INTERVIEW: Frontproof Media: Rick Ramos - Media Workout

INTERVIEW: Frontproof Media: Rick Ramos - Media Workout

By Steven Weinberg | Contributing Writer and Photographer

Published: October 03, 2019’s Steven Weinberg recently interviewed Rick Ramos, trainer, and manager of the WBC and WBA women’s super-lightweight champion, Jessica McCaskill, at Jessica’s open media workout ahead of her October 12, 2019 rematch against Erica Farias.

FP: We’re here with Rick Ramos, trainer, and manager of Jessica McCaskill, owner of Body Shots Boxing Club, and also purveyor of some of the best damn tacos in Chicago at Martinez Grocery, 3301 S. Morgan.

RR: (Laughing) – thank you.

FP: Let’s talk about October 12 – how did this rematch come about between Jessica and Erica Farias?

RR: After we won the WBC title from Erica Farias the first time, we owed her a rematch because of the rematch clause. She had broken her ankle, I believe, so she had to sit out. Therefore, we asked permission to move on. We did move on, and we captured the WBA title against Anahi Sanchez. After that, we owed [Farias] the respect of the rematch, so we revisited it. I would have like to have gone another route because I think we won convincingly, but we’re people of our word, so we gave her the rematch.

FP: What I saw in the first fight, Jessica worked the body, worked the inside in the early rounds, she did what Jessica is known for. In the middle rounds, she started working her jab, working the outside. In the later rounds, she went back to working the inside. Was that part of your game plan going into the fight?

RR: To be honest, I wanted to see what Erica had in the first couple of rounds. I kinda thought she would be more aggressive. But she kinda stood in one place. I wanted to slow her down with a body attack, and kinda pick her off to see how she would move when Jessica would touch her a little bit. But she just stood around. So I said, put the pressure on her. I got the feeling that she didn’t really want to be in there. I told Jessica, start putting on the gas, put the pressure on, and try to stop her. I think we did really well. I had it seven rounds to 3. Maybe some people had it six rounds to 4. But I thought it was a pretty convincing fight. Jessica was never hurt. Erica’s power never bothered her. You know we jumped up. We went from 7 fights too – Erica was 26-3 at the time.

FP: Yeah, Erica had 29 fights.

RR: Yeah, it was a big jump up. I didn’t know what type of caliber she would bring, and I didn’t know where she was. I was comfortable with the situation. I think this time around, we put harder pressure on her, more relentless pressure, and I think she’ll quit.

FP: So you think there’s the possibility of a TKO or the corner throwing in the towel?

RR: Yeah, and the reason I think that is she hasn’t fought in a year. I know she’s been training. But if she has ankle or leg issues, she’ll have to stand and bang with Jessica. And if she stands in front of Jessica – you know, we hired a new strength and conditioning coach – and I think Jessica’s power is two, three levels above where it was last time. So, I think we get the stoppage. I think she quits.

FP: Was the WBC title fight Jessica’s first fight at 140?

RR: Yes – so that was last minute too.

FP: When you made the jump from 135 pounds with Katie Taylor, to immediately another title fight, this time at 140 pounds, what was that like?

RR: What many people don’t know is that Jessica first won the Golden Gloves at 152 pounds, and then won again at 141 pounds – twice. 140 was not new territory for us. I brought her down to 135 to chase Katie Taylor from the beginning. 135 wasn’t the initial goal. I think if we turned pro at 135 and we stayed at 135, we could spark interest from Katie Taylor, and that’s exactly what happened. So it was strategic, and I knew that if I didn’t work with Katie Taylor, we could move to 140 and do other things, and Jessica would be more comfortable at 140, which she is.

FP: I’ve said this about Jessica before, and I mean this with all due respect. I think of her as the Shawn Porter of women’s boxing. Relentless energy. Attacks the body, comes forward. So like Shawn Porter – she came down in weight and made a name for herself, and got the big fight.

RR: Yeah, exactly.

FP: Do you ever see Jessica moving up past 140?

RR: Sure, for the right fight. We were offered, and a lot of people don’t know this, we were offered the Cecilia Braekhus fight last December at 147. I wouldn’t give her that weight. I think I gave her 143 plus 1, and that was a fight Cecilia was interested in. So that’s 144 pounds, and I’m comfortable with Jessica at that weight.

FP: Was that overseas?

RR: No, it was the last HBO fight.

FP: Do you think coming down to 144 from 147 is enough to take away Cecilia’s power?

