After focus on mental health, Gilberto Ramirez loves boxing again

The primary time he fought right here, in 2014, Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez was labeled a rising star. At 23 he was undefeated, tall, athletic and sleek. He had each Hollywood beauty and the expertise to again it up.

His promoter in contrast him to Carlos Monzon, one of many best middleweights of all-time. At the moment, as Ramirez prepares to combat in San Antonio a second time, not a lot seems to have modified. But, in a way, every part has.

He’s nonetheless chasing a world championship belt however, greater than that, Ramirez is chasing a dream.

“I feel I’m extra mature now. I really feel extra snug with who I’m as an individual and grateful for what I’ve,” he stated. “I didn’t all the time like boxing however now I find it irresistible. I’ve modified. I need to be the most effective I may be.”

Saturday night time, Ramirez (42-0, 28 KOs) takes on Cuban veteran Yunieski Gonzalez (21-3, 17 KOs), in a WBA mild heavyweight title eliminator on the AT&T Middle.

The bout, scheduled for 12 rounds, is one in every of three championship fights to be streamed reside on DAZN (8 p.m.).

Saturday’s undercard contains San Antonio welterweight Kendo Castaneda (17-4, 8 KOs) dealing with off towards Raul Curiel (10-0, 8 KOs) of Mexico in a 10-round bout for the NABF 147-pound crown.

For Mexico’s Ramirez, 30, the climb has been lengthy and fruitful, but not all the time simple or satisfying.

He was born in Mazatlan, a coastal metropolis in Sinaloa recognized for its seashores and heat, sunny local weather, but additionally as dwelling to a number of of the nation’s most infamous drug cartels. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured there.

“Kill or be killed, that was the regulation of the neighborhood,” Ramirez stated. “I selected boxing as a result of I needed to discover ways to combat on the road to outlive.”

He misplaced his first seven fights as an newbie, prompting a gradual rise by the professionals preventing totally on small exhibits in his native Mazatlan, the place he made a reputation for himself.

Lefty, or “Zurdo” in Spanish, was 25-0 earlier than his first combat in the US. In February 2014 he fought in Texas for the primary time (Laredo) and later that yr knocked out Fulgencio Zuniga earlier than a crowd of only one,500 spectators on the Alamodome’s pared-down Illusions Theater.

It took some time for Ramirez’s repute exterior of Mexico to construct, and it by no means actually matched expectations. Fellow countryman Canelo Alvarez had develop into the game’s No. 1 star, leaving Ramirez in his star-studded wake.

Ramirez received a lopsided victory over Arthur Abraham in 2016 to win the WBO tremendous middleweight title. However after 5 profitable title defenses at 168 kilos, Prime Rank and promoter Bob Arum lower him unfastened following a contract dispute.

Arum claims Ramirez and supervisor David Suh overestimated the fighter’s price, searching for “Canelo cash” of $5 million a combat plus partnership within the promotions.

“We gave him alternatives, however he didn’t resonate with Mexicans after coming to us with a longtime profession,” Prime Rank vice chairman Carl Moretti instructed “The Athletic.”

Ramirez turned one thing of a cautionary story to fighters continually chasing he finest supply.

However Ramirez and Suh denied Prime Rank’s claims.

“To say we had been asking for Canelo cash is out of the query,” Suh stated. “For us, we simply needed one thing honest. We tried to get collectively. Sadly, it didn’t work.”

Following the severing of ties with Prime Rank, Ramirez signed with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions.

“He’s been nice to work with, no points in any respect,” Golden Boy president Eric Gomez stated of Ramirez. “What we like most about him is he needs to combat the most effective opponents on the market. That makes our job so much simpler.”

Ramirez signed with Golden Boy as a result of they “felt like a giant household.”

As painful because the transition from Prime Rank to Golden Boy was for Ramirez, the fighter stated it helped him develop up.

After he left Prime Rank, Ramirez was with no contract when the pandemic struck. He in contrast the sensation throughout COVID’s peak to being alone and adrift within the ocean. Misplaced.

“I used to be depressed and anxious as a result of I used to be not preventing,” Ramirez stated. “I felt empty. I felt alone. I used to be in a darkish place. I needed to look inward at myself.”

What he found shocked him. He discovered he “didn’t actually like boxing” and handled it like a job.

He labored on turning into bilingual, talking English in addition to Spanish at information conferences. He’s made a concerted effort to look extra outgoing and assured to assist in his promotion.

Lastly, he turned to yoga and day by day meditation to convey him peace of thoughts in a risky sport. He says the eye he paid to his psychological well being has paid off.

“After COVID, I really like boxing now,” he stated. “I used to be a champion however I felt empty. I’m extra keen about it now. I noticed I need to keep in boxing even after I retire.”

If he will get previous the 36-year-old Gonzalez on Saturday, he needs a showdown towards WBA mild heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol of Russia and maybe ultimately a shot at Canelo.

“I need to be the most effective pound-for-pound fighter on the planet,” Ramirez stated. “I do know it’s going to take time. However I imagine you are able to do something in life in the event you be taught and continue to grow.”

Twitter: @johnfwhisler

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