Olympic athlete goes behind walls of Avenal State prison

Pro boxer Jose Ramirez autographs mural painted by inmate

By Lt. Mike Tuntakit, AA/PIO
Avenal State Prison

Olympic athlete Jose Ramirez, an Avenal native and current resident of the small town, is an inspiration to those looking to make something of their lives. He recently paid a visit to Avenal State Prison to see the work of inmate artists.

In 2012, the light welterweight boxer was part of the U.S. Olympic team. At one time, Ramirez was the number one rated lightweight in the United States.

Avenal State Prison is known for some of its larger than life murals, one of which is 81 feet by 17.5 feet located on Facility A and represents the City of Avenal’s history.

On the tour, staff brought out Joe Frye, one of the key inmates involved in the large mural.

He told the group about the details and meaning of the murals when he came to the theater portion, which had Jose Ramirez “The Valley Champ” drawn into the mural. Frye continued to say how inspirational Ramirez was to the inmates, coming from a small town but doing positive things. He said it’s what the inmates are also doing at Avenal.

Frye said when he envisioned this mural, he imagined that one day Ramirez could see his image and know what an impact he had even on people locked up in the fight of their lives.

Other inmates involved in the mural include Eric Bergen, Daniel Stinett, David Kangas, Russell Martinez and Concepcion Loera.

Ramirez said the mural was amazing and he was proud to be part of Avenal State Prison and what it represents. When asked if he’d consider signing the mural, Ramirez immediately accepted the marker and autographed his portrait. Frye was in disbelief. Ramirez thanked Frye and gave him some personal encouraging words.

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