Jose Ramirez to face Jose Pedraza on February 5 in Fresno

José Ramirez will finally make his long-awaited return to the ring, but against a very formidable opponent.

Ramirez will face Jose Pedraza on February 5, Top Rank officially announced Thursday afternoon. The 12-round bout will take place at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, the hometown of Ramirez, Calif. (ESPN +)

The fight will be a homecoming for Ramirez, who draws sold-out crowds at the Save Mart Center, where he fought five times. His last fight was in February 2019, defeating Jose Zepeda by unanimous decision in a very close fight.

“Jose Ramirez has always demanded the biggest challenges, and he’s back with a tough champion in Jose Pedraza,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “There are few more exciting atmospheres in boxing than when Jose is fighting in the Central Valley (of California). Fans adore Jose, and he epitomizes the work ethic of the region’s blue collar workers.

Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) last fought on May 22 against Josh Taylor for the Undisputed Junior Welterweight Championship. Ramirez was the most effective fighter in the first half of the fight until he was abandoned in turn 6. Ramirez was abandoned again in turn 8, rallied at the end of the fight, but failed.

The 29-year-old would lose his WBC and WBO world title belts.

The clash between Ramirez and Zepeda will be another chapter in the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry. Ramirez, who is ranked No.2 by The Ring, understands that a victory over Pedraza puts him back in the race to fight for a world title.

“I’m motivated to be world champion again, and it starts with a tough fight against Pedraza,” said Ramirez, who is led by Rick Mirigian. “There are no better fans than the ones who fill the Save Mart Center every time I fight. The Central Valley is my home, and it’s always a great honor to play for my people.”

Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs), who resides in Cidra, Puerto Rico, made his debut at 140 pounds in September 2019, losing by unanimous decision to Jose Zepeda. He has since won his last three fights, with the last victory coming on June 12, stopping the previously undefeated Julian Rodriguez after the 8th round.

A win over Ramirez could put Pedraza among the elite fighters at 140 pounds.

“The new year will bring a great opportunity to fight a former world champion like Jose Ramirez,” said Pedraza, former world title holder at 130 and 135 pounds. “This fight is very important to me because I know it will be the fight that gives me the opportunity to win a world title in a third weight division.

“There is no room for a loss. Not in my file, let alone in my mind. I know Ramirez is a great fighter and is always well prepared. He’s still in shape to give the fans a big fight.

Also on the Top Rank card, Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez, Jr. will make his professional debut.

Torrez, who signed a promotional deal last month with Top Rank, was a gold medalist at the US national championships in 2017 and 2018. He ended his amateur career with a record 154-10.

“I can’t think of a better place to turn pro than in front of my friends and family in Central Valley,” said Torrez, who grew up about an hour from Tulare. “They have supported me my entire amateur career, and I am delighted that they see the start of my professional journey.”

On the undercard, junior lightweight Karlos Balderas (11-1, 10 KOs) and lightweight Raymond Muratalla (13-0, 11 KOs) will fight in separate bouts. Middleweight prospect Javier Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) and heavyweight Antonio Mireles (2-0, 2 KOs) will also appear on the Top Rank card.

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and overseas since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Star newspaper in Ventura County, California. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing

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