Another L.A. Chicano Legend Moves On
World lightweight champion Mando Ramos, 1948~2008
Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
It seems that age and time have gotten ahead of me in my mind & heart.
Published on LatinoLA: July 16, 2008
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was a young man growing up in East Los Angeles and Bassett, California, and like many boys & young men, I had heroes in my life that I thought would always be there ... guys I wanted to be like.
Realizing that as a Brown kid, I could never fit into a "Leave it to Beaver" or "Ozzie & Harriet" lifestyle, thanks to some very mean and racist white folks and their kids in my old neighborhood, my TV heroes became "Zorro", "The Cisco Kid", and Manolo from "the High Chapparal" ... Latinos that always came from behind, and won! Payback always seemed so sweet at the end of the shows. Being a winner was what I wanted to be!
My sports heroes in the 1960's were shortstop Aurelio Rodriguez of the then-California Angels, Bobo Brazil and Mil Mascaras of TV wrestling, Honey Sanchez and Ralphie Baladeras of the L.A. Thunderbirds roller derby fame, boxers like Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez, "Battling Torres", Stevie "The Vulture" Cesena, and the most chinnon of the time ... MANDO RAMOS.
Mando Ramos passed away last week, just two weeks after being inducted into the American Sports University Museum in San Bernardino, and a reader brought to my attention that L.A.'s most recognized publication, the L.A. Times, barely dedicated more a few short paragraphs to somebody who helped put L.A. sports on the map.
I also came across a great piece by David Avila on thesweetscience.com, who interviewed Mando Ramos just two weeks before his death, and was with him at his induction.
... and of course, Mando Ramos is again the talk of the town in the City of Angels shortly after his passing.
This piece, then, is dedicated to a sports great of my lifetime.
Mando Ramos ... a dude from the 'hood ... a Chicano de San Pedro who spoke English.
... and who knocked a lot of people on their ass ... became the World Lightweight Champion in 1969, the WBC Lightweight Champion in 1972, and the symbol of the "New Chicano" on the U.S. West Coast.
Born in Long Beach, California, in 1948, Mando grew up in San Pedro. Using a forged birth certificate to qualify himself, Mando Ramos turned pro at the age of 17. In a short time, he became a favorite boxing main event at Los Angeles's legendary Olympic Auditorium, which was televised weekly ... and the legend began.
He was a hometown favorite throughout Los Angeles, uniting U.S. born Mexican-Americans and Mexicans from Mexico in their love for the sport of boxing during the late 1960's & early 1970's, much as predecessor Art "the Golden Boy" Aragon had done in 1940's-1950's.
His youth, his cockiness, his "underfed" look, accompanied by his hard hitting natural athletic talents and Latino good looks made him a star, as he battled supreme against all challengers, and he captured the heart of a community searching for an identity during troubled times.
He was a scrapper indeed, who could decimate an opponent with an almost street style flurry of blows that belied traditional boxing styles. He looked good on TV, and man, could homeboy hit! The couple of fights I saw on TV as a kid made me think he was just toying with an opponent until he came in for the kill. He was very exciting to watch, was a natural "duke it out" type of guy, and the Junior High School yard threat of "I'll do a Mando Ramos on you" was a viable threat in my day!
L.A. had other hometown sports stars at the time like Roman Gabriel of the Los Angeles Rams, Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor of the Los Angeles Lakers ... but a young kid named Mando Ramos made more money than all of them, and was more beloved by the Chicano community of Los Angeles than all of them combined.
Barely 17 when he turned pro, with no real formal training or Olympic credentials, Mando Ramos went on to fight 10 World title fights, win 2 World Championships, travel around the world, and earn millions of dollars. He was the world's highest paid teenager ... and that was ultimately his downfall.
His boxing career came to a halting stop just after six short years in the limelight. Drugs, alcohol, and a wild lifestyle fueled by millions took him down so hard, he ended up in a rehab facility. By the age of 24, Mando Ramos was out of the ring forever.
He eventually overcame his demons and stayed clean for over 30 years. He founded B.A.A.D. (Boxing Against Alcohol & Drugs), a non-profit youth organization, and dedicated the rest of his life to mentoring inner city kids at risk.
Gone at 59 ... Mando Ramos will never be forgotten!
?íAy te watcho, Carnal! ?íThanks for the memories!
Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is having a great summer. Listen to him on internet radio everyday.
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