Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez leaves Top Rank, contract not renewed
By Kenneth Friedman: In a surprise move, Top Rank has opted not to renew the contract of former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez. The 29-year-old Ramirez can no be signed by other promoters that want to take a gamble with him.
Although Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs) was an outstanding champion at 168, he recently outgrew the division and moved up to 175. In that weight class, Ramirez, 6’2″, will no longer have a considerable size advantage over his opponents as he did at 168, and it could be a lot harder for him to succeed.
Top Rank reportedly offered Ramirez a fight against Felix Valera (18-3, 15 KOs) on September 14 last year on the Tyson Fury vs. Otto Wallin card in Las Vegas, and he chose not to take the fight.
Ramirez would do well with a promotional company like Matchroom Boxing, as it would open the doors for him to face Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders.
Ramirez passed up WBO 175lb tournament
‘Zurdo’ Ramirez had the option of fighting in a World Boxing Organization tournament at 175 to decide on their new champion, but he chose not to take part.
It wasn’t the right time for Ramirez due to his contract situation with Top Rank. That would have been an excellent opportunity to win the WBO 175lb belt in competition against these light heavyweights:
- Umar Salamov
- Maxim Vlasov
- Eleider Alvarez
- Joe Smith, Jr.
Ramirez would have had a good chance of winning the vacant WBO 175lb belt if he’d taken part in the tourney. However, that doesn’t guarantee that Gilberto would have longterm success at 175. He still would need to figure out how to beat the quality guys like Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol.
“His contract with Top Rank is up, so as of today, he’s free to negotiate with anyone,” Ramirez’s manager David Suh told ESPN.
Gilberto, 29, captured the WBO 169-lb title in April 2016, beating Arthur Abraham by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 120-108 x 3.
Ramirez then successfully defended his WBO title five times, beating Maksym Bursak, Jesse Hart x 2, Habib Ahmed, and Roamer Alexis Angulo. The only criticism of Ramirez from boxing fans during this time is he never fought the other elite 168-lb fighters in the weight class like David Benavidez, Caleb Plant, Anthony Dirrell, Canelo Alvarez or Callum Smith.
Ramirez had targeted Canelo and GGG
Zurdo Ramirez wanted to fight Canelo and Gennady Golovkin, but nothing ever came of it. You can assume that those fights weren’t made due to GGG and Canelo being on the other side of the fence with other promoters, and it might not have been doable for Top Rank to set-up fights with them.
Now with Gilberto, a free agent, he might end up with a promoter that can do business with Golden Boy and Matchroom Boxing to set-up matches against stars like Alvarez and Golovkin.
It’s doubtful, though, because Ramirez is now fighting at 175, and he’s not hugely popular. Ramirez should be a lot more famous than he is now, but he hasn’t fought often enough against the right opposition. Also, Ramirez isn’t a substantial knockout puncher like Canelo and Golovkin.
Ramirez wins his fights with his high punch output, and his boxing ability. Those types of fighters face a tougher road in building a large fan base compared to guys like Canelo and GGG. It’s not just being able to knock guys out that factors into a fighter becoming a star.
For example, WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) has a high percentage of knockouts, but he’s not a household name in boxing.
You’ve got to say the right things, have the charisma, the image, and lately, it’s essential to fight other big names. Benavidez is coming up short in those areas. Hence, he’s not a star yet, and it’s unclear whether he’ll ever be one.
Ramirez’s statement on leaving Top Rank
“Since I’m moving in a new direction, I’d like to thank [Top Rank CEO] Bob Arum and all of the Top Rank family for supporting my career and always being first-class, Gilberto said.
“I eagerly await the next chapter of my life and a return to the ring this year. There are many exciting fights that can happen in the division, and I’m here to take control.”
Last year, Ramirez moved up to light heavyweight and defeated the capable Tommy Karpency (29-7-1, 18 KOs) by a 4th round TKO in April 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Ramirez looked good in that fight in blowing out the 34-year-old Karpency to force his corner to pull the plug in the contest after four rounds. The victory over Karpency completed Ramirez’s contract with Top Rank, making him a free agent.
It’s going to be difficult for Ramirez to win the IBF, WBA or WBC light heavyweight titles against champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol. Those fighters have power, size, and a lot of boxing ability.
The two close calls that Ramirez had against Hart suggests that he won’t beat Beterbiev or Bivol. Ramirez’s best chance of winning a title at 175 is to go after the WBO belt left vacant recently by Canelo.
Gilberto’s fights lacked excitement
It’s unclear whether Top Rank had a desire to keep Ramirez with their promotional company or if this was a move on their part due to problems trying to schedule him for fights.
Despite Ramirez’s two exciting fights with Jesse Hart, he failed to become a big name that many thought he would. Perhaps it would have been a different story had Ramirez knocked out Hart, but both fights went the full 12 round distance, and they were competitive throughout.
It’s tough for Ramirez he lacked the one-punch power that boxing fans want to see, and he was mostly outclassing smaller fighters with limited size and talent.
You can second-guess Top Rank’s decision to match Ramirez against Roamer Angulo, Habib Ahmed, and Maksym Bursak. Those were obscure opponents, who did nothing for Ramirez’s career. Things might have been different had Top Rank matched Ramirez against these fighters:
- Callum Smith
- David Benavidez
- Anthony Dirrell
- David Lemieux
- Avni Yildirim
- Dmitry Bivol
- Caleb Truax
- Peter Quillin
- Caleb Plant
Those fighters are well-known to the U.S boxing fans, and they would have allowed Ramirez to show what he could do against them.
It’s possible that Top Rank tried to set-up fights between Ramirez and those guys. If not, then they dropped the ball because those are the type of guys that Ramirez needed to fight to establish himself as a star.
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