By Eric Lunger
Jose Ramírez is easy to like – a 2012 Olympian, a fighter who brings an exciting come-forward style to the ring, and a man who supports his central California roots with more than just talk. Tonight’s card on ESPN from the Save Mart Center on the campus of Fresno State was not only the seventh “Fight for Water Rights,” an event that raises money and awareness for the California Latino Water Coalition, it was also a great night of action. Ramírez (20-0, 15 KOs) risked his mandatory position for the WBC super lightweight belt against a very technically proficient southpaw in Maryland’s Mike “Yes Indeed” Reed (23-0, 12 KOs), while much avoided knockout puncher Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) took on Enrico Kölling (23-1, 6 KOs) of Germany for the IBF light heavyweight title, recently vacated by Andre Ward.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Promotions
Having grown up in central California, Ramírez has remained connected to the community both as a citizen and a professional boxer. The 13,838 fans in the arena were, predictably, loud and passionate as Ramírez made his way to the ring. Reed gave up four inches in height and almost six inches in reach, but the Waldorf, MD, native came into the proverbial lion’s den with a plan to box and weather the early storm.
Both fighters were active in the first round, with Ramírez doing better work, especially with left hooks to the body. Reed, as is his way, was calm and poised, maintaining his defense and countering when and where he could.
In the second, Reed’s lead right hook caught Ramírez coming in, but then Ramírez — just as suddenly — caught Reed with a short right hand, hurting him and forcing a knock down. Reed took the count, but was still in trouble. After a second knockdown, and with 1:17 to go in the round, referee Jack Reiss, after watching Ramírez unload on Reed for about ten seconds straight, waved the fight off. Just like that, and on one punch, Ramírez seized control and gave Reed no chance to regain his equilibrium.
In the co-main event, Russian-born, Montréal based Artur Beterbiev came into the ring with record of eleven knockouts in eleven pro fights. In a cautious and uneventful bout, the Russian dominated every round. Kölling took few risks, fought with a high guard, and was on his back foot the whole night. For his part, Beterbiev was content to score with his jab, offering little variety in the way of offense.
Only in the twelfth round did Beterbiev put his motor into a high gear. He began to let his hands go in earnest and, with 40 seconds left, he knocked Kölling down twice. The referee waved the fight off without administering a count, a bit of a gift to Beterbiev, who thus keeps his knockout streak.
You know that feeling when you watch a professional and exploratory first round? Both fighters just getting their range and maybe trying to figure out a few things about the other guy? They go back to their corners, and you’re pretty certain that things will open up in the next round. Well, the first eleven rounds were more or less like that tentative, eventless first round.
Regardless, Beterbiev picks up the IBF belt and now must figure in any conversation with the other kingpins of the division: Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Eleider Alvarez, Sullivan Barrera, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, and Badou Jack.