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WBC president says “Ramirez vs. Prograis is next”

By Chris Williams: WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum seem to be in disagreement about when WBC light welterweight champion Jose Carlos Ramirez should defend against interim WBC champion Regis Prograis.

Ramirez won the vacant WBC light welterweight title last Saturday night in defeating Amir Imam (21-2, 18 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 117-111, 115-113 and 120-108 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

” Ramirez vs. Prograis is next,” Sulaiman said on his Twitter last Saturday night.

The WBC needs to be assertive to make sure Prograis gets his title shot right away against Ramirez. The last thing Prograis needs is for the WBC to let Ramirez side step him for the next five years like WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson has been doing in not defending against his mandatory since 2013. If Ramirez wants to sidestep the 29-year-year-old Prograis for years, who’s to stop him from doing that? Sulaiman needs to be firm with the champions and their promoters.

Arum’s reasoning for why he doesn’t want to make the Ramirez-Prograis fight next is because he feels the boxing public isn’t familiar with Prograis. Unfortunately, you can say the same thing about Ramirez. The boxing outside of Ramirez’s hometown of Fresno, California isn’t familiar with him. Ramirez is not a big star or even close to a star. He’s an obscure fighter, who fought in the 2012 Olympics and was quickly eliminated in that competition. The casual boxing fans don’t follow the Olympics like they used to in the 1970s and before.

Arum is saying that he plans on having the 25-year-old Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs) take a voluntary title defense in his next fight in his hometown of Fresno, California. Sulaiman, who ultimately is the one in charge of when the World Boxing Council’s champions must defend their titles, says Ramirez must face Prograis next. So, whether Ramirez faces Prograis next or not at all is up to Arum. If he’s not happy with Sulaiman telling his fighter that he must face Prograis next, he can always have him vacate so he doesn’t have to take the dangerous fight.

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“I’d like to have Prograis fight in Fresno in a co-feature of Jose’s first defense and build it into a huge attraction,” Arum said via ESPN. “We in boxing know Prograis is a terrific fighter, but the public doesn’t know him yet. We want them to see him, and we can make it a huge fight.”

We’ll have to see if Arum can use his powers of persuasion to get Sulaiman to allow Ramirez to sidestep the fight with Prograis. The problem with Sulaiman letting Arum have his way of allowing Ramirez to delay his fight with Prograis is that there’s the potential for the delaying pattern to continue longer than just one fight. Some promoters delay fights as long as they can, especially if the opponent is a high risk one like Prograis. It doesn’t help Prograis and his promoter Lou Dibella to be put on a holding pattern delay for a title shot. Unless Arum wants his fighter Ramirez to give Prograis a step aside fee to make him go away for one fight, it doesn’t help him at all. The fight isn’t going to be any bigger with it being delayed one fight. That’s a joke. Ramirez doesn’t bring in huge ratings on ESPN. So even if Prograis does agree to fight on the undercard of Ramirez’s next fight, it’s not going to help make their fight substantially bigger unless both guys take on talented fighters like Mikey Garcia, Sergey Lipinets, Adrien Broner, Josh Taylor or Viktor Postol. I don’t see Prograis or Ramirez fighting any of those guys in their next fights.

“We signed three guys out of the 2012 Olympians, Oscar Valdez [of Mexico], Jose Ramirez and [Puerto Rico’s] Felix Verdejo. And the consensus was Verdejo was by far the best and maybe Valdez was second and Ramirez was third,” Arum said.

Obviously, Valdez is by far the best of the three 2012 Olympians Arum added to his Top Rank stable years ago. Verdejo lost last Saturday night in getting knocked out by Antonio Lozada Jr. in the 10th round on the undercard of the Ramirez vs. Imam undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York. Valdez is the WBO featherweight champion, and he’s still looking good right now. Ramirez is now the second best of the three 2012 Olympians Arum signed, but that doesn’t help his situation with Prograis. That’s a fight that Ramirez is likely to lose unless Arum can make the New Orleans native disappear permanently by having him go after one of the other champions. That’s not going to happen either. If Arum is serious just wanting Prograis to wait one fight before he faces Ramirez, it’s only delaying the inevitable. Ramirez’s chances aren’t going to go up against Prograis by delaying it for one fight. Prograis is still going to be just as dangerous as he was before.

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We’ve seen how the delaying process turns out to be a sham in the past when Saul Canelo Alvarez was the WBC middleweight champion and he was ordered by the WBC to defend against then mandatory challenger Gennady Golovkin. Canelo and his promoters at Golden Boy wanted an interim fight before defending against Golovkin. But after Canelo destroyed welterweight Amir Khan in the interim fight, he then vacated the WBC 160 lb. title, and Golovkin never got the fight against him in 2016. You’d hate to see Prograis waste his time taking an interim fight on Ramirez’s undercard, and then find himself in the same position with the WBC 140 lb. belt being vacated.

Ramirez is a good fighter, but he’s not going to do well against a guy like Prograis, and I’m pretty sure Arum is aware of that. If he was confident about Ramirez’s chances, he would make the fight with Prograis immediately. By Arum saying the public doesn’t know who Prograis is, he’s showing that he doesn’t want to risk having Ramirez beaten. If Prograis is an unknown fighter, then it’s pointless for Arum to try and build him up by making him wait one fight. There’s plenty of other unknown fighters in the 140 lb. division that Ramirez will have to defend against if he’s able to hold onto his WBC light welterweight title for any length of time, and Arum isn’t going to be able to try and build up fights against them by placing them on Ramirez’s undercards and making the contender wait for his title shot.

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