WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez, WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, #1 super middleweight contender Jesse Hart, and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum participated in a teleconference with reporters to talk about their ESPN-televised fights Friday night in Tucson.
BOB ARUM: I am looking forward to a great show Friday night. Two undefeated world champions – Oscar Valdez, the featherweight champion; and Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, the super middleweight champion, are in two tough title defenses; Mick Conlan is on the card. It should be a great night for boxing in Tucson and the whole world will be seeing this event thanks to our partners at ESPN.
OSCAR VALDEZ: I am feeling good and I’m very excited about this fight. We had a tremendous camp – my trainers and me and now I’m ready to get in that ring and show my people a good fight. I’m pretty excited that all my friends and all my family get to come it is only thirty minutes away from Nogales, all the people will be here in Tucson, so I’m pretty excited for this.
FRANK ESPINOZA: Like Oscar said – he’s put in a lot of hard work coming to Tucson and we are excited to be back at the Tucson Convention Center Arena and looking forward to a great fight. Servania is a volume puncher and I think it’s going to be a fan-friendly fight but I think Oscar will showcase his talent. I’ve been telling everybody all along that he has the Mexican style – he has that super style that I think he’s going to show his skills that evening.
BOB ARUM: The Mexican style maybe now will be called the Kazakhstan Style because last Saturday, one guy fought as a Mexican and the Mexican didn’t fight like a Mexican.
It’s been kind of a quick turn-around since your last fight . . .
OSCAR VALDEZ: Yes it was a pretty tough fight against Marriaga and I was a little sore but I only took a week off then I went back to run and hit the gym. It only took a week then I was good to go. I always stay active. Not train too hard in between but just enough – give it a thirty-minute run, hit the gym, shadow box, hit the bag – casual to maintain myself not to get inactive.
What do you know about Servania – he has a great record but it a bit of an unknown being from the Philippines?
OSCAR VALDEZ: I’ve seen him fight before and he is a tough fighter and he has a tough style. Not a lot of people know him. There was a point when no one knew who Manny Pacquiao and they come to America as an unknown and show their skills. I had the same questions about Marriaga because a lot of people didn’t know who he was and they found out Marriaga is a tough fighter. It was a tough fight and everyone saw he was a good fighter. Servania is a tough fighter and I definitely am not taking him lightly.
When did you live in Tucson?
OSCAR VALDEZ: I lived in Tucson and went to elementary school there they my father and I moved back to Nogales – from when I was 4 to about 9. My mother still lives there. I have some long-time friends that I played with when I was a kid and I have a lot of uncles here, cousins and uncles. My family is actually very big – I have family in Ohio, I have family in Arizona, I have family in Mexico and I have a lot of family here in Tucson as well.
Is it fair to say that Tucson is your second home?
OSCAR VALDEZ: Yes I consider Tucson my second home – I lived here for a while. Having the privilege of coming back and forth – coming back to Tucson when I live in Nogales.
OSCAR VALDEZ: I fought here two years ago but I wasn’t a champion in front of my fans and my people then but I was always going to bring back a title and now I get a chance to do it and I am very excited. I am always excited but for this a lot of my family is going to be there and support me in this fight.
Do you have plans for Oscar to fight regularly in Tucson?
BOB ARUM: Tucson is a great city and I really love it there and they have very enthusiastic boxing fans. We are going to do well at the gate – tickets are really flying out of the box office, so yes, why not use Tucson as a base, but we have big plans for Oscar. He is on the road, we believe, to superstardom. There will be a lot of places – Los Angeles and Las Vegas – clamoring for Oscar and his fights. We expect to have some really major fights for Oscar in the near term against guys who are big names in the featherweight division.
After last weekend are you concerned about the judging of the fight?
OSCAR VALDEZ: Not at all that is never on my mind. I don’t worry about my opponent. I don’t worry about judges. I don’t worry about the referee. All I care about is me and how I am doing. I am confident about the work we did in the gym, we had a tremendous camp and I am confident about how everything will go on Friday night.
What did you think about the Canelo – Triple G fight and do you think Canelo made a mistake going backward in the fight?
OSCAR VALDEZ: I think Canelo actually did a good job. A lot of people thought he lost. My personal opinion I thought he won the fight. He went back but a lot of the punches Golovkin was throwing were not landing. I think Canelo landed the stronger punches and that’s really what I think.
Do you feel you are fighting for that – to keep on proving that we belong in the United States?
OSCAR VALDEZ: If I get any chance to keep on proving that we belong in the United States – we come to this country not to rape or to be criminals – we only come to this country to do good things – to get a better life than we didn’t have back in our country.
How important is having a series such as this for a young fighter?
