Casa Grande boxing family hits Las Vegas strip in fight to put Valley on the map

Undefeated rising star Jesus Ramos Jr. (19-0) will meet Joey Spencer (16-0) in Saturday’s co-main event bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

CASA GRANDE – Baking in a garage under the hot Arizona sun, Jesus Ramos Sr. trained with hopes of turning his dream of becoming a professional boxer into a reality. He fell in love with the sport watching the legend Julio Cesar Chavez – who like Ramos Sr. has ties to Sinaloa, Mexico – and once his family moved to Arizona in the early 1990s, he decided to begin his own journey in boxing.

The garage in Casa Grande would end up producing two professional boxers, but little did Ramos Sr. know at the time, he would not be one of them.

“It was my brother that started training us,” Abel Ramos, Ramos Sr.’s youngest brother, said. “We were a little bit chubby and wanting to lose weight, so we started tagging along with our bigger brother and that’s how we started.”

Abel began training with Ramos Sr. and soon enough Ramos Sr. put his own boxing dreams aside to focus fully on training his younger brother. Under the guidance of Ramos Sr., Abel emerged as the most promising prospect in the family and has since worked his way from the amateur ranks to his professional debut to world title fights.

Ramos Sr.’s son, Jesus Ramos Jr., got his first taste of boxing as a young child watching his father train Abel and drew inspiration to follow in his uncle’s footsteps as a professional boxer. At 22, Ramos Jr. has already built his record to 19-0 with 15 knockouts, putting himself into contender status in the junior middleweight division.

“Since (Ramos Jr.) was a little kid, we used to train in the garage, and he used to come out and box a little bit,” Abel said. “And it’s been cool man to see him now doing big things in boxing. He has a bright future, super talented.”

Now Abel and Ramos Jr. train under Ramos Sr. at Ramos Boxing Academy in their hometown of Casa Grande, which has been their home base in preparation to fight on the same card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Abel Ramos will open Saturday's fight card against Cody Crowley in a welterweight clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

Abel Ramos will open Saturday’s fight card against Cody Crowley in a welterweight clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

“I like it because it’s one training camp only, you know, we do it together. We’ll go fight and then we were off for a month, two months. So that’s what I like,” Ramos Sr. said. “What I don’t like maybe is if one wins. When both win it’s good, but when one loses and the other wins, you feel sad and then you feel happy for the other one.”

This will mark the fourth time in as many years that Abel and Ramos Jr. have fought on the same card. During training, the relatives brought in a strength and conditioning coach and sparring partners – and even tested each other in the ring – in preparation for Saturday’s card.

“(They’re) like brothers really. They’re always training together,” Ramos Sr. said. “They like it too, when they’re together or running together. Here sometimes they even get some rounds in against each other like four rounds … (they’re) like best friends and brothers.”

As the first to go professional, Abel laid a blueprint for his nephew, who has since successfully followed it under the tutelage of his father. Ramos Sr. has taken his wide array of experiences training Abel for over a decade and applied them to develop Ramos Jr. into a young star.

It is common among boxers to bounce around to different trainers, but having a familiar face in the corner has been key for Abel and Ramos Jr. throughout their careers.

“With my father there’s a different trust. He knows how to push me and we connect really good, you know,” Ramos Jr. said. “He knows my style, he knows what I need to be doing and he knows when I have off days and stuff like that. He can tell right away, he knows me very well.”

That trust will be key as both fighters prepare for the upcoming Showtime pay-per-view event in Las Vegas. Abel will open the card against the undefeated Cody Crowley in a WBC title eliminator, and Ramos Jr. will face off against the undefeated Joey Spencer in the co-main event as he looks to put his name in title contention.

“It’ll be special because it’s not only just fight night, it’s the whole lead up to the fight, the preparation, everything,” Ramos Jr. said. “Fight night, it’s just like another day, you know, it’s another day in training because we’ve been doing it for so long. I think it’s cool too, you know. We always joke around, it’s not just me by myself in the locker room, Abel’s there and it’s really cool.”

Ramos Jr. faces one of his toughest opponents to date on arguably the biggest stage of his career. Spencer (16-0) enters the fight fresh off of a unanimous decision victory in September, after which he specifically called for a fight against Ramos Jr.

“My honest opinion is that he did that coming off a win. You know, I think he was riding high off emotions, and it wasn’t something that he could back off anymore,” Ramos Jr. said. “So I think he made that mistake and … I don’t think it was in his best interest to fight me, but I’m glad he called me out, and I’m glad we’re here now.”

Jesus Ramos Sr. trains his son, Jesus Ramos Jr., and younger brother, Abel Ramos, at Ramos Boxing Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

Jesus Ramos Sr. trains his son, Jesus Ramos Jr., and younger brother, Abel Ramos, at Ramos Boxing Academy in Casa Grande. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

While Spencer is an exciting prospect, he has yet to face the same caliber of boxers as Ramos Jr. and ranks lower by multiple sanctioning bodies. Despite that, Spencer is a nine-time amateur national champion and a dangerous fighter with a 62.5% KO rate.