RR: I don’t think she has power. That’s not a concern of mine. She has good timing. She’s long. Other than that, she really doesn’t offer a threat as far as hurting Jessica. You know, fighting someone who’s undefeated and a unified champion – there’s nothing we can do that will be a loss to us. My initial thought after getting the WBC title was to get the Braekhus fight at 144 and still hold our title at 140, and maybe turn it into something positive – to be the unified champion at 147 and still hold a belt at 140. Obviously, that fight didn’t happen. We were so close to being on the money, but the offer was out there, we let it expired, and we signed with Matchroom and Eddie Hearn.

FP: You’re still with Warriors, right?

RR: Yes, we’re co-promoted by Warriors and Matchroom.

FP: As the manager, from the business side, how does that affect things?

RR: To be honest with you, I called Leon Margulias, the CEO of Warriors, and told him what we wanted. Eddie Hearn called me, and we worked out a deal. I never had intentions of walking away from Warriors. They gave us our start. So, I asked Leon if he was interested in doing a co-promotional deal. Eddie Hearn was obviously on board, and Eddie and I worked out the details. It’s perfect. Warriors helps us on the local smaller issues, and lets Matchroom do its thing and push us out there and get the bigger fights.

FP: How did you get involved in boxing in the first place?

RR: I used to be an amateur boxer. I started boxing at about 12 years old at the Italian American Club [In Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood]. I was the only Mexican member. That’s where I started, I was there for 7 or 8 years, maybe, until they closed down their program. And then I went to Windy City. I was always an amateur, never fought pro. After that, I started trading stock options downtown at the Merc and Board of Trade. After that, I wanted to stay in business. So, I started signing fighters all over to get kinda my feet wet. Then I opened a gym with Sam Colona – a legendary Chicago trainer. He and I opened Chicago Boxing Club 13 years ago. We had that gym for, I think, six years. After that, I think our styles – we just had different visions, I think. So, I told him I saw the sport going in a different direction. I took one fighter and moved to this space. And then Jessica walked in, and other fighters walked in, and I feel like my team is the hottest in Chicago.

FP: As a manager, how are you viewing boxing differently than a trainer?

RR: Great question. If you’re a boxing coach, and you’re not savvy, and savvy meaning not being on social media, not knowing a promoter, you’re not going to be successful. I’m a businessman first, I’m a salesman second, trainer third, and manager fourth. With all that together– we got the Katie Taylor fight from Instagram.

FP: Instagram? Oh, wow.

RR: Yeah – I have another amateur fighter; we just got a promotional deal with GroupOn. And it was all from Instagram. It was all from interviews. We take every single interview.

FP: What’s GroupOn doing?

RR: Kim Carlson, an amateur fighter, she’s going to the Olympic Trials in December, GroupOn donated a decent amount of cash.

FP: I forgot, GroupOn is a Chicago company.

RR: Yeah, so it’s great. They gave us a significant amount of money for an amateur fighter to help us with training.

FP: You’ve made your name as a trainer of women fighters. You have Jessica, of course. You have Summer Lynn who will be making her pro-debut on October 12 and who won the Junior National’s twice, and you have Kim Carlson headed for the Olympic tryouts. How did you make a niche with women fighters?

RR: It was again – to touch back to your question before – you have to be business savvy. Some of the best trainers – Freddie Roach, he’s already got a name for himself. He’s not good on social media; he’s not good on the marking side. Therefore, I see guys like that fading out and guys like me stepping in who can do a little bit of everything, not just boxing. If there’s something I’m unclear on, something I’m not as sharp on, I bring someone in to clean it up. I brought in Stich Duran; he’s with us know.

FP: I saw that on social media.

RR: Yeah, smart moves like that. If I’m not 100% on something, I bring someone in.

FP: Stich Duran is a legendary cut man, living in Vegas. Does he just fly in for fight night?

RR: Yeah, yeah. We talked. I was a fan first. I didn’t know if he would return my call, but he did within 10 minutes.

FP: Accessible guy?

RR: Yeah, yeah. Super accessible. We talked, I told him what I needed and asked if he was interested, and I don’t know how familiar and knowledgeable he was with the women’s market, and he was like, “I’m in!” instantly. It was pretty easy.

FP: So, as a businessman, you saw a niche with women fighters?