BOB ARUM: I think it’s very important for ESPN who is now going to be able to showcase Oscar on the worldwide leading sports network at least three times a year. We are going to have him matched against top-top featherweights and junior lightweights and the audience that we’ll be attracting starting September 22nd will be absolutely huge and so Oscar will go in the same realm as the other superstars in boxing. This development we have with ESPN is really a breakthrough and the guys that benefit most are talented young men like Oscar Valdez.
You had a streak of knockouts that ended with Marriaga – is a KO something you want to do?
OSCAR VALDEZ: I would love to get the knockout. It’s not something I look to do in the first or second round but if I hurt I would do my best to stop him but my mindset is always 12 rounds. If I don’t knock him out I am 100% ready to go 12 rounds, whether that’s going toe-to-toe or boxing, whatever. If I have the opportunity to give the crowd what they want – a knockout – I will try my best to do it if I hurt him but that’s not always the case. I will fight hard every singe round.
How do you feel about a lot more people being able to follow your career now?
OSCAR VALDEZ: I think it’s great and I am ready for this. I think it’s a great opportunity and a lot more people are going to be able to watch me now. That’s what I want. I want to be recognized and being on ESPN is going to be a great opportunity and I’m excited for that.
OSCAR VALDEZ: I think this division is a very tight division and there are a lot of great challenges out there – there are a lot of good fights to be made. Servania is no walk in the park that’s for sure. He is ranked #4 in the WBO and he has that typical Filipino style – he comes from different angles and it’s always going to be a hard fight. It’s not going to be easy for me. I know I have to be at my best to come out victorious that night and that’s what I’m planning to do.
Would the winner of Mares/Santa Cruz be on your radar?
OSCAR VALDEZ: I’m sure it would be on my radar. If everything goes well I will fight anybody and if were to be them I would gladly take the fight. Whoever it is I will gladly fight them. Whoever they put in front of me.
BOB ARUM: This is insane, the policy that we now have. These Dreamer kids are as American as my grandkids. They were raised in this country. They speak English. They go to American schools. The idea that we would send them back to other countries is ludicrous. Americans are supposedly held to higher ethical standards than this. I will fight to the last breath in my body for these kids. They belong in the United States, they can contribute to this country and we have to open our hearts to them because they deserve it. They came here – does it matter if their parents came legally or illegally? They were kids when they came here and I think every American has the moral obligation to stand up for these dreams
Would you like to unify the titles?
OSCAR VALDEZ: Yes of course
BOB ARUM: And also I read today that Carl Frampton, who is a tremendous featherweight, has signed on with Matthew Macklin’s group and Matthew manages Michael Conlan who will be on the card Friday night so there is a possible fight against Frampton that now becomes relatively easy to arrange.
Would you fight Frampton?
OSCAR VALDEZ: Of course, I am not looking ahead of this fight but I would definitely love to fight Frampton. After this fight I can think about that. I always have to think about this fight. I have confidence in my team that we did a great job in the gym and that we are 100% for Friday’s fight.
BOB ARUM: And also don’t forget the Puerto Rican kid who will be on the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux card at the Garden on December 9th – Christopher Diaz – a terrific young featherweight from Puerto Rico and as you know the great rivalries in boxing very often center around the Mexican kid against a Puerto Rican
Jesse Hart has been talking a lot – how do you feel about that?
ZURDO RAMIREZ: I only hope that he comes in really prepared because he’s been talking a lot and it’s good because I am really prepared for this fight and very confident in my preparation.
BOB ARUM: Jesse has a very good punch – his father, Cyclone Hart, could knock down walls. He was the hardest punching middleweight of his time and he was a tremendous draw in Philadelphia during the heydays of the middleweights.
What does this fight mean to you?
ZURDO RAMIREZ: It’s a big fight and really exciting for me because he’s the number one contender and I want to put on a great show for all of the Mexican people.
Bob, assuming Zurdo is successful, what do you see moving forward?
BOB ARUM: The future for all of these guys is bright because of the alliance we have with ESPN so now he no longer waits six months before he gets in the ring again to defend his title, assuming he is successful he will fight regularly on ESPN. Maybe we will do a fight in Mexico – I think that would be a great idea. I know he has wanted to fight in Mexico. There are a lot of super middleweights around that we can match him with. There are guys like DeGale and Dirrell who are terrific fighters and David Benavidez who is the brother of Jose who fights for Top Rank – he just won the WBC super middleweight title. Zurdo is not going to lack for really good opponents.
Prior to the fight being made, there was a lot of talk from Hart’s side – do you have any bad blood with this guy?
