By Derek Bonnett: In the weeks ahead world boxing fans will have the opportunity watch the planet’s best amateur pugilists battle it out over three rounds in search of gold medal dreams. There’s something purer about an Olympic boxers intentions when you know he or, for the first time in 2012, she is fighting for pride and country and that breathtaking view from the medal podium as opposed to cash.
So far, bantamweights Joseph Diaz Jr. (USA), John Joe Nevin (Ireland), and Oscar Valdez (Mexico) have really caught my attention. Lightweights Felix Verdejo (Puerto Rico) and Jose Ramirez (USA) also standout. Middleweight Terrell Gausha (USA) produced one of the most dramatic Olympic wins for his country since David Reid stopped Alfredo Duvergel to claim gold at 156 pounds in the 1996 Atlanta games. And still, today only marks day three of the competition and many more bouts with competitors from all over the world are yet to come.
One fantasy (besides being magically reduced to my former featherweight physique to represent the USA in London) which has dominated the workings of my brain as I watch the Olympics this year has been matching current American professionals to each weight class to comprise a boxing version of the Dream Team. Imagine what a lean Eddie Chambers could do in the heavyweight field or what Peter Quillin could produce at 165? I would have to make Adrien Broner a strong gold medal favorite even at 141 pounds. My fun continued down until the professional flyweight ranks where I once again selected Brian Viloria to represent the USA as he had in the 2000 Sydney games. However, filling the 108 pound class for my Olympic Dream Team provided a greater struggle and that’s when I discovered Yosigey Ramirez and Edwin Reyes. According to Boxrec, they are the only American light flyweight and minimumweight we have.
As I dug further, I discovered a greater diversion than my fantasy boxing Dream Team; I discovered my next article. You see, Ramirez and Reyes are both unbeaten in their professional careers, but they are also without a victory. The oddity of their professional campaigns intrigued me as a fan and advocate for boxing’s lightest weight classes. Ramirez and Reyes have in fact fought each other twice, but neither man has been able to establish himself as anything more than even to his foe. At 0-0-2, the diminutive prizefighters have set themselves up for one of the most unique boxing trilogies I can ponder.
The two debuted in April on the untelevised portion of the Albert Mensah-Michael Katsidis undercard. Their rematch took place earlier this month on the undercard of Anthony Mundine-Bronco McKart. These Las Vegas residents share more than just the eight rounds they traded leather. They share the burden of being small in a country which rarely embraces boxers under the lightweight division.
Nine years ago, Reyes, 24, came to the USA from Guatemala, a small country in Central America. Aside from his size, this also presented a problem to his development as a fighter.
"Being a Guatemalan citizen and not a USA citizen means a lot because [it] kept me away from national tournaments," Reyes explained. "Those were the only places where I could find people in my weight class and get more experience so that by the time that I become pro, I would be ready. There isn’t a big story to my amateur experience since I didn’t start when I was a kid like most fighters do. I got into boxing back in 2009. Unfortunately, that was a barrier that killed some of my goals, but not my dreams."
Yosigey (pronounced Yo-see-hey) Ramirez, 22, has lived in the USA for the last twenty years, but gets his boxing roots from his native Mexico.
"I got into boxing when I was 18 years old. I only had three amateur bouts," Ramirez shared. "In my pro-style I like to put pressure on my opponent, but at the same time out-smart them."
Experience in the sport of boxing is something these two largely owe to each other due to their common plights. It’s a problem for them with no easy solution in the USA, but one that would not have existed for them in their native countries, which have a greater supply of smaller athletes. Reyes was creative though and he shared an anecdote of how he discovered his passion for the sweet science.
"I was buying a fishing net at a sport store when I walked by the boxing equipment and saw some boxing gloves," Reyes recalled. "I purchased a pair of boxing gloves and started doing some backyard fights with my friends. They were all bigger than me and I was beating them. I liked it so I started looking for other people that wanted to fight, but there wasn’t more people until I found this guy at work that was going to a boxing gym. He asked me if I wanted to fight and I immediately said yes. Since I had beaten all those other guys in the backyard fights, I thought I knew how to fight. We started boxing and he landed like eight straight punches to my face in less than thirty seconds. I said to myself, ’Wow this guy knows how to fight’ and I was very surprised because I thought I knew how to fight."
Like his expectations for his first sparring session in an actual gym, his pro debut did not go the way Reyes had expected.
"My pro debut was with Ramirez and I didn’t get the win as I wanted," Reyes elaborated. "The rematch went exactly the same way. I’m not taking away anything from him; I know he trained hard and tried to win both of his fights against me. He’s got that kind of style that makes a good fighter look bad. I’m not saying that I’m a good fighter, it is just that his style and mine needs more than four rounds to see who is better."
Having viewed segments of the second bout myself, Ramirez appeared more able to assert his game plan. His aggression looked the more effective of the two, but there were pieces of each round missing and making a clear call would be both impossible and unfair.
"Sincerely, I think I should have a record of 1-0-1 (0)," Ramirez stated. "My first fight was a draw. I was out of shape. I won my second bout, no doubt. I was feeling good between the rounds. I was landing more punches and I was making him miss a lot. I’m interested in a third bout and I will beat him. I think my jab will make the difference."