LAS VEGAS – Joey Spencer had only seen Jesus Ramos fight once when he informed his handlers that he wanted to face Ramos on the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant undercard.
Ramos stopped Mexican southpaw Vladimir Hernandez in the sixth round of the only Ramos bout Spencer saw before Spencer determined that the unbeaten junior middleweight is the opponent he needs to defeat to prove himself. Spencer sees their 10-round bout Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena as more than just a high-profile, co-feature spot on a Showtime Pay-Per-View undercard (9 p.m. ET; $74.99).
The undefeated Spencer, who turned 23 on Friday, considers this a fight for respect, too. Spencer has competed numerous times on national television, yet he knows he needs to legitimize himself as a 154-pound contender.
“It’s really about respect for me,” Spencer told a group of reporters after an open workout Wednesday at MGM Grand. “You know, I felt like he was a respected up-and-comer. You know, I felt like a lotta people give him a lotta respect. I felt like a lotta people would pick him to beat me. I wanted to prove that I’m the best up-and-comer, I’m ready for the next step, I’m the contender now.
“And that’s what I wanted to prove. And I felt like that was the perfect way to do it. And I’ve always got a chip on my shoulder coming in. And [for] this an even higher amount because this fight proves who’s ready to go and contend for a title. And that gave me high motivation.”
Jesus Ramos (19-0, 15 KOs) has fought a higher level of opposition than Spencer (16-0, 10 KOs). The 22-year-old southpaw is also ranked in the top 10 by the WBC (No. 7) and WBO (No. 9), whereas Spencer isn’t listed in the top 15 by the IBF, WBA, WBC or WBO.
“I was just trying to think about what was the biggest and best fight that I could get that would position me towards a title shot,” Spencer said. “And that was the fight that I felt like I would best be able to get because of our age similarity. And I felt like I probably couldn’t get a Tim Tszyu or, you know, a [Tony] Harrison just yet. I felt like I needed another fight before then that would prove myself, and I felt like this was the one. So, I took a shot at it and I asked for it, and they made it happen. So, that’s why we’re here.”
Spencer, of Fenton, Michigan, produced the most impressive victory of his five-year pro career in his most recent appearance. He out-classed Mexico’s Kevin Salgado (15-1-1, 10 KOs) in their 10-rounder, which Spencer won by wide distances on all three scorecards – 100-90, 99-91 and 99-91 – on the Andy Ruiz-Luis Ortiz undercard September 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Ramos, of Casa Grande, Arizona, also won his last bout comfortably on the scorecards. His 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Luke Santamaria (13-3-1, 7 KOs) was part of the Gervonta Davis-Rolly Romero undercard May 28 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
MGM Grand’s sportsbook has made Ramos more than a 2-1 favorite. The mild-mannered Ramos was surprised Spencer picked him, but Spencer felt this was the appropriate time to challenge himself.
“No one looks at a tall southpaw,” Spencer said, “who really hasn’t had any bad performances and thinks, ‘Aw, you know what? That’s the guy [I need to fight].’ No, I went in there and I picked him because I wanna be great. I wanna fight the fights that are gonna test me and take me to another level as a fighter.
“It had nothing to do with him having poor performances and me seeing something that I could find or I could exploit. No, I prepared for this fight once I got this fight. And that’s when I started to unpack him and study him and decided, you know, I know how to beat him.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.