Urged on by hometown crowd, Jose Ramirez rallies for majority decision vs. Jose Zepeda

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Jose  Ramirez (R) rallied for a majority decision victory vs. Jose Zepeda to retain his WBC super lightweight title on Sunday, Feb. 10 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)
Jose Ramirez (R) rallied for a majority decision victory vs. Jose Zepeda to retain his WBC super lightweight title on Sunday, Feb. 10 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

The WBC title that Jose Ramirez dreamed so long of strapping around his waist, and which he bled and sweat so much to get, was slipping from his grasp Sunday as upstart challenger Jose Zepeda was outboxing him in their battle for the super lightweight title before a partisan sell-out crowd of 14,034 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.

Ramirez did what champions do, though: He closed the show. Urged on by an adoring hometown crowd that sensed his title in jeopardy, Ramirez won the 12th round on all three judges’ scorecards and won five of the final six on two of the three scorecards to come from behind and retain his title with a majority decision.

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Judge Reynate Danseco had it a draw, 114-114, like Yahoo Sports. He was overruled by judge Chris Tellez, who had it 116-112, and Glenn Trowbridge, who had it 115-113. Both had it in favor of Ramirez, who improved to 24-0.

No matter the outcome of the 12th, Ramirez would have kept the belt, but it would have been a draw if Zepeda won what was a spirited final round on all three judges’ cards.

In a fight this close, any little edge matters and both fighters noted the crowd support in favor of Ramirez was a factor.

Jose Ramirez, I think his people helped him a little bit,” Zepeda said. “If it were me and my people were cheering me, I would have had a little extra motivation. A little bit, at least. But he’s a tough fighter. I knew I had to come in here with conditioning and yeah, I think maybe that’s what it was: I was a little short on conditioning.”

“I felt very motivation by the crowd cheering me on throughout the program,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez turned the fight in his favor by going hard to Zepeda’s body, which clearly slowed him. Zepeda was boxing wisely and piling up the points, avoiding Ramirez’s harder shots.

But when Ramirez sensed he was behind, he went to the body and it slowed Zepeda, and also opened him for clean rights up top from the champion.

Zepeda became an easier target to hit as the fight wore down and he was slowed by Ramirez’s body work. In the first six rounds, Ramirez never landed more than 17 punches in a single round. Over the last six according to CompuBox, he never landed fewer than 18 and connected on 20 and 25 in the last two rounds when the title was up for grabs.

“He was a very tough and smart southpaw,” Ramirez said. “He came well prepared. He kept a good range and distance. That made it a tough, close fight, but I think I pulled it off in the championship rounds. I landed the most effective punches.”

The co-main event was a spectacular battle in which former lightweight champion Ray Beltran and Hiroki Okada landed bombs on each other for the better part of nine rounds. Beltran, though, had the heavier hands and in the end, his power and pressure won out over Okada’s boxing skills.

Beltran knocked Okada down in the second and then again in the ninth, before finishing him with a flurry at 2:09 of the ninth. A member of Okada’s corner jumped on the apron and asked referee Jack Reiss to stop the bout.

That brought an end to an entertaining battle in which Beltran gave as good as he took for much of the bout, but earned a much-needed win. He moved to super lightweight for this fight after losing his lightweight title to Jose Pedraza in August.

Beltran landed 154 of 453 punches, including 145 of 403 power shots, according to CompuBox. In the end, the power on Beltran’s punches wore Okada down.

“I was trying to adapt to his style, and his jab was a major punch for him,” Beltran said. “I knew I had to neutralize his jab and I had to stay close to him and not let him work.”

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