Gilberto Ramirez looks to take advantage of a solid opportunity on ESPN
The longest reigning super middleweight titleholder today, Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, looks to successfully defend his WBO belt for the fourth time tonight against Roamer Alexis Angulo, in the main event of a Top Rank card televised live on ESPN (9:00 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT).
“It’s good for all the Mexican people because they are exciting,” Ramirez told UCNLive.com, amid Mexico’s World Cup run happening in Russia. Growing up in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Ramirez, 27, was a gifted athlete encouraged to play soccer and baseball all his life by his parents but the other sport his nation loves so dearly was for him. Even today, he doesn’t really follow soccer all that much but he’ll tune in for the World Cup, every four years, because he says it’s the most exciting sports event.
“I want to give the same thing to the fans and give a really exciting fight,” Ramirez said. “I want them to see the best Zurdo Ramirez.”
Ramirez, 37-0 (25), hasn’t exactly had a flourishing career, after dominating Arthur Abraham over two years ago, to win the WBO super middleweight title. He’s big; he’s Mexican and has a look fit for a telenovela but Ramirez hasn’t really hit it off, in terms of popularity. Although Ramirez is slated as the main event of Saturday night’s show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, all eyes and energy at the Chesapeake Arena will be on the ESPN co-feature: OKC native Alex “El Cholo” Saucedo, who makes his TV debut and homecoming in a highly anticipated fight.
In wake of the Abraham win, Ramirez suffered a hand injury that required surgery, and a yearlong layoff, before making his first defense. In addition, the World Boxing Super Series devised a super middleweight tournament that took a handful of potential opponents away, and, after declining to join it, all Ramirez could do was watch another tournament at home.
“I’ve been following all of them,” Ramirez said about the WBSS, which still has one final match to go. “I would like to fight with the winner of the tournament. (Top Rank CEO) Bob Arum promised me that fight could happen.”
The WBSS super middleweight final is still unscheduled officially but George Groves looks to defend his WBA title against fellow Brit Callum Smith. If everything goes according to how Ramirez thinks, he’ll face the underdog of that match-up, and says he’d even travel to the U.K. for a unification bout.
“I prefer Callum Smith because he’s taller and has skill. George Groves has the power but Smith is more awkward and smart too,” Ramirez responded, when asked whom he think will win the WBSS Final. “Of course, I would like to fight there and take whatever they have. Even for (IBF super middleweight titleholder) James DeGale, I’ll fight there. It’s really interesting but first I need to win clearly in this fight. It’s exciting for me cause I want to prove that I’m the best at 168.”
As for the hand injury, Ramirez returned to the ring against a not-so-dangerous Max Bursak for his first defense understandably, in April of last year. A WBO mandatory bout against its No.1 contender Jesse Hart followed, last September, and fringe contender Habib Ahmed also got a title opportunity too, last February. Although both Hart and Ahmed were undefeated, neither match-up was highly anticipated or dangerous, other than the first few rounds against Hart. The fight against Ahmed in particular isn’t even worth reflecting on but, as it stands today, Ramirez feels ready to take the next step.
“The fights give me more confidence,” said Ramirez, who was productive while his hand healed, learning English with reasonable fluency. “I feel 100 percent to hit the head the body. I’m not worried about it. I’m gonna fight another undefeated guy. He has power in his hands and I know that I have the skills to win the fight. I want to keep my title.”
Angulo, 23-0 (20), is an unknown Colombian who holds the No. 8 spot in the WBO super middleweight rankings. At Friday’s weigh-in – when both made weight – Angulo (167.2) had to look up at Ramirez (167) in order to make eye contact but he sports a good KO rate and frankly can’t be any worse than Ramirez’s most recent opponent. As for the stakes, Ramirez knows there are bigger things ahead and, should he win tonight, his next bout should come with more options. What are missing in Ramirez’s career, however, are the exciting fights in which an opponent’s pushback teaches us more about this southpaw Mexican cowboy along the way toward a big fight. Colombians are known for being durable but sometimes awkward enough to thwart action and bring about a listless contest. There’s really no telling what happens tonight, and maybe if Ramirez took more risks, drama would ensue for the first time in his career. However that wouldn’t be all that smart, after waiting around all this time.
“Always I give my best and ESPN is a good platform,” Ramirez said about headlining tonight’s show. “Everybody can watch my fight. I impress because my preparation is excellent like always but I don’t feel pressure for the knockout. I just need to win clearly every single round.”