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