FORMER world featherweight champion Sugar Ramos, real name Ultiminio Ramos, has died at the age of 75 after a long fight from cancer.
One of the first victims of the professional boxing ban in Cuba, Ramos moved to Mexico – where he later became an idol – to escape the communist regime of Fidel Castro in 1961. Two years later he challenged Davey Moore for the WBA and WBC featherweight titles, and it is the tragic outcome of that bout that became Ramos’ unwanted claim to fame.
Moore – who had reportedly resisted defending his titles against Ramos such was his respect for the man – was stopped at the end of the 10th round at the Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium after his manager asked the referee, George Latika, to halt the contest. In the dressing room after the contest Moore was initially in good spirits. “I’ll take the rematch, you better believe it,” he told reporters. “You guys know that when I’m right nothing gets to me. Not nothing. I was off. That’s it, plain and simple.”
But Moore quickly collapsed, and was dead two days later from the trauma of the fight. The tragedy came one year after Ramos’ countryman Benny Paret died as a consequence of his defeat to Emile Griffith and the sport of boxing was in crisis. The “Golden Age” of boxing, as it was known, was over.
The sport would survive, and Ramos regrouped. He scored five wins, which included two championship defences and a non-title victory over Sammy McSpadden in London, before a controversial outing against Floyd Robertson in May 1964. Very much the outsider in Accra, Ghana, Ramos started brightly before having his lead chipped away by the challenger. After 15 rounds, Ramos was declared the winner via split decision to massive outcry. Many years later, Ramos’ trainer, the great Angelo Dundee put the victory up there alongside Muhammad Ali’s victory over George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard’s success over Marvin Hagler as one of his greatest nights.
But the wars and the stress of Moore’s death had taken their toll on Ramos and – at just 22 – he looked like a fighter in decline. In September 1964 he came up against Vincente Saldivar and, after being dropped in the 10th and savaged in the 11th, he was rescued by Dundee before the start of the 12th.
Ramos won five bouts before losing via knockout in round five to world lightweight king, Carlos Ortiz, in 1966. The final count – administered by referee and former world light-heavyweight king Billy Conn – was deemed to be a quick one and the Cuban secured a return bout. He was thumped to defeat in four, and never again fought at the top level.
Ramos – who would be inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2001 – retired in 1972 with a record of 55-7-4 (40).