Jose Ramirez is now immortalized for generations to see.
The WBO/WBC super lightweight world champion and Avenal native watched as a statue of his likeness was unveiled at the Fresno County Historical Museum inside the Big Fresno Fair on Tuesday morning.
Ramirez gave an emotional speech talking to those in attendance for the statue unveiling.
“When I was a kid, I wanted the belt, big houses, I wanted cars. The older I got, my only goal was to inspire. To motivate people,” an emotional Ramirez said. “To let them know that everything is possible. To work hard, stay in the right lane. This, for me, honestly, it makes me feel like you guys are paying attention. It makes me feel like you guys are thankful for all the sacrifices I’ve done.”
Adding to the celebration of the day, Avenal local, John Bowers was on hand to donate José’s champion belt on behalf of another Avenal native, Chris Gamber who purchased it and decided to donate it to the Fresno County Historical Museum to be displayed as part of the exhibit.
Sharing heartfelt remarks about the undisputed WBC and WBO Super Lightweight World Champion were Fresno County Board Supervisor Sal Quintero, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, The Big Fresno Fair CEO John C. Alkire, Agent and Promoter Rick Mirigian, and Manuel Cunha.
“Today was an incredible event honoring an incredible person – José Ramirez,” said John C. Alkire, CEO The Big Fresno Fair. “We could not be more proud of the man you are, both in the ring and outside. You are an example for our youth, for us and someone our community is extremely proud of. We could not be more excited for this addition to our Museum for our community to enjoy and for future generations to learn about your impact and legacy – which still continues to be written.”
Rick Mirigian, Ramirez’s promoter and manager, said that the idea for the statue was that of Fresno Fair CEO John Alkire.
Mirgian added that Ramirez's journey is the American dream and watching the statue be unveiled really cemented that.
"Everybody jokes about the American dream, but to see his hard work is amazing. Jose came from a farming community with the world stacked against him. He worked in the fields and to see him get here is an absolute dream,” Mirigian said. “You also dream of having a fighter that has Jose’s moral and ethical blood in him. It is the perfect storm and I have been lucky to be a part of this.”
The statue will sit in front of the Ramirez wall at the museum’s boxing exhibit, honoring the history of local pugilists. Ramirez also donated one of his WBC championship belts that will be encased in a glass display.
Alkire said the exhibit opened last year, and already has won awards. It features photos, bios of boxers, and a touchscreen video display to learn more about the fighters. The video includes fights, dating to the 1930s with Young Corbett III’s championship bout.
Fresno artist Debbie Stevenson spent a year’s worth of weekends creating the life-sized statue. It started with photos of Ramirez.
You have free articles remaining.
Stevenson said this was the biggest art project of her career. Sculpturing is a hobby of hers, having done previous work mostly of horses and other animals.
Through all the remarks today, one thing was constant, praise for José’s character and determination. In addition to his Valley fans and supporters, praise from his boxing community filled the day.
"Jose Ramirez's love for the Central Valley is evident through his many charitable endeavors," said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. "We are proud of José Ramirez the champion, but even prouder of the man he is outside the ring."
John Alkire acknowledged the efforts of Mirigian to make the boxing exhibit in the Fresno County Historical Museum a reality, stating “we couldn’t have gotten all of this memorabilia and created this space without your help.”
"It's incredible what John and the Fair has done for José - thank you. I hope to see the Museum filled with more items from throughout his career and I am committed to helping how I can," Mirigian said.
Ramirez broke down knowing that his sons name “Matteo” will be forever engraved on his trunks on the bronze statue.
“To see my son's name on those trunks so when he gets older he can come show his friends that for me is everything,” Ramirez said. “The respect, the pure loyalty and the love that everyone has shown to me means everything. I saw myself becoming a champion. I believed in myself and my skills but I needed to be inspired."
He also talked about his son, kids at Valley Children’s hospital and how farm workers in his Kings County hometown of Avenal inspired him to fight for water and adopt his “Immigrant and Proud” mantra.
“The times I went to Valley Children’s Hospital and I was able to go for a walk with the kids that were fighting for their lives. Being in that position got me to do what I have done going forward,” Ramirez said. “When I worked in the fields and saw 50-year-old women working in the hot sun to provide for their families those experiences made me do what I do now to give back and to fight for those jobs.”
Ramirez vowed to keep fighting not only in the ring, but also on issues outside the ring.
“Moving forward in my career I will do my best to inspire the future generation and to inspire my son,” Ramirez said. “I will continue fighting for the people I will continue fighting for the communities."
The statue along with the champion belt will be on display in the Fresno County Historical Museum in time for the 2019 Big Fresno Fair, which runs October 2-14. For more information on the Museum go to www.FresnoFair.com/FresnoCountyMuseum