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Journalism Showcase: Kriegel on Ramírez: “. . . where he’s from largely determines how he fights.”

Mark Kriegel profiles undefeated José Ramírez, who draws inspiration from California farm workers, before the fighter duels undefeated Josh Taylor on Top Rank on ESPN

Saturday, WBC/WBO champion José Ramírez (26-0, 17 KO) will face IBF/WBA champion Josh Taylor (17-0, 13 KO), in a winner-take-all battle of unbeatens for the undisputed junior welterweight world championship.

It’s the headline bout for Top Rank On ESPN’s card from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+ 8 p.m. ET, with undercards live at 4:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+).

ESPN boxing analyst Mark Kriegel sat down with Ramírez for a conversation about his childhood and family roots. Ramírez, a proud son of Mexican immigrants who hails from Avenal, Calif., has become an agent of social change in his community.

Known for his approach to storytelling, through the interview Kriegel gives fans a window into the man Ramírez is outside the ring.

(ESPN)

“I used to think no sport depended as much of storytelling as boxing. Now, I think that boxing itself might be the purest, most organic form of storytelling. That’s probably why boxing often does better on the screen than it does as a sport.

“Television feeds off conflict. Boxing is ritualized, stripped down conflict. The fighters go in alone and exposed, literally and figuratively,” he said. “The risk is greater than other sports, certainly non-combat sports. But the most dramatic thing they bring with them into that ring isn’t their skills, but their pride, their insecurities, but most of all, their personal histories.”

Kriegel explained what the planning process was like going into the interview.

ESPN’s Mark Kriegel (R) interviews boxer José Ramírez.

The goal here, for both me and the producers, Audra Bastyr and Fernando Calderón, was to do a piece that would properly introduce him to a wider audience. To us, it was the way Ramírez’s past informs his present. – Mark Kriegel on profiling José Ramírez

“Most boxing fans know Ramírez does great things for farmworkers in the Central Valley of California. Last spring, at the height of the pandemic, I did a piece on an elderly woman giving her entire stimulus check to Ramírez, who was distributing aid packages to the workers.

“The goal here, for both me and the producers, Audra Bastyr and Fernando Calderón, was to do a piece that would properly introduce him to a wider audience. To us, it was the way Ramírez,’s past informs his present. In other words, his story dictates his strategy, where he’s from largely determines how he fights.”

Watch an excerpt of the Ramirez interview above; the profile will be seen in its entirety Saturday on Top Rank On ESPN. Kriegel also profiled Taylor and has an essay about the bout that will be part of the presentation.

https://twitter.com/meridak/status/1394371850608779268?s=20

https://twitter.com/NBA_Africa/status/1393233055586865156?s=20

https://twitter.com/PabloTorre/status/1395019756474978305?s=20

– Mike Skarka

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