ZURDO RAMIREZ: No, no, like I said he has been talking and talking a lot but I don’t like to talk too much. I let my fists do the talking in the ring. I talk in the ring and I come to keep my belt, keep my undefeated record and to prove to everybody that Zurdo Ramirez is a top pound-for-pound fighter.
You seem to have fought better competition that Hart – do you feel you are more ready than him for this fight?
ZURDO RAMIREZ: Yes I am ready, always ready and my team is making me feel very confident because we have been working very hard for this fight. We have been working in Mazatlan to do the hard training and the hardest part is done. Now we enjoy this fight week and everybody is going to see a great Zurdo Ramirez on Friday night.
Do you feel that he is ready for this fight? You are obviously the best opponent he has had today.
ZURDO RAMIREZ: He said he is ready. So let’s see if he’s ready.
Do you think the fact that Zurdo speaks English will make him a bigger star keeping in mind that Canelo does not?
BOB ARUM: Essentially his fan base will be the Mexicans so it is our obligation to make him fan friendly with the Mexican public which is big supporters of the sport of boxing – they certainly have rallied behind Canelo over the last few years and we hope that they will rally behind Zurdo if he continues to be victorious.
You said you want to be pound-for pound #1 – what do you think you need to do to get there?
ZURDO RAMIREZ: Keep winning every fight and beat every rival and opponents and keep doing my job.
Who did you have winning the Canelo-Golovkin fight?
ZURDO RAMIREZ: I had it a draw. The people were really surprised about Canelo because they expected Golovkin to destroy him but that was good.
BOB ARUM: Golovkin won the fight easy, EASY. I had the fight 8-4. I didn’t think there would be any controversy, and let me tell you as bad a Adelaide Byrd was that fight, what the hell was Trella watching in that 7th round when Golovkin beat the hell out of Canelo and he gave the round to Canelo – what the hell was that?
JESSE HART: I am just ready to fight at this point. I really don’t have anything bad to say about the guy. I think he is a fine champion. He’s been doing a great job holding the belt. Now it is time to give it up. I am prepared to not only do 12 rounds; I am prepared to do 15 rounds. Training camp has been. Training camp has been the most, hardest of my whole life. Not just in the ring. There have been near death experiences in that gym. It was war. It was war. This training itself, you ask me about being ready for Ramirez, he will be nothing compared to the training that I have been through in this fight.
Your dad had all of these tremendous fights in the Philadelphia area for a number of years and never got a title shot – but here you are – what does it mean to get that opportunity with your dad at your side?
JESSE HART: It means a lot because of what you just said — we never had a belt in our household. My dad said, “Everything I didn’t do in boxing, I want my son to do” so he is pushing me to greatness. This is personal for my family. This is business but it is personal to bring the belt home – a world championship
Your father was tremendous for years but never got a title shot – can you tell me what that is like for you to get one with him at your side?
JESSE HART: Absolutely – When I go in there my dad’s heart is going in there with me. My dad started me at the age of 6 years old. We had to recognize the goal and how do we get there. The goal was to be a world champion. When I first saw all the great fighters of the past that my dad showed me – Henry Armstrong, Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson, who was his favorite fighter – all of these great fighters that I just named, Joe Louis, all the great fighters of the past, when I was a kid my dad used to sit me by the TV and watch these guys day in and day out – that’s who I studied when I was a kid, that’s where it all came from. That’s what I wished for – for one day to become a world champion and that’s what my dad’s dream always was but he never got a title shot, so it definitely means a lot to him. He said everything I didn’t do in boxing I want my son to do. That’s why he is pushing me
How familiar are you with the great match-ups that your dad had? Do you know about your father when he fought? There had to be ten top contenders – Have you watched tapes?
JESSE HART: I think my dad was a tremendous boxer, puncher. He was a converted southpaw but he really fought on the right hand side so people didn’t really expect him to be as devastating as he was. People never expected that and they always say that the most dangerous punch in boxing is the one that you don’t see – the one you don’t expect. They didn’t expect that because like I said, he fought right-handed – he fought orthodox but he was really a southpaw. He was really left-handed – a converted southpaw. The great fighters that he fought – my dad fought a tremendous amount of great talent on his record – It was much tougher back then than it is now because back then you go 15 rounds – you go in the gym and you go 15 round wars and I like to say that the greatest fighters are from Philadelphia.
You have been waiting for years for a title shot and now it is upon you – how do you remain patient?
JESSE HART: I’d like to acknowledge Bob Arum regarding that. Bob always said ‘you’ve got to be patient.’ He said to me when I first turned pro, he said ‘there are boxing stars and there are superstars. Superstars sell themselves inside the ring and outside the ring. Boxing stars just sell themselves in the ring – they don’t know how to speak and they don’t know what to say. Box said I have all of the qualities to be a superstar because I talk well, I speak well, I have a smile and all of these things come into play to become a superstar. Things that Oscar De La Hoya had – and Bob built that. Things like the Floyd Mayweather smile. Bob builds superstars – don’t limit yourself. I have been waiting patiently to become a superstar not just to be a boxing star. I have more quality. I can fight as well but I can sell outside the ring as well.
