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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Ramirez spars with Pacquiao

By Dan Rafael

Jose Ramirez, Daniel Calzada
Hot prospect Jose Ramirez, left, has benefited from his time sparring against Manny Pacquiao.
Junior welterweight prospect Jose Ramirez is just 21, but the 2012 U.S. Olympian with a powerful left hook appears headed for big things in professional boxing.

His career is off to a strong start -- 8-0 with six knockouts -- and Top Rank regards him as one of its best young fighters -- and it has a slew of quality prospects. The company is giving Ramirez a strong promotional push and plans to step up his competition in the not-too-distant future.

Ramirez, who is from Avenal, Calif., where he is heavily involved in raising awareness for the area's water problems, returns to action on Saturday night (UniMas, 11 ET/PT) at the Texas Station Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. He will square off with Boyd Henley (10-3-1, 9 KOs), 25, of Kansas City, Mo., in a six-rounder on the undercard of a featherweight fight between Alejandro Perez (19-3-1, 13 KOs) and Juan Carlos Martinez, in what is expected to be Perez's final tune-up before a world title shot.

Obviously, Ramirez is supposed to win his fight. He is in the developmental stage of his career that every young prospect goes through. You never know what's going to happen when the bell rings, but the intent of the fight is for Ramirez to get in some good work, perhaps be pushed a little and then come through.

Even if the fight turns out to be easy work for Ramirez, like most of his pro fights have been so far, he got great work preparing for the fight.

Last Saturday at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., Ramirez sparred with Manny Pacquiao, who is preparing for his own fight, the much-anticipated rematch with welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. on April 12.

Sparring with an all-time great, even if it was only for four rounds, can't do anything but help Ramirez as he comes up the ranks.

"It was an amazing experience," Ramirez told ESPN.com. "It was a big honor to get that opportunity to spar with Manny Pacquiao. He's a fighter who is very, very active in the ring. His footwork is amazing. He's very explosive. He has speed moving forward. It was great. I learned a lot. It was a real confidence booster to be in there with him because I was in there with the best."

Of course, Pacquiao was not going all out, and neither was Ramirez. But even just sparring with a fighter of Pacquiao's caliber might be more difficult than a real fight with a low-level opponent. Ramirez was pleased with how he performed.

"I'm not just strong but also I also have a good defense and I made him miss a lot of punches," Ramirez said. "He's very slick with his movement but I felt like I gave him good work. I was able to be sharp for my fight coming up and also helped him get sharp for his fight.

"Manny throws a lot of punches and he picked it up with me because I was his last sparring partner of the day. He punches hard but even more than that he is pinpoint his shots. I didn't want to get sloppy with him. I went in there working smart and I just tried to make him miss as much as I could and then counter and work on my technique. It was fun. It was good work for both of us."

Ramirez has had Roach as an assistant trainer in some fights while his amateur coach Armando Mancinas has been his chief trainer. But Ramirez said he likes working with Roach and hopes to train more regularly with him at Wild Card and have him be his head trainer. That is something Top Rank would also like.

"[Mancinas] is OK with that," Ramirez said. "He wants the best for me. He will stay open minded about it."

After sparring with Pacquiao, as well as other experienced pros, including Steve Forbes, Ramirez said he's ready to fight Saturday.

"A lot of the times fights are won in the gym and it's how you prepare yourself," he said. "Definitely, I felt like this training camp I sparred a lot more and sparred top fighters. There shouldn't be any reason I'm not good against this fighter [Henley]."