With already 115 wins and eight titles under his belt, José Ramírez is one of the top contenders to become the next world champion. The 18-year-old’s achievements already rank in the top five of amateur boxing history.
The welterweight fighter has already broken records of the greats, like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, and Shane Moseley. The soft-spoken and humble son of Avenal, Calif., is also a favorite to win gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
“He’s a once in a generation type of fighter, someone who comes a long once every 10 to 15 years like a De La Hoya...[or] a Mosley,” said Rick Mirgian, Ramírez’s promoter.
With the prospect of a professional career dangling in front of him, however, Ramírez made the tough call to stay on-course and finish up on his college degree.
“I’m the first one from my family to come to university, and it would be an honor to be the first one from my family to graduate,” said Ramírez.
The computer science major made a promise to his father that he would make education a priority over a career in boxing.
“I promised my dad I would be the first one in the family to graduate, and be the first one to take him out of that small town, and one day he wasn’t going to have to work anymore,” Ramírez said.
Armando Mancinas, Ramírez's coach and godfather, believes the young man is an inspiration to many kids in the Central Valley of California.
“They all look up to him because he’s involved in one of the hardest sports there is. He's just a role model for all the kids in the community...and because he does well in school,” Mancinas said.
Holding true to this promise is not easy, especially when many young boxers are being enticed by money and fame to turn pro.
“If you get a degree, that’s something that no one can take a way from you. Anything else is not guaranteed—not even boxing,” Ramírez said.
Ramírez works incredibly hard to maintain his studies even with his rigorous training schedule. He trains almost every day and travels to different gyms around the Central Valley to find different partners with whom to spar.
“If boxing doesn’t work out, I’ll have at least my degree, and my dad an my family will be proud and I will be proud of myself,” Ramírez said.
Ramírez will compete in the Men’s Nationals in June, and must place fourth or better to make the Olympic Trials. If he makes the trials he might have to delay his studies for a semester.
Michelle Macaluso is a Fresno, CA-based Junior Reporter for Fox News.