You have been fighting the smaller titles for a while – you had a tough fight with Johnson – you hit the canvas – what do you learn from a fight like that?
JESSE HART: I took away little tricks of the trade – when to put weight on my punches and when not to put weight on my punches, when to step around a guy instead of throwing a combination. When to get a guy out of there – don’t always think about getting a guy out of there. When you look at a guy’s record like that the first thing that went thru my mind was I’m going to get this guy out of here. When I put something in my mind – that’s what I believe. Certain people’s mind are not set because they don’t have that belief – I believed that I was going to get that guy out of there. There was not a Plan B or a Plan C. I believed that I was going to get that kid out of their and that was immature – I was just looking at his record. Now I am more mature to see everything – when to box, when to move, when to tie a guy up, when to go to the body, when to throw a combination, when to step around – different things very second of every minute of every round. I had a strong belief in myself to get this kid out. Like Muhammad Ali said to Joe Frazier “you will fall, God said you will fall,’ and Joe said, “Well God ain’t here today.” That’s the belief I had in myself in that fight.
There is a lot of Philly history around you – does that mean anything to do this for the town as well?
JESSE HART: Absolutely – that means you have an upbringing – you have something behind you – you have to uphold and live up to. That means a lot of preparation. That means a lot of pride. People from Philadelphia take pride in this sport. We fight kids that are defending the neighborhood – there is a pride that we have about boxing that you have to live up to. There is a legacy and my dad always told me the best fights you fight are in the gym – there are a lot of gym fights in Philadelphia – we grew in the gym.
You were talking about being near death in the gym, Jesse?
JESSE HART: Yea, damn – Coach Jenkins pushed me a little bit to near death. Sometimes I thought, ‘Yo, am I still alive?’
How do you fill the void of no champions from Philly?
JESSE HART: Friday I become champion of the world and my team – everyone around me is keeping me focused. I just have to go out there and execute the game plan and I’ll be out there giving it my all. To become champion of the world I was told that you have to do things you have never done. You have to get to heights you have never been to, go up mountains you never thought you could climb, and I climbed that and I am here now. I have to put it all together Friday.
You were talking about becoming a superstar – how do you think you will separate?
JESSE HART: Bob Arum – he is the man with the plan. He is the guy that got me here. He is the guy that put me in position to fight, to be here. I listen to Bob so much, it’s not just about boxing, We can talk about my family he give me different advice – you want to do that you want to do this. Muhammad Ali was a superstar. Oscar De La Hoya was a superstar – Bob builds superstars. To be a champion, that’s OK but to be a superstar? How many superstars are over there with the PBC? We can’t say that but we can say that Manny Pacquiao is an international superstar. We can say that, that’s safe to say. Terence Crawford is becoming a superstar – we can say that. Felix Verdejo is becoming a superstar in this sport. Myself, I am becoming a superstar in this sport. Bob Arum builds superstars. And a lot of credit goes to him. Even for this title shot I want to thank Bob Arum for that – without him I would have never got this shot or in position to get this shot.
Your father never won a title – if you win the title Friday night what will that mean?
JESSE HART: My dad always said when I started, “I want you to be a world champion.” I was born to be a world champion. That was always my calling and I really believe that. I have dedicated my life since I was a kid I never gave up on it. Ya’ll have different things that drive you, but I was born to be a champion.
BOB ARUM: Jesse was very flattering. I have always had a real fondness for Jesse and his family – he knows that and if he comes through on Friday night, the sky is the limit because Jesse is very, very right. I am not going to be satisfied with him just being a world champion; I want to make him a world superstar in the sport of boxing. I have in my mind plans on how to do that. Jesse, one thing you can say about him is that he listens, so the sky is the limit. This is going to be a hell of a fight – two great, great young men – Ramirez representing Mexico and Jesse Hart the United States and Philadelphia. I can’t wait for this fight, I really can’t – talk about a competitive real interesting fight. That fight – the super middleweight championship Friday night is going to be something special.
BOB ARUM: By the way – the show will be televised starting at 10:30 p.m. EDT / 7:30 p.m. on the west coast and in Arizona – I am so excited for this card. I think that this card will demonstrate, as did first with the Lomachenko fight and the Crawford fight, what boxing has to offer with the help of ESPN we are going to make this sport back to where it was fwhen I first started, it was one of the leading sports in the world.