By Dan Ambrose: Top Rank promoter Bob Arum believes his fighter WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs) is on the cusp of superstardom. Arum will be matching the 25-year-old Ramirez against middleweight star Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs) in early 2017, and he believes that the 6’2” Ramirez will win that fight thanks to his four inch height and five inch reach advantage over the Kazakhstan fighter.
Arum sees a victory for Ramirez over Golovkin as a fight that will transform the Mexican fighter into a pay-per-view attraction on HBO. Whether that happens or not is debatable. Ramirez may need to do a lot more than beating the 34-year-old Golovkin for him to become a PPV attraction.
One reason why a win over Golovkin won’t turn Ramirez into a PPV star is that it’s just one fight, and if Arum makes it a PPV event, then few casual boxing fans will watch it.
Golovkin’s attempt at fighting on PPV last October against David Lemieux resulted in the fight bringing in a little over 100,000 PPV buys. You can imagine that a match between the little known Ramirez and Golovkin would do similar numbers.
“I believe my guy beats him,” Arum said to Yahoo Sports about Ramirez beating GGG. “If he does, that catapults him into a big pay-per-view star. If you look at the boxing business today, except in England, it totally sucks. Unless you can make a guy a pay-per-view star, you’re just grinding wheels. You lose money here and maybe make a little money here, but the only way this business works any more is for a guy to be a pay-per-view star.”
It’s worth the gamble for the 84-year-old Arum to roll the dice with Ramirez and throw him to the wolves by matching him against Golovkin. I don’t think it’s going to work out well for Ramirez, but I can’t blame Arum for taking the shot. Ramirez looked good in his last fight in beating a passive, old and over-the-hill 36-year-old Arthur Abraham last April, but that was against a fighter that wasn’t doing anything to make it a fight.
Abraham wasn’t even trying to cut off the ring to put pressure on Ramirez. It was an inept performance from Abraham in every sense of the word. He fought like he hadn’t studied Ramirez’s past fights to know that he’s now a runner, and he did nothing to adapt to his style during the fight by cutting off the ring. On the few occasions that Abraham did put pressure on Ramirez, he was able to back him up against the ropes and land some big shots that had him looking in distress.
You can imagine what a guy like Golovkin would do to Ramirez with the kind of pressure he would be putting on him for three minutes of every round. Golovkin will likely make Ramirez look really bad, especially if he insists on running and holding. Ramirez talks big, but he’ll look really bad if he’s seen running from Golovkin for 12 rounds.
“I have great confidence in Zurdo, and while I think Golovkin is an excellent fighter,” said Arum. “So a guy like Zurdo, who has the capability and the personality and the ability to be a pay-per-view star, you have to take the shot. And the way to do that is to have him fight Golovkin and win it. He’s got the charisma and he’s a real good-looking kid … and he’s learning to speak English. He’s got it all, but it’s a matter of putting it together and coming through with a win over a guy like Golovkin.”
Ramirez will be fighting next month on July 23 on HBO PPV against #10 WBO Dominik Britsch (32-2-1, 11 KOs) on the Viktor Postol vs. Terence Crawford card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ramirez is expected to easily win this fight, mostly because Britisch is a hand-picked opponent fringe contender rather than one of the quality contenders that could give Ramirez a real run for his money like Callum Smith.
If Arum wanted to turn Ramirez into a star, he should have already started by matching him against Smith or one of the high quality contenders that could give Ramirez a real fight. It’s already a mistake by Arum to have Ramirez fighting on PPV for his first defense of his WBO title rather than on regular HBO, because it just means fewer casual boxing fans are going to see him fight.
The Crawford-Postol PPV fight card will be lucky if it brings even 100,000 PPV buys. That’s a very tiny amount of fans that will be seeing Ramirez, and he’s clearly not going to be seen by a lot of fans. The second mistake Arum is making is putting Ramirez in with a soft touch in Britisch instead of a good super middleweight that could make it interesting. At the very least, Arum should have matched Ramirez against recognizable super middleweights like one of the Dirrell brothers rather than putting him in with little known German fringe contender Britisch.
“I want to be one of the best pound-for-pound guys and I want to be remembered as a great fighter,” said Ramirez to Yahoo Sports. “Someone like Muhammad Ali, he gave everyone a chance and he took risks and the people loved him because of it.”
Ramirez is getting way ahead of himself by assuming that he can get to the level of a pound-for-pound fighter. Arum is doing things backwards in trying to turn Ramirez into a star. He had him face the weak link in terms of the super middleweight champions in Abraham for him to win the WBO title, and now he’s matching Ramirez against a weak challenger. After that, Arum will likely match him against one of his own Top Rank fighters in #1 WBO Jesse Hart, who was almost beaten in his last fight by journeyman Dashon Johnson last March. Hart was knocked down in the 10th and was on the verge of being knocked out. I doubt that Arum will match Ramirez against a good contender that can give him problems and potentially beat him.