Junior welterweight world titlist Jose Ramirez’s first defense against Danny O’Connor was canceled Friday prior to the weigh-in because O’Connor was admitted to a Fresno, California, hospital suffering from severe dehydration as he attempted to cut the final two pounds.
On March 17, Ramirez outpointed Amir Imam to win a vacant 140-pound world title and he was due to defend it in a homecoming fight Saturday night at the Save Mart Center in Fresno in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 9:30 p.m. ET).
The show will go on but without the star of the show in Ramirez.
The 10-round co-feature between welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Juan Carlos Abreu has been elevated to main-event status and the 10-rounder between up-and-coming junior lightweight Andy Vences and Frank De Alba was elevated from the ESPN+ coverage of the undercard (6:30 p.m. ET) to the televised co-feature slot.
Ramirez came to the weigh-in and was 139.4 pounds for what was supposed to be his first bout since parting ways with longtime trainer Freddie Roach to work with Robert Garcia.
However, O’Connor was already on his way to Fresno Community Regional Medical Center, where his promoter, Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing, told ESPN he will stay overnight and undergo tests.
“They’ve already given him four bags of fluids and it hasn’t had an effect yet, so they’ve admitted him,” DeGuardia said.
O’Connor (30-3, 11 KOs), 33, a southpaw from Framingham, Massachusetts, was preparing for his first world title fight and looked healthy and spoke well at the final news conference Thursday, but DeGuardia said it was a different story Friday morning.
“He was shaking off the last two pounds and he was in the sauna and he couldn’t shake them,” he said. “His body just gave way. He was out of it. At that point he had an ESPN interview scheduled [with the broadcasters] for 11:30 a.m. and his managers requested not to do the interview and to just go to the weigh-in. I thought it was just a regular losing-weight thing, but I went to his room and saw him and said, ‘You can’t do this. You need an IV, you need fluids.’ He wasn’t talking. He was incoherent. He was in bad shape.”
DeGuardia said O’Connor’s team then took him to the hospital around the time he was supposed to head to the weigh-in.
“When I saw him in the room I told his manager, ‘You have to get him fluids. There’s no more making the weight,'” DeGuardia said. “He was in no shape to fight. After a couple of IV bags he still wasn’t coherent. The doctor said, ‘You can’t leave the hospital, we’re checking you in.’ He was great on Thursday but those last two pounds weren’t coming off.”
Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs), 25, from Avenal, California, right outside Fresno, was disappointed to see the fight canceled.
“This is the first time I’ve been in this situation. I’m very shocked,” he said. “I weighed in because I wanted to show everyone that I did my part and cut the weight that I had to cut. I sacrificed 10 weeks away from home and got myself ready for this fight. I don’t even know what to say. I hope the fans still come out [Saturday] and support the show and support the movement, fighting for immigration.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has seen everything conceivable in his 52 years as a boxing promoter and took the situation in stride. “It’s a terrible shame when something like this happens,” Arum said. “We will schedule a new fight for Jose as soon as possible. We in boxing have an obligation to put the health and safety of the fighters first. Kavaliauskas versus Abreu and Vences versus De Alba are two very competitive fights.”
The 30-year-old Kavaliauskas (19-0, 16 KOs), a two-time Lithuanian Olympian known as “Mean Machine,” is on Top Rank’s short list to challenge welterweight world titleholder Terence Crawford in October. He can bolster his chances of the getting the opportunity by looking good against Abreu (21-3-1, 19 KOs), 31, of the Dominican Republic, who has not been stopped in any of his losses.
“I’m just happy to fight in Fresno. It’s close to where I live in Oxnard,” he said. “The fans can expect a great fight from me on Saturday. Every time I get in the ring, I try to give the fans an entertaining fight. I want to show them what I can do. Even though I’m always smiling; I’m very mean in the ring. That is why they call me the ‘Mean Machine.'”
Vences (20-0-1, 12 KOs), 27, of San Jose, California, who fought to a draw with fellow unbeaten up-and-comer Erick De Leon on March 10 on the Oscar Valdez-Scott Quigg undercard in Carson, California, now has a chance to shine in a second consecutive ESPN-televised bout when he faces De Alba (22-3-2, 9 KOs), 30, of Reading, Pennsylvania.
“[The De Leon fight] was a technical fight. It ended in a draw. I do what I always do. I looked back at the fight, saw what adjustments I could’ve made, and moving forward, those are adjustments I’m going to show for this fight,” Vences said. “The fans are in for it. They’re going to get their money’s worth.
“I know I’m fighting a very tough opponent in Frank De Alba. He is someone that I definitely will not overlook.”