Fight Preview: Ramirez vs. Hooker, Farmer vs. Frenois


By: Robert Aaron Contreras

This Saturday, on DAZN, a unification is at hand between WBC beltholder Jose Carlos Ramirez and WBO claimant Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker. This despite the the heavy criticism both men faced for not joining the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).

So while the WBSS finale between fellow junior welterweight champions Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor remains in limbo, the title staged is being propped up in Arlington, Texas—not far from Dallas where Hooker was a touted amateur fighter.

Ramirez vs. Hooker, 140-pound unification

Undefeated in 53 fights between them, both men regrettably turned in iffy performances earlier this year.

Hooker, for one, admitted in March to not taking seriously his challenger Mikkel LesPierre. As a result, it took the 29-year-old defending champ three attempts on the scales before finally hitting the 140-pound mark.

In Hooker’s defense—literally—LesPierre hardly edged a single round. Hooker turned him away by wide margins, befuddling the challenger at the end of his own 80-inch reach. The Texas-born boxer repeatedly straightened out his jab into LesPierre, peppering the New York transplant up and down. Mostly down, with a keen focus on setting up left hooks to the body.

A left hand from Hooker to the liver in the ninth round resulted in the only official knockdown. But additionally in the fifth stanza, a combination wobbled LesPierre, eventually falling to the canvas in a delayed reaction, which referee Benjy Esteves inexplicably called a slip.

Nonetheless, Hooker only gave up three rounds across all three judges’ scorecards. It was a dominant outing following a melee with Alex Saucedo, a finely-tuned combination puncher. Hooker was nearly finished in the second round by Saucedo. Hooker though finally got to his man, and pelted him down in the fateful seventh round.

It was a bruising display for a man with a frame such that it might suggest he can only box and move, relying on his gigantic arms that often make for awkward inside-punching sequences. But hanging back and utilizing his cartoonish length is never a bad plan either. His reach is without a doubt the longest of any high-level junior welterweight and lengthier than even heavyweights like Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz.

Andy Ruiz Jr., of course, proved the shorter—less imposing—man can always prevail. Ramirez will try to turn the same trick.

In addition to a unification, this weekend also represents Ramirez’s third title defense. He is unbeaten since turning professional in 2012. His has been a natural development in California, becoming a hit in his native Fresno. So much so Hooker reportedly wanted no part in fighting in his opponent’s domain, per BoxingScene.

Ramirez, though, had no problem traveling to Texas or even New York where he triumphed over Albany, NY’s own Amir Imam. In 2018, the visiting fighter earned the WBC belt, bullying Imam en route to a decision victory.

Ramirez, 26, secured his next two title defenses back home in Fresno. First he banged up the world-rated Antonio Orozco for a points win. His second defense against the excellent southpaw Jose Zepeda was not as easy as Ramirez escaped with a split-decision.

Zepeda however had never before been decisively beaten. A perennial contender, the Mexican challenger is not just a tricky southpaw but one with power, to boot. Ramirez experienced that firsthand, hardly landing cleanly on Zepeda. But the champion’s output was just enough to nick the rounds he needed. Fights at the elite level tend to be tit for tat. This one could have went either way.

Ramirez in proving he could pull himself out of a tough go and win big fights was the real takeaway.

Tevin Farmer vs. Guillaume Frenois, 130-pound title fight

Interestingly enough, both men here are coming off fighting the same opponent: Jono Carroll.

Frenois, a 35-year-old Frenchman, took on Carroll first. The two met last December in an eliminator for Farmer’s belt. Carroll, of Ireland—sporting too thick a beard for a boxing match that typically requires shaving down such facial hair—took an early lead. Frenois though bided his time, riding his bicycle, until Carroll’s barnstorming assault simmered down. As Carroll’s stalking approach became less creative, the French boxer applied a nice jab fighting in reverse to take back the second half of the bout.

The two settled for a split-draw, a reasonable decision.

Farmer’s time with Carroll was not any more fun. In March, the 28-year-old American headlined his first show on DAZN. It doubled as a homecoming defense in his native Philadelphia—a welcome occasion after lifting the strap in enemy territory over the Australian Billy Dib.

Carroll again got off to an early lead and by the end threw over 1,000 punches the champion’s way. The scrappy challenger ended up pushing Farmer the distance. Farmer was miserably unmotivated to fire back through the early-to-middle stages. But he turned it up in the final handful of rounds: clearly beating Carroll to the punch: clearly a combatant built for the championship distance.

Farmer has only punched in six knockouts in his 34-bout career. His fists were still mighty enough in 2018 to take out a puncher like James Tennyson by fifth-round TKO, focusing on piercing his challenger’s midsection. Farmer’s punch selection was daunting, adapting to lack of freak physical traits and relying on accuracy which matters most when dishing out liver shots. Farmer has always been one for adapting, developing over his career from an 8-4-1 club fighter, to a surging world champion, unconquered since 2013.

Frenois, far older than Farmer, is similarly a southpaw and undefeated since 2013 all the same. Amid his 15-fight win streak, the French stylist claimed in 2016 the European title, decisioning Samir Ziani, who remains Top 15 by multiple sanctioning bodies.

Two title defenses of the Euro belt followed before Frenoi left his beloved France for Yorkshire in the United Kingdom to pair off with Carroll.

Now Frenois has at last a crack at the world level. Few expect him to outduel his fellow southpaw. But a touch taller than Farmer, with a reliable chin to take whatever the champ has, it is not an impossible scenario.

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