Kirkland KOs Berrio

COSTA MESA — Outside of the ring, one undefeated boxer stood in the background. Another fought to stay perfect inside of it.

How James Kirkland and Luis Ramos returned for their next respective fights is far different. The two highlighted a special edition of Fight Club OC, which teamed up with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions for a seven-bout card at OC Fair & Event Center on Friday. The event was before a sold-out crowd of 1,524.

Kirkland and Ramos belong to Golden Boy's camp. The two have not seen much action in the last six months.

Ramos was out during the stretch because of a thumb injury.

Four months ago, Kirkland was locked up.

Fighting for the second time since his release after serving two years for a gun violation of his parole for armed robbery, Kirkland said he had to come out swinging. Most fans understood why Kirkland applied the pressure from the start.

"It's really like a third chance," Kirkland said of his new opportunity.

Kirkland kept winning and so did Ramos. They prevailed in different styles.

Kirkland improved to 27-0 after knocking out Jhon Berrio in the second round of an eight-round super middleweight contest. The knockout was Kirkland's 24th of his career.

Ramos, who is from Santa Ana, is now 18-0. He went the distance with Jose Hernandez in an eight-round junior welterweight match and scored a majority decision.

Kirkland watched Ramos win from afar before he addressed reporters. In many ways, Kirkland believes he is also fighting those who doubt whether he can stay out of trouble.

"I'm a better person as far as a family man," said Kirkland, who has three children and lives in Las Vegas.

"I dealt with a lot of hurt. I dealt with a lot of pain. But it only made me better."

While Kirkland feels better about himself, he said he is fighting at 40%.

It will take time for Kirkland to return to the relentless form that thrilled boxing fans three years ago. He showed signs of his quick hands and power against Berrio.

It was tough at times for Kirkland, who was fighting a boxer as awkward as his first name. Berrio head-butted Kirkland, slapped rather than punched, but Kirkland eventually caught him with a body shot in the second round.

Seconds later, Berrio's knees buckled at the 1:05 mark. He tried to get up, only to fall to his knees again. Before that, Berrio looked over to his corner, where someone rubbed his midsection, possibly signaling for Berrio to stay down.

Kirkland said Berrio did not want anymore.

That was not case when Ramos faced Hernandez of Fort Worth, Texas.

The two went toe-to-toe for eight rounds and it was anybody's fight. Ramos, a 2006 graduate of Santa Ana Valley High, said he felt good about his chances of winning, even after the first judge had it at 76-76. The next two scored the fight, 79-73, 77-75, in favor of Ramos.

Ramos showed rust against Hernandez (10-5-1), whose reach gave Ramos issues.

The opening bout lagged a little behind schedule, but it was worth the wait.

The junior lightweight fight was not only the evening's first for the fans, but it was also the debut of Humberto Zatarain.

Jose Sanchez of Santa Ana tried to ruin it for Zatarain right away. The left-hander knocked Zatarain down with a shot in the first round.

But Zatarain rallied in the next three rounds of a four-round fight and scored a unanimous decision against Sanchez (3-2). All three judges had it at 38-37 in favor of the kid from Whittier.

The following fight featured undefeated Francisco Contreras. The Dominican stayed perfect in the ring and it did not take much for him to improve to 16-0.

Contreras was faster and stronger than his lightweight opponent, Mexico's Adolfo Landeros (19-18-1). He picked up a six-round unanimous decision, not many applauded because not many saw it.

During the fight, most fans had left their seats to grab food and drinks. Had they known, a 25-minute break followed.

When the fans returned, they were treated to the main event fights featuring Kirkland and Ramos.

The other fights included a local in Steffan Lugo, a former Newport Harbor High water polo player. He traded in his Speedos for trunks and won his pro boxing debut in knock-out fashion.

Lugo floored newbie J.J. Ambrose of Lakewood in the third round at 1:49. He had a big crowd for his middleweight fight.

Santa Diego's Antonio Orozco (9-0) recorded his fifth knockout win against Manuel Aguilar (5-2) in the first round of a junior welterweight fight.

Santa Ana's Bobby Chavez notched his first career victory after Steven Rubalcava's corner threw in the towel in the third round of junior middleweight match. Chavez improved to 1-2 and Rubalcava is now 0-3.

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