Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Boxing Glove Remembers Ultiminio "Sugar" Ramos

By Peter Silkov

Sugar Ramos, who has passed away at the age of 75, after a long battle with cancer, was a brilliant boxer, gifted with an abundance of skill, speed, power, and an exciting and dynamic boxer-fighter, yet his career was overshadowed by tragedy. Today he was laid to rest, surrounded by family, his doctors, and many from the boxing community.

Born Ultiminio Ramos Zaquerira in Matanzas, Cuba, on December 2, 1941, and in the ring, his fighting style had echoes of former Cuban greats such as Kid Chocolate and Kid Gavilan.

Ramos turned professional while two months shy of his 16th birthday, and he soon began to cut a destructive path through everyone he met within the roped square. The tragedy that Ramos is usually linked, is the death of Davey Moore after he had wrested Moore’s World featherweight title away from him. However, Sugar would first encounter tragedy much earlier in his career, when in his 12th fight, on November 8, 1958, he knocked out Jose ‘Tiger’ Blanco in the 8th round, only to see Blanco never recover. Blanco died the next day.

One can only imagine Ramos’s anguish at having to deal with every boxer’s worst nightmare while not yet 17 years old. Some fighters would be crushed by such an experience, but Ramos continued on, in his quest to take himself out of the depths of poverty.

Over the next four years Ramos put together a professional record of (38-1-3) as he established himself as the number one contender for the World featherweight championship. During this time, Ramos also uprooted himself from his native Cuba and moved to Mexico, after Fidel Castro declared professional boxing to be illegal in Cuba.

On March 21, 1963, Ramos challenged Davey Moore for the World featherweight title, and after a grueling classic contest, stopped Moore in the 10th round. Ramos’ moment of glory was sadly tainted when Moore collapsed in his dressing room after the fight. He died 4 days later.

Too often when a fighter is severely injured, or dies after a contest, the welfare of his opponent is overlooked. The mental anguish which boxers suffer when in such a position can only be imagined. Many fighters are never the same after being involved in such instances and there is no doubt that although he carried on boxing for almost another decade after the Moore fight, Sugar Ramos was deeply traumatized by the death’s of two of his opponents.

Hardly surprising that Ramos reign as world champion was relatively short. He lost his World featherweight crown in his 4th defence, on September 26, 1964, when he was stopped in 12 rounds by Vincente Saldivar. Saldivar would go on to prove himself a great champion.

After losing his featherweight crown, Ramos moved up to the lightweight division, where he would eventually gain two shots at Carlos Ortiz’s world championship. In their first meeting on October 22, 1966, Ortiz stopped Ramos in the 5th round after Sugar was badly cut. Nine months later, Ramos was granted a rematch with Ortiz, for the world lightweight title, and this time was stopped in the 4th round.

This really signaled the end of Ramos as a top flight, world class fighter, he fought on for another Five years but infrequently and with mixed results. There was one last sparkle of brilliance and excitement on August 6, 1970, when he clashed with the former world lightweight champion Mando Ramos. The two former champions put on a brutal and bloody, toe-to-toe thriller, which is still talked about today. Sugar was beaten on points by Mando, but in defeat produced one of the most memorable performances of his career.

Sugar Ramos finally retired two years later in 1972, with a final record of (55-7-4, 40koes.) He was elected into the World boxing Hall of Fame in 1992, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 2013, 50 years after his tragic fight with Davey Moore, Sugar Ramos traveled to America, and to Moore's home town of Springfield, Ohio, to witness the unveiling of a 8 foot bronze statue in Moore's honour. Amongst those present to witness the unveiling, was Moore's widow Geraldine, and their children. Geraldine had never blamed Sugar Ramos for her husband’s death and their reunion was warm and emotional. The ceremony and reunion with Moore's widow helped to bring some peace of mind to Sugar Ramos concerning the tragedies of the past. His was a bitter sweet story of an exceptionally gifted boxer who managed to fight his way from poverty to fame and glory, yet paid a cruel price in the process. 

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