Better late than never, Ramirez defends crown at home

Los Angeles (AFP) –


World Boxing Council junior welterweight champion Jose Ramirez, whose planned fight before hometown supporters in July was scrapped when his foe was hospitalized, finally defends his title on Friday.

Ramirez, a 2012 London Olympian who is 22-0 with 16 knockouts as a professional, will defend the crown for the first time against Mexico's Antonio Orozco, 26-0 with 17 knockouts, at Fresno, California.

The local hero's fight replaced a planned July 7 matchup against fellow American Danny O'Connor, who collapsed before the weigh-in after struggling to drop pounds. Severe dehydration and kidney problems led him to be hospitalized and withdraw from the fight.

"I'm honored to return home to defend the championship," Ramirez said. "We owe it to the fans after what happened last time.

"We have an undefeated fighter in front of us and we will put on a great show."

Orozco's first world title fight comes after an eight-round unanimous decision over compatriot Martin Honorio in March at Los Angeles.

The Mexican fighter has never been past 10 rounds, but neither had Ramirez until he won the title in March with a 12-round unanimous decision over fellow American Amir Imam in March at New York.

"My time is now," Orozco said. "The time for me to become world champion is here and I will do everything possible to take that world title.

"I know Ramirez is a tough fighter and I'll be fighting on enemy turf. But I'm not worried about that. I have all the experience and skills to score a great victory."

The delay gave Ramirez longer to work with new trainer Robert Garcia, who will be in Ramirez's corner for the first time. Ramirez split with former trainer Freddie Roach after winning the title.