Boxing

Tulare Olympian Torrez Jr. knocks out pro boxing debut in front of hometown crowd

A rollicking Friday fight night at the Save Mart Center helped launch the professional career of the San Joaquin Valley’s newest hot-shot boxer and righted the trajectory of its main attraction.

America’s first Olympic heavyweight medalist, Tulare native and Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr., made his professional debut in front of a home crowd looking to set the tone for his career with Top Rank.

He delivered – quickly.

Facing Allen Melson (6-4, 3 KOs), Torrez Jr. delivered a stirring second-round knockout after sustaining a cut to the forehead after the two butted heads.

Following the fight, Torrez Jr. said the rollicking first round and minor injury required him to refocus.

After the cut, I knew I had to get back to basics, and that’s what I did,” Torrez Jr. said post-fight. “I made sure to avoid additional head clashes, and I got the job done in the second.

“Sure, the cut is frustrating, but I’m not going to let it ruin the celebration. What a night. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to make a good first impression, especially in front of my home fans. They brought the energy, and I fed off the energy they gave me. The Central Valley is home, and I am proud to represent my people.”

Leading the card for Torrez’s debut was fellow local champion, Avenal native Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez, fresh off his first-ever defeat in a Vegas-hosted bout for the junior welterweight unification title against Josh Taylor in May, sought to rebound back home.

Nothing quite like cutting your teeth again than facing off against two weight division titlist Jose Pedraza.

Ramirez closed out a 12-round bout with Pedraza with an unanimous 116-112 decision from the judges after largely operating with impunity much of the fight.

Ramirez, speaking post-fight, via The Ring Magazine:

“Jose Pedraza is a smart, experienced fighter,” Ramirez said. “He was going to find a way to survive and put up a fight. He was there boxing towards the end of the fight.  My hat’s off to him and his team. He was well-prepared. It was a great fight. I got to see where I am right now.

“I was a little tense coming into this fight because of my last fight. Fighting at home, last minute, I got a little more tense than I thought I was going to be. I went out there and just boxed, had fun in there. I played it smart, used my jab, and I think I won more than eight rounds.

“Against anybody at 140… I’m going to go back, work and stay focused and stay active. That’s one thing that’s affected me these last couple of years. I’ve trained so many times for a little bit of fights. My inactivity, my discouragement throughout training camps, it really took a big toll on me. I’m ready to stay active and stay motivated. There’s a lot of really great fighters coming up to 140. There’s a lot of really good fighters at 140 right now.”

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.