Benavidez, Ramos boxing families front and center Saturday in Las Vegas pay-per-view
Whatever happens Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, the top boxers in the state of Arizona will have their moment in the spotlight.
And as it so happens, the Showtime pay-per-view event dubbed "Benavidez vs. Plant" reunites two prominent boxing families with deep Arizona roots: the Benavidez family from Phoenix, with David Benavidez in the main event against Caleb Plant and being trained by his father José; and the Ramos family of Casa Grande, with two fighters on the main card trained by the father of one of them, Jesús Ramos.
David Benavidez is happy to share the night with his good friends from down south, and wins for all three could change the trajectory of their respective careers.
Jesús Alejandro "Mono" Ramos is in the co-main event, and his uncle, Abel, an accomplished veteran, is in his first fight in more than a year. Both have fought in big venues in Vegas before.
"It's going to be great. There's going to be a lot of fans from Arizona, a lot of them. Imagine. Three fights, my son, my brother and David," the elder Jesús Ramos said, speaking in both Spanish and English from outside of Phoenix's Central Boxing Gym, where David, his father and older brother José Benavidez Jr. grew up and trained as youths.
"It's going to be a great night of boxing, Ramos said, smiling proudly when asked about his son and brother. "I'm so proud of how their careers have gone and the level they have reached with all of their hard work."
David Benavidez grew up around boxing, watching his older brother rise in the sport. One night about eight years ago in what is now Footprint Center, José Jr. fought in the main event, winning the defense of his WBA interim world super lightweight title over the son of a Mexican legend, Jorge Paez Jr.
The event, broadcast on cable TV, ended up being a showcase of Arizona-based fighters who would go on to have success in boxing. David Benavidez, then only 18 years old, won his fight via technical knockout; other winners were Phoenix's Carlos Castro and a younger Abel Ramos.
David Benavidez improved to 9-0 that night. But he'd already been in training for a pro career, sparring with champions at age 15 and 16 and turning pro at 16 in Mexico.
Now, having won two WBC World super middleweight titles and been stripped of both for a positive drug test and a failure to make weight, Benavidez is climbing toward the top again. Should he defeat Plant, a potential bout with one of the sport's all-time greats, Canelo Alvarez, could come next year.
Soon to headline his first pay-per-view event, Benavidez — undefeated at 26-0, a husband and father and now living in the Seattle area — is at a point in life and financial security where his family can give back to the sport. And he intends to be in boxing for a long time to come.
"My dad has always trained fighters on the side. And, you know, that's kind of how my dad gives back," Benavidez said. "We've brought in a lot of fighters that they don't have the opportunity to pay for training or pay for spots, and we kind of like bring them in. I feel like all that stuff that you do is good karma that gets returned to you."
They have never asked anyone to repay them for the help, recalling the days when he, his dad and his brother struggled.
"In boxing, these training camps cost a lot of money. And sometimes you see a fighter with a lot of talent, but he doesn't have the right team behind them and that's kind of what we do here," Benavidez said. "We give them the resources, we give them everything they need to become the best they could possibly become, and I feel like that all that has come back to me, you know, I've had all that good karma returned to me so and it really makes me happy."
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José Jr. also has a lot for which to be thankful. He was 24 years old and seemingly on his way to big things in boxing when one night in August 2016, he was shot in the leg by an unknown gunman while walking pets in the late night darkness near his home in Phoenix.
Doctors told him he'd never fight again.
That wound forced José Jr. out of boxing for a year and a half, and despite what it took to make the comeback, some would argue that he hasn't been the same fighter since. Benavidez won twice before getting in the ring with the best opponent he's ever faced, Terence Crawford, in 2018, and the 12th-round defeat with Crawford keeping his WBO welterweight belt was the first loss of Benavidez's career.
Thanks to COVID and his desire to spend more time with the family he'd started, it was more than three years before Benavidez got in the ring again. A frustrating draw as the co-main event, with David in the main event in November 2021, was the result, but José Jr. had proved he could come back from a long layoff.
On July 30 of last year, José Jr. lost to 34-year-old former two-division champion Danny Garcia in Brooklyn. But there has been no clear indication, at least publicly, that he intends to leave boxing completely.
Instead, José Jr. might have found a very interesting new gig. He had a significant supporting role with a number of spoken lines in this year's "Creed 3," the latest film in the iconic "Rocky" series, playing a fighter named Felix Chavez.
It was the perfect role for José Jr., who has a swagger about him and can steal the show at news conferences. He didn't have to switch up his boxing persona to perform as an actor.
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Anyone who has watched Jesús Ramos fight can see that there is big-time potential in the 22-year-old super welterweight. He's 19-0 with 15 knockouts and until his most recent fight last May, had dominated his opponents for the most part.
Ramos was still the clear-cut unanimous decision winner in 10 rounds over Luke Santa Maria in that bout. He's become a top contender in his weight class, and a win Saturday over another young fighter who is coming up in the sport, Joey Spencer, moves him closer to a title shot.
If David Benavidez is the here-and-now of Arizona boxing as its biggest name, Ramos could be the next star from the state if he continues to win and eventually earn a major belt or more. David Benavidez was a world champion at age 22, the age Ramos is now, but Ramos is taking his time and building up to title shots via impressive wins over quality opponents.
"Jesus is very close to that top level. He’s got good skills, he’s very strong and loves boxing. I really think he’s very close to a title shot," his father said.
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Abel Ramos, 31, is a welterweight whose career has reached a crossroads, it appears. He takes on undefeated Cody Crowley Saturday, continuing to not duck the best fighters in his class.
Ramos has lost two of his last three fights, and the most recent bout came with some controversy about the decision in favor of Santa Maria, whom Abel fought in Las Vegas in February 2022.
Abel's training with his nephew in Casa Grande — the family has trained elsewhere but has always used the Pinal County town as its home base — has been motivational for both. And there is a younger Ramos relative who is headed toward a pro boxing career.
“We give each other pointers, but Jesus is a kid who works hard. He doesn’t need much to get him going," Abel said. "The key for this fight is going to be to use the experience that I have and every trick that I know. I’m expecting an exciting fight.
"I’ve fought everybody since the beginning. I have a lot of rounds inside of the ring and I just have to make sure that I use everything I know in this fight."
The family has a good deal of hometown pride. Jesús said he and his uncle want to "put Casa Grande on the map" and help other fighters get their careers going.
"Abel is training really hard and he’s very motivated. This is a great matchup for him but also a make-or-break fight," his trainer and older brother said. "I think it’s a perfect clash of styles to favor Abel. He has to win."