It was the moment when Oscar De La Hoya, 19, captured American hearts with a tale about his mother's dying wish: That he become an Olympic champion. It was the moment he went from boxer to brand name — the "Golden Boy" whose fame would continue to build through 10 world titles in six different weight classes.
In August 2012, another Californian lightweight entered the Summer Games, trying to win gold for the U.S. in that weight class for the first time since De La Hoya.
Jose Ramirez, 19, had a backstory ready-made for NBC — as Sports Illustrated reported, his father worked 17-hour shifts spraying chemicals to make ends meet, and his mother still feels the affects of a car crash while she was five months pregnant with Jose.
He also had a chance to become his own brand by winning a medal, which many boxing pundits felt he would accomplish in London; well, in fairness, to grow his own brand — Ramirez's manager estimates he's already worth over $1 million thanks to endorsements and revenue streams like a smartphone app.
Alas, he won't leave London as The Next Golden Boy: Ramirez was eliminated in the Round of 16 in the lightweight division, 15-11 (6-2, 6-3, 3-6) by Uzbekistan's Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in London's ExCeL arena.
"The only victory I got from this was that I know it's going to open a bigger door for the future," said Ramirez.
A slow start doomed the American pugilist, as Gaibnazarov won the opening round of a three-round bout, 6-2.
"It's hard to come back. My patience in the ring for me wasn't as positive this time," said Ramirez. "I didn't think he landed so many punches. Like, clear punches. He had a quicker start than me, and I helped him out."
Trailing 12-5 entering the final round, Ramirez showed the kind of attack that has boxing pundits salivating about his anticipated pro career.
He pummeled Gaibnazarov, seeking a knockout and pushing his exhausted opponent into desperate defense. "I came out strong. I always have good conditioning," he said. "But my slow start … I tried to throw more punches in the last round. He was tired. He didn't have much left. But he fought the smarter fight."
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There's no question that advancing in the Olympic tournament would have grown the cult of Jose Ramirez, even if it was already significant. Sports Illustrated reports that he has sponsorship backing via everyone from Nike to McDonald's to Wonderful Pistachios, and his manager estimates he's worth $1 million.
"Possibly go professional. Not sure yet," said Ramirez on his future. "I know there's gonna be a lot of people coming [at me]."
That decision could bring him under the management of De la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. In fact, the International Boxing Association investigated Ramirez and other U.S. Olympic boxers before the London Games to find any proof they had violated their amateur status by signing with Golden Boy.
The fighters were cleared in a July 31 by the USOC and USA boxing, according to Inside The Games.
Whatever the future holds, Ramirez was proud to represent his nation and his hometown of Avenal during his brief Olympic stint.
"It brought a lot of hope and a lot of light to my town," he said.
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