Jose Ramirez is trying to become a world champion and a champion for his neighbors.
In front of 13,838 Saturday night at Save Mart Center, the 2012 U.S. Olympian from Central California said he savored the butterflies that came from cheers at his introduction, making quick work of previously unbeaten opponent Mike Reed.
Ramirez (21-0, 16 knockouts) unleashed multiple second-round flurries on Reed that led to two knockdowns before referee Jack Reiss stepped in to stop the super-lightweight bout before a third knockdown was delivered.
Some proceeds from ticket sales for the “Fight for Water” card were set aside to support a Ramirez-aided push to convince the California State Water Resources Control Board to use existing bond money for the construction of a reservoir/dam south of Fresno that could help reduce the area’s vulnerability from another drought.
Suddenly, both of Ramirez’s aspirations seem within reach. “Walking to the crowd was unbelievable. The crowd really helped and motivated me. Some guys might fight stiff, but it’s a positive advantage for me,” Ramirez said afterward.
His victory clinches more of the same — for a world title. Ramirez’s promoter, Top Rank, has agreed in principle to stage a bout for the vacant World Boxing Council 140-pound title against Amir Imam Feb. 16 at the Fresno arena.
Raised in the Central California town of Avenal, where he previously picked bell peppers, Ramirez basked in the warmth and quickly ensured Reed (23-1) would suffer his first loss by hammering the smaller fighter with debilitating power blows to the body and head.
“Most people underestimate my speed and defense, but they don’t understand it until they’re in front of me. I showed tonight what I mean by that,” Ramirez said.
He said a double jab struck Reed on the temple.
“I noticed his legs wobbled and I went, ‘OK, he’s had enough.’ Then I started landing those body shots. Maybe in some of my fights, I left doubt, but I’ve been dropping everyone,” Ramirez said.
Reed then went to the canvas face-first on the second knockdown. On the ropes, Reed fell back as the battering continued before the stoppage.
The 140-pound belt was made available by unbeaten former four-belt champion Terence Crawford’s move to welterweight.
Ramirez’s bout was preceded by a technical-knockout triumph by Imam (20-1, 17 KOs) after referee Eddie Hernandez Sr. stopped Imam’s opponent, Johnny Garcia (19-6-1), from answering the bell for the fifth round due to previous punishment.
In the co-main event, Russia’s Artur Beterbiev rode his strength and power-punching advantages to a 12th-round knockout victory over Germany’s reluctant Enrico Koelling to win the vacant International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title.