Ramirez vs. O’Connor: Stepping Stone or Mismatch?

When a bloated James Toney fought Denis Lebedev in Moscow in 2015 with the WBA cruiserweight title somehow at stake, I feared for the global road warrior’s welfare but he got through it. Meanwhile, the fearsome looking Russian got another legendary notch –Calzaghe style–on his belt.

A totally shot Danny Williams had lost eight straight bouts when he fought comebacking Oleg Maskaev in 2013 in Krasnodar. Despite dire predictions, he also got through it and is still fighting today (though he should not be). For the “Brixton Bomber,” every time he steps up, it’s a mismatch or a stepping stone or both. It’s more likely a stepping stone for others because way back in 2004 Williams defeated Mike Tyson and it’s not everybody who gets the chance to beat the man who beat the man.

Since September 2003, Antwun “Kid Dynamite” Echols has lit few fuses and has only one win (against a winless opponent) in 21 attempts. His level of opposition has been scary and each time he fought during that terrible period, it was a mismatch.  Now get this: When he drew with Ruben “Mr. Hollywood” Williams in 2007, Ruben was 29-2 and a multiple title-contender and holder of several regional titles. But after the draw, Mr. Hollywood dropped 30—yes 30!—in a row. He fights on, but his last nine have ended before the last round.

As Echols and Williams can attest, sometimes publicized stepping-stone fights are more predictable mismatches than not. In either case, they take on a more ominous tone.

Ramirez vs. O’Connor

On July 7, popular California homeboy Jose Carlos Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs) will go up against Boston area’s Danny O‘Connor (30-3, 11 KOs) at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno. At stake is Ramirez’s WBC World Super Lightweight Title that he won by beating Amir Imam in March at Madison Square Garden.

Although this is a title fight, many are considering it a stepping stone for Ramirez (pictured) who is expected to fight rugged Regis Prograis after he dispatches O’Connor. But Prograis must first get by Juan Jose Velasco (20-0) on July 14.

Ramirez’s level of opposition has been solid; in fact, he counts a KO win over previously unbeaten Mike Reed among his recent victims.

As an amateur, Ramirez represented the U.S at the 2012 Olympics. He is socially conscious, having fought at least six bouts dubbed “Fight for Water” to promote water rights for California farmers. As a son of Mexican immigrants, he also fights for immigration reform. Of his forthcoming fight, he says “I’m blessed to have this opportunity (to defend my title before my home fans). I dedicate this fight to the immigrants that contribute to and make our society a better place. I’m pro-immigrant and proud.” These causes have made him a great draw and the pride of California’s Central Valley.

Danny O’Connor’s amateur record is also impressive as he was the 2007 U.S. Olympic Trials bronze medalist and the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team alternate. A four-time New England Golden Gloves champion, he won the 2008 National Golden Gloves tournament as a light welterweight and compiled a record of 110-11.

Dispensing with trash talk, O’Connor had this to say: “I have been waiting for this opportunity since the day I put my first pair of gloves on. I embrace the chance to do battle with a great warrior such as Jose Ramirez…I believe we have a legitimate shot at winning the world title and fulfilling my lifelong dream…”

In his last fight, on St. Patrick’s Day in Boston, O’Connor rallied from a seventh-round knockdown to win a 10-round unanimous decision over talented Canadian Steve Claggett. That knockdown may have had ominous undertones that track back to 2015 when his career looked all but over following a brutal first-round knockout loss to Gabe Bracero. It’s that loss that makes this upcoming fight complicated for Danny O.


First: 26 of Danny’s 33 fights have been fought in New England where a large contingent of fans from Framingham, MA, is always on hand to chant and cheer for their favorite son. That will not be the case on July 7. He will be loudly booed. By contrast, Ramirez has fought and won in New York, Macau, Las Vegas, and Austin, Texas, among other locales, and his fights recently have drawn large crowds. When he fought Issouf Kinda at the very same Save Mart Center on December 2, 2016, 13,700 fans showed up.

Second:  Ramirez has heavy hands; O’Connor does not. When Danny beat Hector Munoz at Foxwoods in 2013, it was 10 torturous rounds for those spectators who were not from Massachusetts. Luckily, GGG was in the main event. Barring a bad cut, Danny’s chances of stopping Ramirez are somewhere between zero and none.

Third: When the affable and game Irishman from Framingham first fought Brooklyn’s Gabe Bracero at the Event Center in Laredo, Texas in 2011, he was dominated and lost just about every round. Both fighters were undefeated at the time and both had few stoppages on their respective ledgers. In fact, Gabe had only one. The two met again in 2015 in Lowell, MA, and this time the feather-fisted Bracero knocked out Danny with a near decapitation generated by a perfectly timed overhand right not a minute into the first round. The sound of O’Connor’s head bouncing off the canvas was chilling.

Now there are scares and there are scares, but this one had the entire crowd hushed. Bracero was seen praying in his corner. Danny remained on the canvas for several minutes but finally arose to a collective sigh of relief. He had no idea where he was or what had just occurred. (This writer has only witnessed one as frightening and that was when Bruce Finch KOd Javier Ayala at the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas in 1980.) The punch that sedated O’Connor had to be a career-altering one, notwithstanding the fact that Danny came back in a little less than a year and subsequently ran off  four straight wins to earn his title shot against Ramirez.

This time, however, he is up against the best and will need a miracle to fend off the skilled Californian. Stepping stone for Ramirez to Prograis? Absolutely. Mismatch? Quite possibly.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world and is a four-time winner of the EPF’s Grand Master championship. A member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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