Jose Ramirez had perhaps his toughest title defense to date in front of perhaps his largest audience yet.
In the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN card from Fresno, California, Ramirez retained his WBC junior welterweight title against Jose Zepeda by majority decision. One judge scored the fight even at 114-114 while the other two judges had it in favor of Ramirez 115-113 and 116-112.
In front of 14,034 fans at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, Ramirez struggled early on against Zepeda, who outboxed the champion in the early rounds of the fight. Ramirez had difficulty breaking through the southpaw’s defense and suffered a cut in the fourth round. The two trade shots throughout the fight, but as the fight wore on, Zepeda started to tire out as he had never had a fight go 12 rounds once in his pro career.
Ramirez started to make a big rally in the championship rounds and managed to outwork Zepeda in the 12th round to walk away with the win and his title. Ramirez landed 200 of his 622 total punches thrown throughout the fight and outlanded Zepeda in power punches 172 to 110, according to CompuBox.
After the fight, Ramirez said he would like to go for unification bouts down the road and hinted at a potential move up to welterweight. Ramirez has defended his title twice since winning the belt last year.
In the co-main event bout of the card, former lightweight world champion Raymundo Beltran made a successful first impression as a junior welterweight. Beltran scored a ninth-round knockout over Japanese contender Hiroki Okada and won the vacant WBC Continental Americas and WBO Intercontinental 140-pound belts. Beltran knocked Okada down in the second round, but Okada got up and stunned Beltran later in the round, leading to a competitive back-and-forth fight.