Abel will look to put his name in the conversation for a title shot against Crowley (21-0). In 2020, Abel’s years of work paid off in the form of a world title shot against longtime welterweight contender Yordenis Ugas for the WBA welterweight belt.

Abel suffered the fourth defeat of his career in a closely contested split decision, but he gained invaluable championship experience that he brings into his next fight against a less-experienced opponent.

“We thought at first that (Crowley) might be moving around, running, but he says he’s going to come forward, he said he’s gonna stick like glue to Abel. If he does that, it’s going to be a big mistake because Abel can punch,” Ramos Sr. said. “Abel’s always been like that. Even when we have a different game plan like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna move around, you’re gonna box this guy.’ At the end (of the fight), he likes to go to war.”

Crowley is not known as a power puncher like Abel, going the distance in each of his last five fights, whereas Abel has ended eight of his last 11 fights before the final bell.

“I think our opponents … make it interesting,” Abel said. “I’m fighting an undefeated fighter and Jesus too and then (it’s) the (stacked) card, man. The main event is going to be awesome; I can’t wait to see it. It’s three Arizona fighters, David’s from here too, so it’s gonna be a lot of support for us.”

Saturday will mark the first time the Valley’s three best active boxers will fight on the same night and fans from across the state will surely make the trip up north to Las Vegas to see it.

Phoenix native David Benavidez, who challenges former champion Caleb Plant in his toughest bout to date, headlines the card at the MGM Grand. The two-time former champion is the No. 1 challenger to Canelo Alvarez, the undisputed super middleweight champion, and will solidify his standing with a victory.

“I think Arizona has a lot of talent, and we’ve seen it. We have guys come here (to) spar and we know the amount of talent there is,” Ramos Jr. said. “They just need a platform to showcase it, and what we’re doing on March 25 will hopefully pave a way for them and open a door. Something, you know, so that more Arizona fighters can be featured.”

Abel began his professional career fighting in Phoenix on Iron Boy Promotions cards at venues like the Celebrity Theatre, but he hasn’t been back to fight in his hometown since 2017. Ramos Jr. has fought only one time in the Valley, in 2019, but hopes to change that in the near future.

“I think a card just like this one, you know, with David Benavidez, my uncle and myself here in Phoenix would be a huge card. It would sell out,” Ramos Jr. said. “And I think that’s something to look forward to, you know, in the near future. That’s something that’s going to happen and it’s going to be special.”

Abel, Ramos Jr. and Benavidez are signed to the same promotional company, Premier Boxing Champions, making it easier to line them up on the same card. Benavidez headlined a card at Desert Diamond Arena last May – six months after winning the main event at Footprint Center in November 2021.

Jesus Ramos Jr. enters his first fight since May 2022 with supreme confidence. "I don't think it was in his best interest to fight me," he said of his upcoming opponent. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

Jesus Ramos Jr. enters his first fight since May 2022 with supreme confidence. “I don’t think it was in his best interest to fight me,” he said of his upcoming opponent. (Photo by Damian Rios/Cronkite News)

“Since I was young, going up in amateurs I used to see a lot of fighters, and I used to see David training and a lot of talent here and I was like, ‘Man, in a couple more years Arizona’s gonna be a big name,’ and it’s coming true,” Abel said. “Elijah Garcia is good, Micky Scala, they’re all good man. There’s a lot of good fighters coming up.”

The Ramos’ are doing their best to continue the growth of boxing in the Valley with Ramos Boxing Academy, which is providing everyone from local professionals to Casa Grande’s youth a space to train and learn. They have come a long way from the days of training in the garage, as the gym is now home to four professional fighters and 10 amateurs.

“I think we are blessed to be able to have this and to just train at home,” Ramos Jr. said. “We have a lot of local kids that come in and get their workout in and, you know, sometimes I’ll be hitting the bags and there’ll be a kid around me and that motivates me, because I know they’re looking at us, they’re seeing what we’re doing and … they’re looking up to me.”

While the boxing scene in Phoenix has been growing rapidly in recent years with gyms sprouting up all over the Valley, boxing remains relatively untouched in smaller communities like Casa Grande, which is home to just under 60,000 people. Abel and Ramos Jr. hope their gym and their journey from a small Arizona town to fighting under the bright lights at the MGM Grand this Saturday can inspire other athletes from Casa Grande.

“That’s essentially what we’re doing here, opening doors for them just in case they want to fight, but not only that, it’s not just boxing. I feel like it’s everything, whether you want to be a football player, basketball player, just because you come out of Casa Grande doesn’t mean it’s impossible, that’s what we’re showing,” Jesus said.

“I mean boxing, it’s something rare here, we’re the only boxing gym here and if they can see what we’re doing, see how far we’re getting, that’ll maybe push them or light something, inspire them in a different way. And so that’s the goal.”

Harrison Campbell HAIR-i-son CAM-bull
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Harrison Campbell expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media studies. Campbell has interned as a reporter at O’Rourke Media Group and worked as the lead boxing reporter at Fight Club.

Damian Rios DAY-mee-un REE-os
News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Damian Rios expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor of arts in sports journalism. Rios is also a Sponsorship Scout for SponsorUnited, and previously interned with the Varsity Sports Radio Show last fall.