Gilberto Ramirez makes HBO debut on Saturday
Rising super middleweight contender Gilberto Ramirez, 30-0 (24), who has been impressive recently and whom many believe is on the cusp of stardom, will make his HBO debut on Jan. 24. He will face off against Maxim Vlasov, 30-1 (15), in a catchweight bout at 171 pounds. The bout will support the main event rubber match between welterweights Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado.
Ramirez, a powerful, 6-foot-2 right-hander who boxes southpaw, has the kind of exciting fighting style, looks and charisma that could make him a big star in both his native Mexico and in the United States.
But there is some steak with the sizzle; he can also fight. This was evidenced by some strong performances in 2014, in which he went 4-0, all by knockout, against Don Mouton (KO 1, who had never been stopped), former two-time title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo (TKO 5), Junior Talipeau (TKO 1) and former four-time title challenger Fulgencio Zuniga (TKO 8).
So while Ramirez’s promoter, Top Rank Promotions is moving Ramirez at a cautious and measured pace, they have not necessarily put him in with soft touches. Top Rank has big plans for this possible breakout star and they realize that if he is going to fight at the championship level, Ramirez needs to be tested sooner than later. So far he has passed all his tests and now the three-time Mexican national amateur champion has his eyes on the big guns at 168 pounds.
Top Rank and HBO think so highly of Ramirez, he was handed the coveted opening TV slot to face Vlasov this weekend. If Ramirez passes this latest test, he could be on his way to lining himself up for a title shot or, at the very least, a fight against a major division player in 2015.
Ramirez has been preparing in Big Bear, California at Abel Sanchez’s Summit Gym. Trainer Hector Zapari is pleased with Ramirez’s conditioning and predicted he would “be at his career best” when he arrives in Colorado. Ramirez has been getting in some good work with undefeated light heavyweight Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, who was preparing for his first assignment of 2015 against Garrett Wilson (last Saturday, in support of Deontay Wilder’s big WBC heavyweight title win over Bermane Stiverne at the MGM Grand, Shabranskyy scored a ninth round stoppage).
The super middleweight division boasts another huge, Mexican star in Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. While Chavez has faced much better opposition and is a former world middleweight champion, Ramirez is confident he is ready to take the step and challenge his fellow countryman. There would be great interest in this match-up among the boxing-crazed Mexican audience, who worship Chavez, 154-pound superstar and former titlist Canelo Alvarez and longtime legend Juan Manuel Marquez. And now Ramirez would like to jump into the star-studded fray.
Then again, Chavez made an announcement yesterday that he would face former light heavyweight title challenger Andrzej Fonfara on April 18. If Chavez emerges victorious, Ramirez would love to be the “Son of the Legend’s” next assignment.
Chatting with RingTV.com recently, Ramirez stated, “I can’t wait to fight the top guys in the division. Chavez, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham. I feel ready and I want to demonstrate I am capable of beating those top fighters. You know, I would love to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. In that fight, I think that you would see a war. I think that our styles are perfect for each other and no one would be disappointed in it. I think that the guy who would win is going to be the guy who is better prepared and in better shape. That would be 12 rounds of hell for the both of us and you know I’m going to win.”
Ramirez, who used to campaign at middleweight, added, “I feel a lot stronger and much faster and very secure in myself at this weight. I think this is my division. I feel more confidence in my skills and experience. Now I feel ready to fight any of the world champions in the ring.”
In interviews, Top Rank’s Bob Arum has claimed, “The sky is the limit” for the young Mexican. Ramirez looks to have the whole package and Top Rank seems to feel they are on the verge of breaking the young, Mazatlan, Mexico-born banger into boxing’s mainstream audience.
Ramirez has already fought in Macau, China, where he has quickly garnered a huge following, supporting stars like Manny Pacquiao and Chinese icon Zou Shiming.
While Chavez, a pay-per-view star for Top Rank, will ultimately look to finalize a bout with a champion like Froch, one gets the feeling that Ramirez is in the on-deck circle waiting for his chance at bat.
“I’m focused to be a great fighter. I want to be the best. I take every fight as if I’m fighting a champion,” said Ramirez.
