Gilberto Ramirez knows what it means for his close friends Oscar Valdez and Jessie Magdaleno to fight near their training home Saturday with world-title belts, but he's also competitive enough to raise the stakes on them.
"I want to steal the show," Ramirez said this week about the pay-per-view boxing card at StubHub Center starring promoter Bob Arum's self-described "Three Amigos."
Ramirez (34-0, 24 knockouts) is a 25-year-old World Boxing Organization super-middleweight champion from Mazatlan, Mexico, with model looks and a chance to emerge as Gennady Golovkin’s next opponent if
"[Golovkin] is waiting for Canelo. I don't think that [Canelo] wants to take a fight with Triple-G," Ramirez said. "First things first for me on Saturday, but I want to keep winning and … I want to make that [Golovkin] fight happen."
Ramirez's first title defense is against an Eastern European, like Golovkin, in Ukraine's Maxim Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs), who'd like to impose his strength on the young champion who shed most of his pretty boy image by dominating rugged veteran Arthur Abraham last April.
An injured right hand forced an extended layoff for Ramirez, but he said the hand "is 100% recovered. I don't feel pain. I feel better than before and I can hit really hard.
"The time is now. My team and I worked hard on that [Abraham] fight, and we became the champion of the world [by three 120-108 scores]. I'm again excited to show everyone how much I've trained."
Former Mexican Olympian Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs) makes his second WBO featherweight title defense atop the card against his mandatory challenger, Miguel Marriaga.
Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) will be making his first WBO super-bantamweight title defense against Brazil's Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs).
"We're excited to show everybody why we're going to continue to be a champion," Magdaleno said. "Every title test is difficult. Every fighter is dangerous at this level. I remain inspired to keep holding on to the belt. Each time I open that case and see that belt, it's motivating."
Both Valdez, 26, and Magdaleno, 25, are cornered by Southland trainer Manny Robles, who was edged out as 2016 trainer of the year by Shane McGuigan despite guiding Magdaleno to a victory over veteran Nonito Donaire.
Robles, 46, a former fighter groomed by his late father-trainer, Manny Sr., at hallowed training grounds like Azteca Gym in Bell, said building "a relationship, trust, working as hard as they do right alongside them," has spawned deep belief from Valdez and Magdaleno.
"It's about trying to be the best in the world," Robles said of his fighters' mind-sets. "Oscar and Jessie haven't reached their full potential. There's a lot more room for growth, and I don't think I'm ever satisfied."
The fighters train at the Rock in Carson, the same facility Ramirez has worked out of in the past.
Valdez said the trio's bond toward a common goal is uplifting, whether it be their mutual willpower to avoid pizza as a weight-cut looms to cracking jokes as the fatiguing chores of training lead to exhaustion.
"It's a great environment, great motivation," Valdez said. "I see 'Zurdo' [Ramirez] do 10 rounds, I want to do 11. I want them to win, so then we can all go out and get pizza."
Oscar Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs), Lake Elsinore, vs. Miguel Marriaga (25-1, 21 KOs), Colombia, for Valdez's WBO featherweight belt
When: Saturday, pay-per-view portion begins at 6 p.m.
Where: StubHub Center
Television: Pay-per-view, $44.95
Tickets: $36.70, $52, $77.50, $128.50 at axs.com, StubHub box office
Gilberto Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs), Mexico, vs. Maxim Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs), Ukraine, for Ramirez's WBO super-middleweight belt; Shakur Stevenson (pro debut), Newark, N.J., vs. Edgar Brito (3-2-1, 2 KOs), Phoenix, featherweights; Jessie Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs), Las Vegas, vs. Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs), Brazil, for Magdaleno's WBO super-bantamweight belt.