After focus on mental health, Gilberto Ramirez loves boxing again

The first time he fought here, in 2014, Gilberto “Zordo” Ramirez was named a rising star. At twenty-three, he was undefeated, tall, athletic and graceful. He had the good looks of Hollywood and the talent to back it up.

His promoter compared him to Carlos Monzon, one of the greatest middleweights of all time. Today, as Ramirez prepares to fight in San Antonio for the second time, not much seems to have changed. However, in a sense, he has it all.

He’s still chasing the world championship belt, but more than that, Ramirez is pursuing a dream.

“I think I am more mature now. I feel more comfortable with who I am as a person and I feel grateful for what I have.” “I didn’t always like boxing, but now I do. It has changed. I want to be at my best.”

Saturday night, Ramirez (42-0, 28 KOs) faces Cuban veteran Yoneske Gonzalez (21-3, 17 KOs), in the WBA Light Heavyweight Championship elimination at AT&T Center.

The match, scheduled for 12 rounds, is one of three tournaments to be broadcasted live on DAZN (8pm).

Saturday’s bottom card includes San Antonio welterweight Kendo Castaneda (17-4, 8 KOs) taking on Raul Curiel (10-0, 8 KOs) of Mexico in a 10-round match for the NABF 147-pound title.

For Mexican Ramirez, 30, the climb was long and fruitful, but it wasn’t always easy or satisfying.

He was born in Mazatlan, a port city in Sinaloa known for its beaches and warm, sunny climate, but also home to many of the country’s most notorious drug gangs. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested there.

“Kill or be killed, that’s the law of the neighborhood,” Ramirez said. “I chose boxing because I had to learn how to fight in the street in order to survive.”

He lost his first seven fights as an amateur, leading to a slow rise through pros who fought mostly in small shows in his native Mazatlan, where he made a name for himself.

Lefty, or “zordo” in Spanish, was 25-0 before his first fight in the United States. In February 2014 he fought in Texas for the first time (Larido) and later that year ousted Fulgencio Zuniga in front of a crowd of just 1,500 spectators at the Alamodom’s Theater of Illusions.

It took some time for Ramirez’s reputation outside of Mexico to build, and it never quite lived up to expectations. His compatriot Canelo Alvarez became the sport’s premiere superstar, leaving Ramirez in his star-studded wake.

Ramirez unbalanced Arthur Abraham in 2016 to win the WBO super middleweight title. But after five successful title defenses at £168, Top Rank and promoter Bob Arum cut him short after a contract dispute.

Arum claims that Ramirez and manager David Suh overestimated the value of the fighter, and sought $5 million in “Canelo money” to fight as well as partner in promotions.

“We gave him chances, but he didn’t resonate with the Mexicans after coming to us with a solid career,” Carl Moretti, Vice President of First Division, told The Athletic.

Ramirez has become a kind of cautionary tale for fighters who are constantly on the hunt for the best he has to offer.

But Ramirez and Suh denied the allegations of Top Rank.

“Saying we were asking for Canelo money is out of the question,” Suh said. “For us, we just wanted something fair. We tried to meet. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

After severing ties with Top Rank, Ramirez signed with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions.

“He’s been great to work with, no issues whatsoever,” Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said of Ramirez. “What we love about him the most is that he wants to fight the best opponents out there. This makes our job a lot easier.”

Ramirez signed with Golden Boy because they “felt like a big family.”

As painful as the transition from Top Rank to Golden Boy was for Ramirez, the fighter said it helped him grow.

After leaving Top Rank, Ramirez was without a contract when the pandemic hit. Compare feeling during the peak of COVID to being alone and being away in the ocean. Lost.

“I was depressed and worried because I wasn’t fighting,” Ramirez said. I felt empty. I felt lonely. I was in a dark place. I had to look at myself.”

What he discovered surprised him. He found that he “didn’t really like boxing” and treated it as a job.

He has worked to become bilingual and speaks English as well as Spanish at press conferences. He made a concerted effort to appear more open and confident to help his promotion.

Finally, he turned to yoga and daily meditation to give him peace of mind in an uphill sport. He says the attention he paid to his mental health has paid off.

“After COVID, I love boxing now,” he said. “I was a champion but I felt empty. I am more passionate about it now. I realized I wanted to stay in boxing even after my retirement.”

If the 36-year-old gets past Gonzalez on Saturday, he wants a showdown against Russian WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitri Bevol and perhaps eventually a shot at Canelo.

“I want to be the best fighter in the world,” Ramirez said. “I know it will take some time. But I believe you can do anything in life if you learn and keep growing.”

Twitter: @johnfwhisler

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