Oscar Valdez and Gilberto Ramirez: Title defenses in Tucson on September 22
For the most of the past week, the fight world has been focused on Las Vegas, Nevada, and the mega-“Gong Show” that was Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor. However, Top Rank’s energetic and seemingly ageless founder Bob Arum was busy amping up a show for this September 22 at the Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona.
For fight fans, this should be a good night of boxing with the four feature fighters sporting an impressive, combined 108-0 record.
The card will feature world featherweight champion Oscar Valdez and super middleweight boss Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez both making defenses of their WBO titles.
The card will also feature exciting Irish featherweight prospect Michael Conlan. Undefeated Puerto Rican lightweight contender Felix Verdejo, patiently waiting for a world title shot against England’s Terry Flanagan, will also appear on the show against Antonio Lozada Jr.
The undefeated, Irish Olympic star Conlan, who is fast garnering a large following among fight-hungry, Irish boxing fans, will appear on the card in a scheduled six-round bout. Conlan, who gained worldwide notoriety at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for giving the judges the middle finger salute, after being eliminated in a controversial decision, will be looking to pick up his fourth win as a professional against an opponent yet to be determined.
Valdez, 22-0 (19), will face rugged challenger Genesis Servania, 29-0 (12), in the main event. It was a natural fit to have Valdez headline in Tuscon, as he has deep roots in the city, having spent a lot of time growing up there and boxing out of Pima County before returning to his native Mexico.
Ramirez, 35-0 (24), will make the second defense of his world title in the co-feature against mandatory challenger Jesse “Hard Work” Hart, 22-0 (18).
Ramirez, 26, of Mexico, surprised some people, and impressed everybody, with the easy handling of rugged German Arthur Abraham in 2016 when he won the WBO title. Unfortunately, he sat out most of the following year with a hand injury but returned to make his first title defense last April, dominating Max Bursak over 12 frames.
In the main event, challenger Genesis Servania knows his whole world can change with a title win over the always-exciting Valdez. The Philippine-born resident of Japan Servania is an aggressive fighter who will bring it to Valdez. And the champion, who never engaged in a war he didn’t enjoy, should gladly oblige him, making this one fun while it lasts.
At last Thursday’s press conference, Arum spoke of Top Rank’s new four-year deal with ESPN and the quality of the shows that will go along with it. Clearly, Top Rank is going for “All killer and no filler” on the match-ups. Fight fans could get to see upwards of 20 cards a year with Top Rank fighters on the network and, with such a large platform to showcase, Top Rank wants to deliver every time out.
“Everything has changed in the world,” said the Hall of Fame promoter. “This is a major, multi-million-dollar deal with ESPN and the one thing we can’t do is have mismatches. On this card, Oscar is fighting a really tough Filipino and Gilberto is fighting a guy who a lot of people are touting to win. Jesse Hart is a hell of a puncher and that’s as close and as competitive a fight as you can make in the super middleweight division. That’s what ESPN is paying us for. That’s what the partnership is about.”
While much of the fight world seemed focused on the shenanigans in “Sin City” surrounding the huge Mayweather-McGregor event, Valdez and Ramirez were clearly focused on their upcoming fights.
“A lot of people are trying to get my belt but it’s impossible because I train really hard and I’m really focused,” said Ramirez.
For Valdez, his third title defense will be a chance for him to showcase his talents in front of family and friends in his other home of Tucson.
“When I came here in 2015, I said, the next time I come to Tucson, I’m going to come with a belt,” Valdez said, “and I’m not planning to leave that belt here.”