Describing neighborhood kinship can be difficult to understand. It’s an unspoken bond that exists simply because you lived in the same streets and breathed the same air. Whether you’re a baker, a construction worker or the corner drunk, if you lived in East L.A. then you’re a member of the unofficial geographic fraternity.
Maybe it’s the underlying reason that Julian Ramirez was noticed early in his pro career and signed to a contract by Joel De La Hoya, who is a member of one of the most famous East L.A. families, the De La Hoyas.
“He saw me fight. It was my second fight. After I got dressed he congratulated me on my fight and said he liked the way I fought,” said Ramirez about meeting Joel, the older brother of Oscar De La Hoya. “I was kind of surprised. It felt good that he wanted to manage me. I was kind of shocked and happy.”
Ramirez (9-0, 6 Kos) has boxing royalty backing but still has to do the fighting. On Jan. 24, he faces prospect destroyer Derrick Wilson (10-5-2, 3 Kos) at Fantasy Springs Casino. The Golden Boy Promotions card will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes.
Wilson has five losses but it’s the wins that concern Ramirez. A number of those wins have come against guys that were the heavy favorites and undefeated fighters with almost a dozen wins each.
“It’s not an easy fight. He pulls off upsets. He upset Charles Huerta and Braulio Santos. He’s going to try and pull off the upset with me,” says Ramirez, 20, who fights at junior featherweight. “Golden Boy is, I guess, trying to test me. I know he’s a good fighter and I’m ready for him.”
The left-handed kid from East L.A. has a couple of key ingredients that De La Hoya spotted early on.
“Julian is a little beast. He can hit like a mule,” said De La Hoya. “He’s a hard worker with nine wins and six or seven knockouts.”
De La Hoya knows the boxing journey is at its early stages for young Ramirez, but the path was mapped out early by guys like his brother Oscar, who wasn’t coddled with push-overs in his early career. It’s the East L.A. youngster’s third year as a pro. Dangerous fighters like Wilson are necessary.
Ramirez grew up in the Boyle Heights area of East L.A., just east of the Los Angeles River near Aliso Village. Sports of any kind were always in his blood; “whatever season” he would partake in that season’s sport, from baseball, basketball, football to go-cart racing.
“My dad was a mechanic,” Ramirez says. “I used to race go-carts in Fontana on the weekends. My dad had a truck and we would go with the go-carts and race in tournaments.”
Boxing was not on his mind until he ran into cousins who were heavily involved in the sport. He was 11 years old and liked the idea of one-on-one battling.
“On the first day I sparred with my cousin. I was always competing and I really wanted to win a trophy,” Ramirez says. “Some of the boxers I was around who are now pros are Joel Diaz, Saul Rodriguez, and Joseph Diaz. Victor Pasillas, I grew up with him in the gym for three years, we went to all the tournaments. Lot of the guys are pros now and doing good.”
That first amateur bout remains a big memory for Ramirez.
“Everybody thought I was going to lose. But I stopped the guy in my first fight. I got a little belt it was a state championship,” remembers Ramirez. “My dad had money, I had the belt and I had a Rolex on me. That was my highlight. I got hooked. My uncles gave me money. They took me out to buy Jordans and it was a big thing. I liked the love and that was it. I got hooked.”
But as much as he loves boxing, the carefree life of an amateur athlete has disappeared with the year 2011. No longer does he play basketball at a moment’s notice or head to Tommy’s Hamburgers in the dead of night.
“I used to sneak out with the car and go to King Tacos or go to Tommy’s,” confesses Ramirez. “I would take my dad’s Mustang and put it in neutral and take off to Tommy’s, sometimes by myself and sometimes with friends.”
Not anymore. He’s a professional now.
“Boxing used to be super fun, it’s still fun, but before I was in high school, I would go play basketball or a soccer game. But now, it’s like this is your job you got to take care of yourself,” says Ramirez, wisely.
2014 will prove to be the pivotal year for Ramirez, according to manager De La Hoya.
“Some time in the next year a regional title. He’s progressing very well. It’s just a matter of time. He has a lot of boxing IQ,” said De La Hoya in early December. “He loves watching old videos and picking up styles from old fighters. But most important…he’s got that killer instinct.”
The days of winning trophies are gone, but he still has dreams of winning title belts. Capturing a world title is the ultimate goal but even more, he wants to be a fan magnet.
“I want to be known by fans that say he’s a fighter that’s not scared. He goes in there for the kill. If he wins or loses he will give you everything,” Ramirez says. “As a fan I think of fighters that have heart and give everything. That’s what I like in a fighter.”
De La Hoya knows a beast when he sees one.
“Some guys just love to fight,” he said.
Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?