By Dan Ambrose: WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs) will be making his first defense of his WBO title this Saturday night against #9 WBO Max Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs) on Top Rank pay-per-view at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Top Rank PPV will televise the fight card starting at 9:00 P.M ET/6:00 P.M. PT.
It’s unfortunate that the Ramirez vs. Bursak fight will be on PPV; because that means far fewer boxing fans will see him fight. It’s hard to build a fan base when you’re fighting on PPV before you’ve established yourself with the casual boxing fans. Ramirez needs to be on regular premium channels or better yet on free television so that he can be seen by more fans at this early stage of his career. Putting Ramirez on PPV could delay him picking up a fan base.
The Ramirez-Bursak fight is part of a triple-header on the undercard of the featherweight title defense of WBO champion Oscar Valdez (22-0, 19 KOs) vs. Miguel Marriaga (25-1, 22 KOs). Also on the card of WBO super bantamweight champion Jessie Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) making his first defense of his title against Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs). 2016 U.S Olympian Shakur Stevenson will also be on the card making his pro debut against an opponent still to be determined in a 6-round fight.
Ramirez, 25, is quite fortunate that the World Boxing Organization hasn’t stripped him of his title, because it’s been exactly 1 year since Ramirez won his WBO 168lb title in beating champion Arthur Abraham on April 17, 2016. Normally the WBO moves in quickly to strip champions when they fail to defend their titles during a one-year period.
We saw that happened with Demetrius Andrade. But the WBO is giving Ramirez a little leeway of going over the 1-year period in which he should have already defended his title. Hopefully this isn’t beginning of a future trend for Ramirez, because there are a lot of contenders in the WBO’s rankings that would like to get title shots before they age out waiting for Ramirez to finally start defending his belt.
Ramirez had a hand injury that kept him out of the ring all this time. Picking the 32-year-old Bursak is not the great choice for Ramirez, as he had been talking about wanting to fight Gennady Golovkin. It’s not a good look for Ramirez to be defending against a fringe contender that was recently beaten like Bursak. If you’re going to talk about wanting to fight the best, then you should back if it up by fighting the best.
Bursak was recently beaten by Zac Dunn by a 12 round unanimous decision on June 27, 2015. Bursak was also beaten in back to back fights by Martin Murray and Jarrod Fletcher in 2014. Ramirez might as well have fought one of those guys instead of Bursak. If Ramirez wants to fight the best, then he should be fighting opposition that is at least winning rather than losing.
The WBO still has Bursak ranked in their top 15 for some reason. With all the losses he’s had recently, it would seem like a good option for the WBO to rank fighters that are doing better with their careers than Bursak currently is.
“It was very disappointing for me (to not defend) my title, because it was a very special moment for me (when I won the title) and my family, my team and for all Mexico. I waited a long time for the opportunity,” Ramirez said to RingTV.com. “I believe the injury came in a good moment. I had two years with the injury – the middle knuckle on my right hand – the surgery was successful and, thanks to God, my hand and knuckles are much better.”
It’s good that Ramirez is finally fighting once again, but he really needs to start fighting now. If Ramirez can’t stay active, then the WBO should strip him of the title instead of letting more than a year pass by before defending the belt. Ramirez looked pretty good in beating Abraham last year. Ramirez didn’t make it exciting because he was boxing and moving the entire time, but he outclassed the flat-footed Abraham.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is hoping to match Ramirez against middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in the near future. That fight could take place if/when Golovkin moves up in weight to 168. He’s not likely to stay at 160 beyond 2017 if he can get a fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez this year.
If Canelo faces Golovkin in September, then the Kazakhstan fighter will move up in weight unless there’s a rematch with the redheaded Mexican star. The boxing public has been waiting for the Canelo-Golovkin fight for a long time. It would be great if Golden Boy Promotions finally gives it to them. Ramirez needs Golovkin to slowly start winning fans in the U.S. Golovkin doesn’t really need Ramirez other than for his WBO title.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good move for Golovkin to move up to 168. We saw how much bigger Daniel Jacobs was last month when he rehydrated to the 180s to fight Golovkin. If Triple G moves up to 168, all the guys he’ll be fighting will be in the 180s. Golovkin doesn’t have the frame to be fighting guys that are 10-15 lbs. heavier than him at super middleweight.
“Max Bursak is a strong solid fighter. He had a very good amateur career. He was on the national team of Ukraine and we know that Ukraine right now has very good fighters, world-class fighters,” said Ramirez.
Bursak was a good amateur, but he hasn’t found the same success as a pro. It’s a much different story at the pro level than it is fighting in the amateur ranks where the emphasis is more on scoring with the tip of the gloves. Amateur boxing is more like fencing. That’s why you get so many Olympians that never pan out in the pro ranks. It’s a different story. It’s like comparing checkers to chess. Just because you’re good at playing checkers doesn’t mean you can start playing chess and compete with the masters.