Team Ramirez is looking forward to this HBO opportunity and the chance to shine under the big lights. They know the outcome can pay huge dividends for the young slugger this year.
In a recent chat after returning from a visit to Gilberto’s training site, Ramirez’s adviser, Sean Gibbons was excited about the upcoming test for his young charge. “This is a tough test. He’s in there with a rough, rugged opponent, he said. “But this is a great opportunity for Gilberto. This is everything we’ve worked for over the last couple of years, to get him on the big stage. This is a big fight, a big opportunity for him. If HBO likes what they see, he’s in a really good spot to challenge the top names in the division.”
On Saturday, the confident young southpaw gets his chance to shine on HBO’s big stage, taking another step toward proving he belongs among the current crop of Mexican boxing stars. Ramirez seems eager and ready to take the steps to emerge as Mexico’s new favorite among fight fans.
But he has a game challenger who wants to stop the “Zurdo” train in its tracks and make a name for himself. “I box to live and I live to box. I want this victory very badly. This is my time and I am ready to prove it”, said Vlasov recently.
That said, the tough Russian better bring his A-game because he is facing a motivated warrior looking to do his ever-growing fan base proud.
“I really appreciate Bob Arum, HBO and my team at Zapari Boxing for giving me this opportunity, said Ramirez. “I have been waiting so long for this caliber of fight. Vlasov is the biggest test of my career. A victory over him will validate me as a worthy challenger for a world title. I promise to give the fans a very exciting fight on Jan. 24. I’m hungry to come out on top and I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for me.”
* Have a good thought for Showtime sports photographer Tom Casino. Back surgery, a near-lethal pulmonary embolism and a debilitating stomach virus have put Tom in a tough spot. He is looking at a year away from work to recover and more than $100,000 in health care costs. Consider a donation folks, he needs a hand here. Please visit https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/qq97/tom-casino or make out a check to Tom Casino, P.O. Box 58212, Washington, D.C.20037
* With the announcement of Al Haymon’s new “Premier Boxing Champions” series on NBC, fight fans can look forward to some good fights at zero cost. The opening show on March 7 sees WBA interim welterweight champion Keith Thurman against Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner battling John Molina in the co-feature. On April 11, NBC will televise World Junior Welterweight Champion Danny Garcia vs. IBF titlist Lamont Peterson in a 143-pound catchweight bout. So far, so good!
* This past Friday, boxing fans, former and current world champions, family and friends of former WBC President Don Jose Sulaiman gathered at the famous Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to remember him one year after his death. “My father was a great leader, a great man and a great head of the family. He lived for boxing and helped many people. His legacy goes beyond the ring and I try to do my best to follow his path,” said WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman.
* Happy Birthday to the “Greatest of All Time,” Muhammad Ali, who celebrated his 73rd year this past week. Also, boxing legend Bernard Hopkins blew out 50 candles this past week.
* Looks like WBC middleweight champion Miguel Cotto won’t be fighting Saul “Canelo” Alvarez this spring. Apparently talks broke down and both camps are looking at other options. Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya confirmed to the media that he will be looking for another opponent for the Mexican star. Talk of a Cotto-Floyd Mayweather Jr. rematch is making the rounds. Anthony Mundine is also hoping to convince “Money” that he needs to go inter-continental and add Australia to his resume. The reality is it would be hard to imagine either fighter posing much of a challenge. Cotto is banking that a strong performance over (an injured) Sergio Martinez is enough to make people forget about the one-sided loss he suffered last time he and Mayweather met. Plain and simple, Mundine not in Mayweather’s league. The only name people want to hear connected to Mayweather is “Pacquiao.” Anything else is leftovers.
* Writing soundtrack for the week: Big Joe Turner and Roomful of Blues, “Blues Train.”
* Nice resume addition for retired boxer Mark Breland. The former 1984 Los Angeles Olympic gold medalist and former WBA welterweight champion can add “Trainer of World Heavyweight Champion” to his profile after taking Deontay Wilder to the WBC heavyweight title on Saturday night.