Well, with your permission I would like to continue my ongoing series of having a look at young fighters, prospects on the rise and noting the strengths and weaknesses I see in them at this stage in their careers. I have previously done this for Anthony Joshua, the possible heir to the long line of heavyweight greats, light heavyweight prospect Dmitry Bivol and Japanese prodigy (and current WBO minimumweight titleholder) Kosei Tanaka.
Today I want to look at Jose Carlos Ramirez, a former highly accomplished US amateur boxer, who was part of the 2012 Olympic team. After an underwhelming performance in the Olympics, he signed with Top Rank and went to work immediately, competing in the Jr. Welterweight division. Thus far he has compiled a record of 16-0 (12 KOs) and was recently rated as the top prospect at 140 pounds by our own Scott Christ.
Here are some of his fights that I watched in order to get a feel for where he's at in his career:
His 5th pro fight, a 1st punch knockdown and eventually a quick 1st round KO.
His 8th pro fight, a crushing 1st round KO.
His 9th pro fight, again an early KO
His 10th pro fight, yadda yadda early KO (notice a trend?)
His 12th pro fight, and I'm gonna let you guess what round the KO came in
His 14th pro fight, against veteran low-level gatekeeper Robert Frankel, a fight that for a change actually went a few rounds
And this hand-held phone-film from the audience of his most recent bout, where he had a bit of a tough time against veteran prospect-tester Johnny Garcia . By the way, all reports I've read point to that card he headlined drawing a crowd of ... wait for it ... 13,120, which is just WOW!! For a somewhat unknown prospect, Ramirez is just an impressive draw in his region. I think you can count the boxers in the world who draw 13,000 spectators on the fingers of your two hands.
As usual, here is a list of things I noticed, divided into several categories:
The Very Best
1) Putting weight behind punches. Ramirez has been trained to punch with his whole body. For every punch, he torques his whole body, pushes with his legs and puts all possible weight and momentum behind every punch.
2) Keeping a tight form in attack. Ramirez keeps his chin tucked, his body tensed and arched forward and his balance when attacking. He is just a coiled spring at all times, not offering any angles for riposte. He also keeps his right hand up when attacking with his patented "repeated left hooks" attack pattern.
3) Left Hook. Granted, we've only seen it against poor opposition thus far, and he does seem to need at least a certain amount of space to unleash it, but his left hook simply looks like an unlicensed lethal weapon. It is both tremendously fast, accurate, and just sooooo powerful.
4) Overall power. He just wrecks people with his hooks. I would go as far as to suggest that he has even better power than his 75% KO ratio suggests.
5) Speed. I wouldn't call it hand-speed since Ramirez punches more with his body than with his hands, but he does manage to let loose rapid volleys of power punches in succession. He is especially quick at rewinding his upper body and digging in almost immediately from exactly the same angle as the previous shot.
6) Footwork. He has pretty good and tight footwork. He moves with quick, compact steps, keeps his feet firmly planted at all times, even when he's moving, pushes well. I would like to see more circular movement from him, a la Juan Manuel Marquez.
7) Head and upper body movement. Ramirez bobs and weaves incessently, varying position and angle of attack constantly, and because he does this with his earmuffs on and prepares to transform any one of his bobs into a sudden attack, he actually reminds me of a young Mike Tyson in this regard. And like Tyson, he uses this bob-and-weave as a means to explosively close distance for said attack.
8) Body attack. Ramirez wants your body! He especially likes to lower his centre of gravity and put his legs, body and full power into a slightly upward-thrusting left hook to the liver, which he usually doubles up with ferocity.
9) Size. Ramirez is listed at 5′ 10″ (178cm) with a reach of 72½″ (184cm), which would be good-to-excellent size for a Jr. Welterweight. But my eyes tell me he is not as large as listed and his reach might be long but he doesn't use it that well, so the jury is still out regarding how much of an advantage his size is.
10) High guard. He keeps his hands up a lot and he keeps his head down and his chin tucked. Many shots deflect off his guard or the top of his head, which is good. I wouldn't call it textbook, but he clearly shows a preocupation for basic defense.
11) Combination punching. His combinations are not very creative, but at least he throws punches in combinations 90% of the time, which is good.
12) Punch accuracy. It's decent, what more can I say.