RR: I saw an opportunity, right. Before we started putting on the gas pedal about calling out Katie Taylor, she had made a complaint via the Irish Times, that I caught, and she said: “We had called twenty women fighters and no one wants to fight me.” Then I saw an opportunity, and my eyes lit up. I was kind of poking at her, but I wasn’t really . . . Jessica didn’t have the amateur background experience, so I was a little nervous. Then I saw she wasn’t knocking people out the way I envisioned that she would. Then I said, “I’m going after Katie.” So I started tagging her and Eddie Hearn on a lot of posts and saying, “You didn’t call me. I have Jessica, and we’ll fight you tomorrow. We’ll go to Ireland and fight tomorrow.” I think Eddie liked the drama. We made skits, we made memes, and they took off and went viral, and then Katie knew she had no choice and had to at least explore us. That’s how it started. I told Jessica, listen, she was 90 more amateur fights than you, she has a Gold medal, she has the background. Let’s put on a tough fight and try and get the win.

I knew Katie is so used to looking perfect – so the game plan was to get rough, hit her after the bell, hit her on the break. If she ties you up, throw her on the ground. I was literally like, make this a street fight because she’s going to be uncomfortable, and I predict that we are going to have 2 points taken away [from Katie]. If you can win three rounds and have two points taken away [from Katie], you get a draw. That’s what I was gunning for. In their opinion, we won two rounds and had one point taken away. I think it was a draw – I had it a draw. Maybe we lost by a round. I think that’s a fair assessment. We almost executed the game plan to a tee. She was uncomfortable. We hurt her. She wasn’t used to people putting pressure on her. So, after that, I feel like Jessica, and I opened up the female market because everybody was afraid to fight Katie Taylor. Everybody. When we took that fight, it was a Wednesday in London; it just opened everyone’s eyes. Then everyone wanted a shot at Katie Taylor. It exposed her. She’s beatable. I think everyone just followed suit.

FP: Can you see yourselves going back down to 135 for a rematch?

RR: No. I don’t think we should. We have two belts at 140. Katie’s next fight is at 140 for the WBO belt.

FP: So, there could a rematch at 140 to include the WBO belt?

RR: Yeah, absolutely

FP: Oh, that would be a great fight.

RR: Yeah, and I think we deserve a rematch, especially if Katie has a belt at 140. Financially it would be a great opportunity. For history, it would be a great opportunity. Jessica is not the same fighter. She has more experience; she has more confidence. We’ve only fought tough fights. If you look at Jessica’s record, only the first fight was a walkover. After that, there were a lot of tough fights. A lot. I think if Katie is going to own a belt at 140, we deserve a rematch.

FP: In watching the Katie Taylor fight, Katie was doing a lot of clutching and grabbing, which is indicative of being hurt like you said. Do you think she got away with so much clutching and grabbing that she otherwise shouldn’t have because she was fighting on her home turf?

RR: Absolutely. They were warning her from; I think the second round. The referee was all over her from the second round on. He kept saying, “stop holding, stop holding, stop holding.” I think I counted 27 times.

FP: And no point deduction?

RR: No. None. The only time she got a point deduction was when she held and then punched. And then the referee took a point. He never took a point just for holding. Again, I think if we got another point taken away, we’re looking at a draw. But you know what, as a businessman – forgot friends, forget coach, if we had beat Katie Taylor, there would be no female market. If you think about it, Jessica was unknown, Katie would have been referred to as probably overhyped. So, I think that fight was awesome; it opened up the females to understand that Katie is beatable. But if we knocked her out, I don’t think we’d be here. I don’t think we’d be on DAZN. I just think that things would be different.

FP: That’s interesting.

RR: Yeah, it is, if you think about it. If we knocked Katie out, it would have been horrible for female boxing. On the business side of boxing – not as a coach. Trust me; I wanted her to win. We would have messed up the market if we had knocked out Katie.

FP: It begs the question: what’s the money like in women’s boxing?

RR: The money in female boxing – there is money in female boxing. I bought this watch (shows me an expensive watch.) I can’t give numbers, but I will tell you this: Jessica bought a house after the Katie Taylor fight. If we get the Katie Taylor rematch, Jessica will pay off her house. That’s the money in female boxing. The people who are complaining, and I know this first hand, and I’d rather not name names, the people who are complaining, the females that are complaining that there is no money in female boxing, signed shitty deals. I know this for a fact. They probably signed shitty deals ten years ago with options that if the promoter gets them a world title, then there are extensions on those contracts. Ten years ago, I probably would have had Jessica sign one of those contracts because ten years ago, no one would have thought that female boxing would be here. So, I think I was really savvy on my contracts and protected Jessica and told the truth, and did everything the smart way. She’s paid off her college, she bought a house, she’s paid off all her bills, and she’s still got money in the bank.

