JOSE RAMIREZ is the would-be architect with designs on thwarting Josh Taylor’s ambition of becoming boxing’s next undisputed world champion.

The Californian will step into the ring at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas next weekend for a contest that will define both men’s careers.

The victor will claim all four belts to become the king of the super-lightweight division, while the loser will be left to reflect on a first professional defeat and the ramifications that come with that.

Ramirez is hungry, fit and ready to fight as he looks to add Taylor’s IBF and WBA straps to his WBO and WBC belts.

It is without question a hugely significant milestone in the 28 year-old’s life. But win or lose, there is a quiet but firm determination that one night in a boxing ring will not define who he is as a person.

Ramirez is the son of Mexican immigrants who settled in the town of Avenal more than three decades ago, part of an agricultural community who continue to toil and sweat picking peppers in the Central Valley farmland.

He is a father to two children, his five-year old son Matteo and a new baby daughter Katarina just two months old.

He is a religious, studious man who cherishes his faith and recognises the importance of education. Graduates from Avenal High School can apply for a Jose Carlos Ramirez scholarship in order to enable them to attend the neighbouring Fresno State University.

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He is a former computer engineering student who had desires on becoming an architect if the opportunity to represent his country at the 2012 Olympics in London had not presented itself.

These are all the things that are integral to Ramirez. Boxing has provided him with undoubted privileges, vast wealth and worldwide recognition. But his soul and his spirit remain unaltered regardless.

“Boxing doesn’t make me who I am,” he tells Herald Sport. “It has given me financial privileges but it doesn’t make me.

“It’s my faith and my family that have made me who I am. Everything else is just a blessing that I get to enjoy with my family.

“My dad always taught me from when I was very young – don’t go halfway into anything.

“Don’t waste your time, don’t waste their time. Don’t fool people by acting or pretending. If you’re going to do something, finish it right.

“I keep that message in my heart in everything that I do. I have a strong faith that is important to me. It’s God, family and then boxing in that order.

“I believe I would still be the same person if I hadn’t gone into boxing. I think I would have been an architect. I was very smart and dedicated to my studies.

“I went to the university close to where I grew up to be a computer engineer. But it was the same time as the Olympics were happening so I had to make a choice.

“And I went to the trials and then had to be away from school for many months training before the Olympics. But I started a scholarship foundation and I give scholarships to the kids who go to the university.

“If I weren’t a boxer I would have dedicated myself to be an architect or an engineer but I would still have helped a lot of good causes. It would have been hard for me to ignore a lot of what was going on around me even if I had taken a different career.”

There is more than two world titles to their name to unify Taylor and Ramirez. The self-styled Tartan Tornado from Prestonpans makes no secret of his heritage, proudly hoisting the Saltire high in his training gym upon his arrival in Las Vegas.

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Ramirez respects that. When the fight with Taylor was confirmed, he dedicated his part in it to the farm workers of Central Valley whose cause he continues to support and fight for.

Having worked in those fields himself as a teenager, Ramirez knows he cannot turn his back on his people now, especially with the region once again suffering from extreme drought conditions.

“It’s something that is close to my heart,” he confirms. “I want people to be able to have what they need to be able to work peacefully.

“It’s vital they have water as back-up in case it doesn’t rain or they have a dry year. I want them to have the peace in their hearts to know they will have a job tomorrow.

“It goes parallel with immigration to make sure they continue to have their legal status to be able to work without the threat of being deported. All of that is important.

“At the start of the pandemic I was giving them thousands of boxes of hand sanitisers, disinfectant wipes and other essential products so they could go back to work. With the shelves empty I raised money and donated to help them through the pandemic.

“These people are very important to me. I see myself through them. My family is similar to their families.

“Their kids are going through something similar to my upbringing. I try to do as much as I can to give them security here in the United States.

“Listen, those folk who forget where they come from – that makes them more vulnerable. Weaker. And easier to beat.

“Because the opportunities that we all have should create a foundation that makes things steady for everyone. So it doesn’t matter how much you grow – the foundation is still strong.
“The faith, the principles and the morals that my family have given me have served me well my whole life.

“It doesn’t matter how big I grow. I can’t forget where I came from.

“There’s so much that grows inside me that most people don’t see until I’m in the ring with them. But it’s not only when I’m in the ring but also in some of the other things that I fight for.

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“You see a lot of European football players who do a lot of great things too. Because they are good people who want to do things for their communities, who help the fight against poverty and give people motivation to start something. You don’t have to be a professional boxer to do any of these things.”

The change of occupant in the White House earlier this year has made life less oppressive for the Hispanic community but Ramirez doesn’t feel that will necessarily make everything better.

He doesn’t rule out one day going into politics himself but felt that people shouldn’t rely on those in office to make things right.

“Certain things are better, sure. But politicians always do what they do best: politics. So it’s always up to the people to be educated so you can make a better impact on your own situation.

“It’s up to guys like me to inspire a generation to help them not get misguided or distracted by wrong things.

“I wanted to bring scholarships so they could go out and chase their dreams and create businesses and jobs and opportunities. Politicians aren’t going to do that.

“They might pass laws that make it easier but it’s our duty as humans to help one another and really push the issue through actions.

“I think too much and I know too much [to become a politician]. And I would have to risk my privacy. But we will wait to see what happens.”

He has more immediate business to take care of first, believing Taylor to be a worthy opponent but one that he can defeat.

“I’m feeling really good about it. It’s one of the biggest fights in boxing so I’m happy to be a part of it. It’s quite an honour actually to be fighting for four belts. It would be a massive milestone in my career if I can do it.

“But the guy that I’m facing is tough. He’s one of the best in the division, undefeated and an Olympian too.

“He carries a lot of pride for his country and is very confident within himself. That’s exactly who I want to face for a fight like this.

“He’s just overall a really skilful fighter. He can box, he can brawl and he’s in good shape to go 12 rounds. That’s why he’s a world champion. But obviously I have a lot of confidence in myself.

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“To become the undisputed world champion would bring so much glory to my family, my people, and to those who love me and those who have supported my career.

“I have a new beautiful healthy baby girl and I’m very blessed. I have the motivation, skills and drive to go out there and do what it takes to become a champion.

“I almost find it impossible for someone to beat me. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But for someone to beat me it’s going to be very, very difficult.”