|ESPN.com: Boxing||[Print without images]|
Top Rank continued to load up its promotional stable with elite prospects by signing amateur sensation Jose Ramirez, widely viewed as the best pro prospect from the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, on Friday.
Top Rank has given him a high-profile slot for his professional debut. It will be Dec. 8 on the undercard of the fourth meeting between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that the scheduled four-round fight will be taped and highlights will air during the HBO PPV telecast.
The 2012 U.S. Olympic men's team will go down as the worst in history because it is the first American squad to leave the Games without a medal. But the 20-year-old Ramirez, of Avenal, Calif., who won his first bout in London before being eliminated, was the fighter whom many in the boxing industry looked at as having the best professional potential.
"I feel very blessed to have the team that I have around me and that Top Rank will make my team even stronger," Ramirez said. "I feel I'm in great hands with Top Rank and they care about their fighters."
The signing culminated a busy post-Olympic signing season for Top Rank, which also signed top Puerto Rican Olympian Felix Verdejo, a 19-year-old lightweight, and top Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez, a 21-year-old featherweight, who turned pro with a second-round knockout win on Nov. 3.
"We are ecstatic to sign Jose Ramirez to a promotional contract," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. "We considered Jose to be the leading prospect among the fighters comprising the U.S. Olympic boxing team."
Top Rank president Todd duBoef made Ramirez his No. 1 priority to sign from the American team.
"We are thrilled to include the premier 2012 U.S. Olympian in our Top Rank stable," duBoef said. "We have followed Jose's highly decorated amateur career and look forward to paving and developing a path for his professional career."
Top Rank no doubt sees a similarity between Ramirez and another Olympic lightweight it signed years ago -- Oscar De La Hoya, who won the gold medal in 1992, the year Ramirez was born, and became a star and an elite champion under the company's guidance.
Many believed that Ramirez was going to sign with De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, which heavily pursued him, so Ramirez's picking Top Rank, Golden Boy's bitter rival, comes as a bit of a surprise.
"After countless meetings, months of research and preparation it was decided that as Top Rank raised boxing's superstars in the past that they are poised to do the same with the next generation of the sport's elite," said Rick Mirigian, who co-manages Ramirez with trainer Armando Mancinas. "The structure, stability, partnerships and experience Top Rank has in place is second to none. They stepped up and showed they share the same belief in Ramirez as we do and historically they don't just sign anyone as they deal in quality, not quantity. I look forward to working closely with them to create the sport's next superstar and usher in a new generation of boxing."
Ramirez, who began boxing when he was 8, went 145-11 as an amateur. He won 11 national titles, including the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, back-to-back championships at the U.S. nationals and Junior Olympic nationals in 2010 and 2011 and the USA Boxing National championships in 2011.
"Jose's fan-friendly style of fighting -- always on the attack and throwing lots of punches -- is a perfect fit for Top Rank," Top Rank head matchmaker Bruce Trampler said. "We have very high expectations for him."
Top Rank has a tremendous track record when it comes to signing and developing prospects out of the Olympics, including three fighters who became superstars: De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto.
Other Olympians who signed with Top Rank out of the Olympics who went on to great pro success include recently retired two-division champion and pound-for-pound list stalwart Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon and two-division titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez, both of Puerto Rico.
Six other members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team signed with manager Al Haymon and are working with Golden Boy. Five of them -- heavyweight Dominic Breazeale, light heavyweight Marcus Browne, super middleweight Terrell Gausha, junior middleweight Errol Spence Jr. and bantamweight Rau'Shee Warren -- make their pro debuts on Friday night (Showtime, 10 ET/PT) at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.
The sixth, junior welterweight Jamel Herring, is in the military and won't turn pro until later this year or early next year. Bantamweight Joseph Diaz and heavyweight Michael Hunter, also 2012 Olympic team members, remain unsigned.