Junior welterweight world titlist Jose Ramirez's first defense against Danny O'Connor was made official by Top Rank on Wednesday, and it's a fight Ramirez will go into with a new trainer.
Ramirez will square off with O'Connor on July 7 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, which is near his hometown of Avenal, in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10:30 p.m. ET).
But instead of career-long trainer Freddie Roach or Marvin Somodio -- Roach's assistant -- manning his corner, Ramirez will have Robert Garcia running the show after recently calling Roach to tell him he was making the change.
Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs), the son of Mexican immigrants, draws sell-out crowds in California's Central Valley, where he has become popular not only for his ring exploits but also because of his impact on the community through his advocacy for water rights and immigration causes.
Although he is a big draw at home, Top Rank brought Ramirez to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York for a vacant world title fight with Amir Imam on March 17. It was a hard-hitting bout, but Ramirez dominated and won a wide unanimous decision to claim a 140-pound world title, and now he's going home to defend it.
"It has been my dream to become a world champion. It's now my duty to defend this belt at home for my city, fans and everything I fight for," Ramirez said. "I'm blessed to have this opportunity. I dedicate this fight to the immigrants that contribute to and make our society a better place. I'm pro-immigrant and proud."
O'Connor (30-3, 11 KOs), 33, a southpaw from Framingham, Massachusetts, a former standout amateur and 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate, has won four bouts in a row, including a notable 10-round decision win against Steve Claggett in his last fight on March 17.
O'Connor's winning streak followed a devastating first-round knockout to Gabriel Bracero in October 2015 in a rematch of an eight-round decision loss in 2011. Many thought that the severe knockout would mean the end of O'Connor's career, but he returned 10 months later and now he is getting an unexpected shot at a world title.
"I have been waiting for this opportunity since the day I put my first pair of gloves on," O'Connor said. "I embrace the chance to do battle with a great warrior such as Jose Ramirez. I believe we have a legitimate shot at winning the world title and fulfilling my lifelong dream. We are prepared to bring it to Fresno on July 7."
Ramirez, 25, had worked with Roach since turning pro after boxing on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. But the world title fight against Imam would be their last together.
"The best way to sum this up is that as Jose has grown from the amateurs to the pros to a world title, part of the challenge is that his needs are met and fulfilled. Being a world champion, now he has a new set of needs and to meet those needs this was a necessity," Rick Mirigian, Ramirez's manager, told ESPN regarding the trainer change. "We're grateful to Freddie and to Marvin. They will always be a part of Jose, but getting Jose situated for the next chapter of his career from a need standpoint was a priority."
Roach has several other fighters he works with and didn't necessarily make Ramirez his No. 1 priority, which sometimes led to Somodio traveling with him to fights. Mirigian said Garcia gave them assurances that Ramirez would be a top priority.
"Ramirez being his main priority was key," Mirigian said. "Jose is Robert's No. 1 priority. Jose has his time at the gym as a priority. Robert was able to meet the needs Jose has now."
Mirigian said Ramirez is taking his union with Garcia so seriously that he is moving from the apartment he has in Los Angeles to one in Riverside, California, to be much closer to Garcia's gym.