By Chris Williams: WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez will be defending his title tonight against little known Roamer Alexis Angulo on ESPN starting at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Ramirez’s promoters at Top Rank chose not to have him fight in the World Boxing Super Series eight-main tournament this year. It would have been a great way for the 6’2 ½” Ramirez to increase his popularity in a hurry. Instead of letting Ramirez fight in the WBSS tournament in 2018, Top Rank matched him against Habib Ahmed last February. The fan interest in that fight was low, as the casual and hardcore boxing fans had never heard of Ahmed. It was thought at the time that Top Rank would match Ramirez against a good challenger in his second fight of this year, but rather than doing that, they matched him against an equally obscure fighter in Roamer Alexis Angulo. You can argue that match-making like this has really hurt the little popularity that Ramirez has left with his fans, as no one is talking about the Ramirez-Angulo fight.
It appears that Top Rank is positioning Ramirez and Jesse Hart for a rematch. Top Rank promotes Hart, so putting together a rematch between them would be an in house fight. It’s too bad there’s no fan interest in seeing Ramirez fight Hart again, but that obviously won’t stop Top Rank from making that fight. Hopefully they don’t stick Ramirez and Hart together four or five times like they did with Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Ramirez needs new blood, preferably talented blood, for him to gain a fan base, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be matched against the better fighters from the look of things.
Angulo (23-0, 20 KOs) is an eerily similar opponent to Ramirez’s last defense against Habib Ahmed last February. In other words, Ramirez (37-0, 25 KOs) will be facing another small challenger with meager boxing skills and limited talent. It’s unclear why Top Rank keeps matching the 27-year-old Ramirez against such dreadful opposition. Some boxing fans feel that they don’t believe in Ramirez, so they’re not willing to match him against the best fighters in the 168 lb. weight class like George Groves, Callum Smith, James DeGale, Jose Uzcategui, David Benavidez or Tyron Zeuge. For a lot of fans, they would be happy just to see Ramirez fight even likes of Juergen Braehmer or Fedor Chudinov. Those guys would amount to a HUGE step up from the fodder that Top Rank has been feeding him since he won the World Boxing Organization 168 lb. title from paper champion Arthur Abraham two years ago in 2016.
Four years ago Top Rank had high hopes for Ramirez. They had talked about wanting to try and match Ramirez against middleweight champion Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin. When that fight failed to take place, Ramirez was matched against Jesse Hart, who he barely beat last year in a close 12 round decision. Ramirez looked terrible in getting hurt several times by Hart during the course of the fight. Afterwards, Top Rank went back to matching Ramirez against weak opposition in feeding him an obscure fighter
named Habib Ahmed, and now they’re matching him against another poor opponent in Angulo tonight.
The southpaw Ramirez looked great in beating Abraham in 2016 in winning a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision against the past his prime 5’9” former middleweight champion. However, Abraham never rated to be a world champion in the first place, so Ramirez’s win over him meant zero in the big scheme of things. Ramirez has defended his WBO title three times, beating Max Bursak, Jesse Hart and Habib Ahmed. Top Rank isn’t going Ramirez any favors with the guys that he’s being matched against. It’s Ramirez’s job as a fighter to be assertive with his promoters with the way they’re guiding his career. After all, it’s Ramirez’s career that is failing to take off due to the poor match-making that’s being done for him by Top Rank. It makes you wonder if Ramirez has confidence issues in terms of his ability to compete against the best. Ramirez needs to push Top Rank if he wants to take his career to the next level because there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be fighting the top guys like Groves, Chris Eubank Jr., Callum Smith, David Benavidez and Uzcategui.
Top Rank recently inked David Benavidez to a deal, and it was thought that they would eventually match the two together in an in house fight, but unfortunately for them, Benavidez went back to his promoter Sampson Lewkowicz. Instead of that fight being a potential one on the horizon, Ramirez is stuck fighting Angulo, and whoever else Top Rank has in mind for him after that.
“From what I know, he’s a big puncher, and I know that he will try to knock me out,” Ramirez said about the 34-year-old Angulo. ”I’m going to try and knock him out, too. He doesn’t have a loss on his record, but he will on Saturday. I am looking for unification fights. That’s what I want, but first things first. We have a tough fight with Angulo, and after that, we are looking at any of those fighters. Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen.”
It’s good that Ramirez is talking about wanting to fight the other champions after tonight’s fight against Angulo, but it remains to be seen whether Top Rank will follow his wishes. I have doubts whether they’ll try and put together a unification fight for Ramirez, because if they believed in him, why wouldn’t they have put him in the World Boxing Super Series tournament? Why would Top Rank match Ramirez against Bursak, Ahmed and Angulo if they believed in him? You can argue that those are the type of fighters you match against a weak champion that you don’t feel has the talent to beat the quality fighters in the super middleweight division.
Ramirez just turned 27, which is young for a world champion, but he’s not taking advantage of his time as the WBO 168lb champion. Ramirez looked good in stopping his last opponent Habib Ahmed in the 6th round last February, but he was facing a woefully bad opponent, who would have likely been knocked out by even the fringe contenders in the super middleweight division. Ramirez did what he was supposed to do in beating a horribly over-matched Ahmed, but it’s confusing why his promoters at Top Rank is wasting his career by not matching him against better opposition.