Fresno County loves Jose Ramirez, and the champ feels the same way.
The WBO/WBC super lightweight world champion watched as a statue of his likeness was unveiled at the Fresno County Historical Museum inside the Big Fresno Fair on Tuesday morning.
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For a man who said he was speechless, Ramirez followed with many emotional words.
“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,” Ramirez said, voice cracking. “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.”
Inspiration Comes from a Legend and Kids
Ramirez said Oscar De La Hoya served as his professional inspiration. Like De La Hoya, Ramirez boxed with the U.S. Olympic team in 2012, before turning professional and becoming a champion.
Since he turned pro, Ramirez said inspiration has come from his son Matteo, and another set of children.
“The times I went to Valley Children’s Hospital, I was able to go for a walk with the kids that were fighting for their lives. Six years old, 7 years old, 3 years old, and they are fighting for their lives. Being in those positions got me to be able to do what I did moving forward,” Ramirez said.
He also talked about how the farmworkers in his Kings County hometown of Avenal inspired him to fight for water and adopt his “Immigrant and Proud” mantra.
Fresno artist Debbie Stevenson spent a year’s worth of weekends creating the life-sized statue. It started with photos of Ramirez. Fair CEO John Alkire joked she shot him in the nude.
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. Her bust of champion horse California Chrome is also displayed at the museum. Stevenson used clay with a bronze paint finish to give the statue a realistic look. She also works for Duncan Ceramics.
Award-Winning Boxing Exhibit
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.