FP: Those student loans – you have no idea how envious I am [laughing].

RR: Right? [Laughing] First, I don’t like it when people give me their opinion about a market. When I turned Jessica pro, people laughed at me. They’re like, “what are you going to do with a pro-female?” Jessica has paid off my son’s freshman year of college. She’s bought a car, paid off her student loans, bought a house. If you don’t think there’s a market, stay out of it because I’m trying to grab all of it. For the people who complain that there is no money in female boxing – they’re with the wrong people. That’s it. End of story. I know some of the best female fighters are making peanuts. I’m making more on commission then they’re making for their fights.

FP: And it all has to do with their promotional contracts?

RR: 100% Or their managerial contracts or both. I just think there’s a market or else Eddie Hearn wouldn’t be involved. Some of the smartest guys, in general, are involved because there’s a market.

FP: Going back to October 12, you’re going to have a busy day because you’ll be having Summer Lynn making her professional debut.

RR: Yeah, I do.

FP: Have you ever had two fighters on the same card before?

RR: Pro? No. Actually, I have three fighters that night. I have Owen Saldaneo; he’s a cruiserweight, 200 pounder.

FP: He fought on the World Boxing Super Series Card here in Chicago last fall?

RR: Yes, he did.

FP: So, you have three fights on the card on October 12?

RR: Yes, there are four Chicago fights on the card that night, I have three of them.

FP: What’s the night going to be like for you, taping hands, getting the fighters ready?

RR: It’s going to be phenomenal if we win. I brought in Stich Duran to wrap hands, and I brought in Jimmy Sandoval, my first pro-fighter, to wrap hands. I actually won’t be wrapping any hands because there’s so much money going around and things to take care of. So, we’re covered. I have two teams working with me that night, so, we’re covered. Like I said, I always bring in the best to help me out. Stich Duran is obviously the best, and Jimmy Sandoval is an up and coming cut man. It’s us three, so everything is handled, but I do have a fourth as back up. Like I said, it’s going to be awesome, and for 35 minutes of that night, it’s going to be focused on me and my fighters. To have that attention in Chicago’s newest and hottest arena, the Wintrust Arena is pretty amazing.

FP: Do you know the order of the fights that night yet, if you’re going to be one right after another?

RR: I do not. Usually, I’ll know by the way-in. I have to assume that either Summer or Owen will fight first, there will be a space, then Summer or Own will fight third, and then a space, and then Jessica will fight. I’ll figure it out. I’ve had five or six people on the show in the amateurs.

FP: You’ll be able to handle the running around?

RR: For sure. As long as I’m with my fighters in the ring, the rest doesn’t matter.

FP: Do you have any idea why Warriors hasn’t put a show on here in Chicago in over two years? They used to put on two shows per year.

RR: Yeah, Chicago doesn’t have that marque person that sells 5-6000 tickets. [Andrew] Fonfara was the man, and before that, I think maybe David Diaz did decent on ticket sales. With Jessica being a female, I think there’s confusion about if the men want to come out and see a female fight. Jessica does good ticket sales for a younger pro in Chicago. But as far as to pack an arena, we’re not there yet. I don’t think female boxing is there yet. Hopefully, we can take it there. Hopefully, Jessica v. Katie Taylor 2 will be in Chicago. We have the majority of belts, so it makes sense. To answer your question, I just don’t think there’s a huge ticket seller in Chicago. But my team is getting better, and my team is getting more popular, and I’m on that path to bring it back. Hopefully, it works out.

FP: So that means on October 12 you’re going to have three wins?

RR: Yes, it’s going to be a great night.

FP: You have Jessica sparring against men. What’s the difference between male boxers and female boxers besides the obvious, strength?

RR: I think females are easier to train. They listen better. There’s more loyalty. With men, if I hold mitts for a guy, I feel he’s always trying to show me how powerful he is. I don’t care how powerful he is; I just want him to throw the punches correctly. With females, they know the guy is stronger, so they’re not trying to impress me and show m their strength. They’re trying to get it done correctly. So, I think the mindset is different. As far as having all my girls only spar with men, it’s the mindset. If they can compete with men, they can dominate women. So far, that theory has worked. I’ve found my little nitch and sticking with it.

FP: So, October 12, you’re going to get three wins and bring Chicago boxing back.

RR: Yeah, I’m really excited. I think Summer Lynn could be the future of women’s boxing for Chicago, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on October 12 at the Wintrust Arena.

FP: Thank you very much.

RR: Thank you.

(Featured Photo: Steven Weinberg/Frontproof Media)

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