The homecoming is almost here. WBC super lightweight champion Jose Ramirez will make the first defense of his title against Danny O'Connor on Saturday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, a short drive from Ramirez's hometown of Avenal.
Ramirez-O'Connor and the 10-round welterweight showdown between Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Juan Carlos Abreu will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.
The entire undercard will be shown on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. and includes heavyweight contender Andy Ruiz Jr. (30-1, 20 KOs) against Kevin Johnson (32-9-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-rounder, undefeated Andy Vences (20-0-1, 12 KOs) versus Frank De Alba (22-3-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super featherweight fight, and 18-year-old wunderkind Gabe Flores Jr. (8-0, 5 KOs) against James De Herrera (4-3, 3 KOs) in a six-round lightweight contest.
This is what the fighters had to say.
“It has been a beautiful experience since I became a world champion. I’m very thankful for all the blessings. I’m a very thankful person and I hope I make everybody proud as a champion. My fans have seen me grow as a fighter.”
“This was my dream. Since I was little, I wanted to become a world champion and then be able to defend the title in front of the fans of the Central Valley. That is happening on Saturday.”
“As a fighter, I want to learn more and more. I want to keep sharpening my craft. I want to become a complete fighter and now even more that I’m a world champion. I’m ready to fight the best champions and get all the doubts out of the way as to who is the best fighter in the division.”
Robert García (Trainer, Jose Ramirez)
“This is our first fight working together and I don’t want José to change much. This fight will be similar to what people have seen. I think that the fans will start to notice the adjustments we have worked on after our second training camp together. We will have more time to work.”
“We have to put pressure on O’Connor and we have to go to the body. Those are two things that Jose has been very good at during his whole career.”
“His left hook to the body is very strong, but his left jab is the strongest jab I have ever felt.”
“There are always fireworks every time that Jose fights, but being that this is the Fourth of July weekend, the fireworks are going to be even better.”
“I have no pressure of coming into his backyard to fight him. I’m a firefighter and I run into burning buildings. There is no pressure whatsoever. At the end of the day, it is going to be just him and me inside the ring. I understand that the crowd will be cheering for him because this is his hometown, but that doesn’t rattle me. I’m here to do what I do. This is just another boxing match and it could be on Mars for all that I care. I’m going to leave Fresno with the WBC super lightweight world title.”
“The fans can expect a great fight from me on Saturday. Every time I get in the ring, I try to give the fans an entertaining fight. I want to show them what I can do. Even though I’m always smiling; I’m very mean in the ring. That is why they call me ‘The Mean Machine’.”
“I feel that I’m ready to challenge for a world title. Challenging the winner of Pacquiao vs. Matthysse will be a dream come true."
“I know I’m fighting a very tough opponent in Frank De Alba. He is someone that I definitely will not overlook. I’m focused on the fight and I’m ready to show who ‘El Tiburón’ is.”
On His Draw Against Erick De Léon
“That was a very tough fight, but I still think that I won the fight. I already put that in the past. That is why this Saturday everyone will see how much I have improved as a fighter.”
Gabe Flores Jr.
“I want to keep growing and improving as a fighter. This is a sport that you have to take seriously. And I do. I eat, sleep, everything is boxing. For this fight, we worked a lot on our footwork. We will use that to attack in angles.”
“I’ve been training with Manny Robles at Legendz Boxing Gym in Norwalk, California. I feel great there. I feel that my style and Manny's style is a perfect combination.”
“I want to fight all the big names out there. The more fights I get, the better I will get. It is about time I battle one of those big names in the heavyweight division again. It is my turn this Saturday to put on a good show and move on to bigger fights. I’m ready.”