The Not So Great But Improving
13) Jab. Ramirez does jab, but not as much as he should. He also rarely puts too much power in his jab. I can only point to this article by Bad Left Hook's Connor Ruebusch, where he argues that an earmuff defense like the one Ramirez uses is not the ideal starting position for initiating offense, or in this case - throwing a quick, effective jab.
14) Stamina. In the Robert Frankel fight, he did not look too good. His body was less than sculpted, he was breathing heavily as early as the end of round one, he was taking breaks between his offensive outbursts and he got hit more than he should have, especially from a distance. He did seem to be doing better in this regard in his December fight against Johnny Garcia.
15) Right Uppercut. In the first 4 bouts I listed, I did not see him throw one teeny-tiny right uppercut. In his last two he was at least attempting one or two here or there. So somebody somewhere started working with him on that.
16) Defensive concentration when not attacking. As tight as his guard looks when he is attacking, it is kind of lax when he is just lumbering on the outside catching his breath. I have seen both long, predictable jabs find their way to his forehand, and more worringly, lead right hands. He also does not seem to know how to parry or deflect shots.
17) Punching on the fly. Ramirez is used to putting his body into all of his shots, which means that if he is not in a perfect position to throw a punch, he doesn't throw it. This sounds good, but it has its drawbacks as well. His combination punching suffers as a consequence: he doesn't throw volleys of alternating punches when punching in combination because he needs to reset his feet/stance for every individual punch of the combination, instead of just immediately unleashing a second punch from the position his previous punch left him. This actually translates into another problem:
18) Predictability. Because he winds up for every punch, an experienced opponent can guess exactly what punch is coming by the way he starts moving his body. For instance, in most of his combinations, he relatively quickly winds up leaning onto the left side of his body and here's the catch: from the moment he has tilted his body to the left, he is guaranteed to only throw left hooks or left uppercuts whereas his right hand becomes a bystander. This makes it much easier to defend against him. Also, he never feints. Every body movement of his ends in a punch. No chance of throwing his opponent off his position.
19) Inside fighting or outside fighting. Ramirez does not seem profficient in fighting or picking off his opponents from a distance. He needs to get closer to get full leverage on his hooks. But once inside, if he runs into an opponent who can hold, wrestle or punch back (like Johnny Garcia), he has difficulty generating the daylight he needs to unleash his power. Actually, come to think of it, better fighters seem to need a lot less room to let go of their hands, whereas Ramirez has this sort of preferred sweet spot he needs to get himself into to be fully effective. I have seen vagure signs of improvement in both his outside and inside fighting, so we'll see.
The Downright Horrible
20) Professional experience. Because he knocks people out so quickly, Ramirez has been in a professional ring far fewer rounds than his 16 fights might suggest. Also, somewhat characteristically, Top Rank has been feeding him poor opposition thus far. The first halfway decent fighter he faced knocked him down, gave him trouble and lasted all 8 rounds with him. So I think there are definitely grounds to suspect that the lack of challenging fights is not fully preparing him for the championship level.
21) that evolving God-awful David Lemieux hair. Maybe it's the hair, but I really do see a lot of David Lemieux in Ramirez, what with the one-dimensional but exceptional power punching and all.
Whoever developed Ramirez as an amateur did a good job, as he has good fundamentals (punch technique, footwork, guard, balance) to go along with his spectacular power and aggression. So the tools are there to work with, but to get to the championship level, somebody needs to help him vary his offense. Right now, he has taken out all of his opponents exactly the same way: repeated left hooks to the body or head from the same exact position of leverage, leaning towards his left side. Take that one thing away from him, and he might just be in a world of trouble.
It's also worth noting that the Jr. Welterweight division is usually pretty stacked with prospects or solid gatekeepers, as it's somewhat of a natural size/weight for most humans who are very young and very fit and who are not gravitating towards sports that require great size or great length (basketball, football, swimming, track & field). A solid world-level gatekeeper like Mauricio Herrera would probably take Ramirez's lunch money right about now. I happen to think that of all the prospects I've reviewed so far, Ramirez is farthest away from contention, not because he has many things to fix, but because the specific things he needs to work on are more subtle, and because I have seen very little progress in the fights I've watched.
I noticed that there has been a change in trainers in his corner, which is actually exactly what I would have suggested as he needs to start working more on the tactical, rather than the technical side. I am not sold that Freddy Roach is the correct choice, but I am willing to take a wait-and-see approach.