Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis update
By Chris Williams: WBC light welterweight champion Jose Ramirez and WBC interim 140lb champion Regis Prograis won’t be fighting each other next unfortunately. Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs), who is promoted by Top Rank, will be defending against WBC rated #21 Danny O’Connor (30-3, 11 KOs) on July 7 on Top Rank Boxing on ESPN at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, California.
Ramirez vs. O’Connor will be the main event on the ESPN card on July 7. It’s unclear why Top Rank has decided to match Ramirez against a non-contender. There are a lot of contenders in the WBC’s top 15 that would have been a far better option than O’Connor, who has been beaten in the past by Gabriel Bracero and Vivian Harris.
Those two fighters were both up there in age when they beat O’Connor. Harris beat O’Connor by a 10 round split decision in October 2014. Bracero stopped O’Connor in the 1st round in October 2015. O’Connor has won his last four fights since then in beating these fighters:
• Steve Claggett (26-5-1)
• Daniel Gonzalez (15-1-1)
• Michael McLaughlin (12-2-1)
• Jerry Thomas (13-1-1)
Prograis (21-0, 18 KOs) and his management wanted to fight Ramirez right away after the Louisiana native won the interim WBC 140 lb. title last March with a 2nd round stoppage of former IBF/WBA light welterweight champion Julius Indongo, but Top Rank wanted to let the Ramirez-Prograis fight marinate before making the fight. So, instead of Ramirez facing Prograis next, he’ll be facing non-top 15 ranked fighter O’Connor. You can’t exactly call O’Connor a contender at this time, because he’s not ranked in the top 15, but the World Boxing Council will probably take care of that by giving him a top 15 ranking very soon.
Prograis will be fighting one week after Ramirez on July 14 against possibly unbeaten Juan Jose Velasco (19-0, 11 KOs) in the main event on ESPN at the Lakefront Arena at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana. The 31-year-old Argentinian Velasco needs to win his 8 round fight tonight against Jorge Martin Garcia (12-5-1, 3 KOs) in Buenos Aires for him to get the match against Prograis on July 14. Velasco isn’t ranked in the top 50 by the WBC. It’s less of a big deal though, because Prograis isn’t a world champion yet. He’s still just the interim WBC 140lb. champion.
Prograis is expected to enter the World Boxing Super Series light welterweight tournament if he gets past Velasco on July 14. Prograis could pick up the IBF and WBA 140lb titles in the WBSS tournament, and have those belts when he attempts to face Ramirez next year. If Prograis enters the WBSS tourney, then there’s no way he’ll be able to face Ramirez in 2018. The fight will need to wait until the WBSS tournament is done before Prograis and Ramirez can face each other.
Ramirez, 25, won the vacant WBC 140lb title in beating Amir Imam (21-2, 18 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision on March 17 on ESPN. Ramirez and the 29-year-old Prograis were supposed to be fighting each other next, but the promoters for the two fighters, Todd duBoef of Top Rank and Lou Dibella chose to let the Ramirez-Prograis fight marinate until the summer, according to Dan Rafael.
The fight could potentially be a little bit bigger by then. However, with the match-making that’s being done by Top Rank for Ramirez and with the making that’s being done by Prograis’s promoter, it’s highly unlikely that the Ramirez-Prograis fight will be substantially bigger. For the fight to get bigger, Ramirez ad Prograis will need to be fighting quality opposition that the boxing fans have heard of. Ramirez’s title defense against O’Connor and Prograis’ fight against the equally little known Velasco are not big enough fights to make their match into a big fight.
“It’s a great fight now. We want it to be a great event as well,” duBoef said to ESPN.com about the Ramirez vs. Prograis fight. “The scenario we like is two young guys building momentum and using the upcoming fights to showcase themselves and make their fight much bigger. We want it to be more than just a great fight. We want it to be a big fight, which is what the sport needs.”
The way to make the Ramirez vs. Prograis fight into a bigger affair is to match them against good opponents until they face each other. It doesn’t look good that O’Connor has suffered recent losses to Vivian Harris and Gabriel Brocero. Prograis’ opponent 31-year-old Velasco hasn’t yet suffered a loss with a record of 19-0, but he’s about to turn 32-years-old this month and he’s been facing poor opposition since he turned pro in 2014.
Velasco’s age and record suggest that he’s going to be way over his head when he gets inside the ring with Prograis. Some boxing fans believe Top Rank don’t want to match Ramirez against Prograis at all, period, because they want to try and turn him into star the easy way by matching him against soft opposition on ESPN without taking risks by matching him against guys that can fight like Prograis. We’ll have to see whether that turns out to be the case.
I don’t think it’s possible to turn a fighter into a star the easy way by putting them in against poor opposition. Look at Top Rank fighter Gilberto “Zurdo’ Ramirez, who holds the WBO 168lb. title. Top Rank promotes Ramirez, and they’ve been feeding him mediocre opposition for the most part since he won the WBO 168lb title two years ago, and he still hasn’t increased his popularity. Top Rank had the chance to enter Ramirez in the World Boxing Super Series tournament, but instead chose to keep him out of the tourney, matching him against little known contender Habib Ahmed.
Gilberto Ramirez will next be fighting another little known contender in Roamer Alexis Angulo on June 30. If Top Rank took a risk with Gilberto Ramirez by throwing him in with George Groves, Callum Smith and David Benavidez, he’d have a much better chance of becoming a star in a hurry. I think we’re seeing the same thing now with the way Top Rank is matching WBC light welterweight champion Jose Ramirez.
It would be better for Top Rank to have him fight Prograis right now rather than waiting for nothing while matching him up against fighters not even ranked in the top 20. The good thing that about Ramirez fighting Prograis now is Top Rank could stick them in against each other 3 or 4 times, as long as he’s not beaten badly in the first fight.