Notebook: 'Zurdo' returns, turns page after being outclassed by Bivol
Buatsi on the move; Zepeda back in action after Prograis battle; Beterbiev-Smith ordered; Quick hits; Show and tell
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For more than year, light heavyweight contender Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez chased a fight with WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol, claiming that Bivol was avoiding him and all other sorts of things fighters say when they are trying to lure an opponent into the ring.
Ultimately, the WBA put its foot down. It refused to allow Bivol another optional defense and ordered the mandatory fight with the former super middleweight titlist.
At last, Ramirez had his wish come true. He got the fight and squared off with Bivol on Nov. 5 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for what many expected to be a highly competitive fight.
But it wasn’t. The Ramirez who had had knocked out five straight opponents, mostly solid foes, since moving up to light heavyweight in 2019 did not show up.
Ramirez did almost nothing in the fight as Bivol completely shut him down. Bivol easily outboxed him in a one-sided decision victory that sewed up 2022 fighter of the year honors six months after his upset win over Canelo Alvarez.
Coming off that extremely poor performance and his first loss, Ramirez will return to the ring for a 12-round fight against Gabriel Rosado in the main event of a Golden Boy card on Saturday (DAZN, 8 p.m. ET) at The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California.
Ramirez knows how bad he was that night against Bivol but is turning the page.
“It just wasn’t my night and meant for my opponent,” Ramirez said this week. “Looking back, I could have been a little more active, but it is what it is. I definitely would like a rematch in the future.”
That is unlikely, certainly in the near term. Instead, Mexican southpaw Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs), 31, finds himself needing to take care of business against prohibitive underdog Rosado (26-16-1, 15 KOs), 37, of Philadelphia, who is moving up in weight, has taken enormous punishment during his 17-year career and has lost four of his last five fights, including three fights in a row.
“He is a tough opponent who is always ready to fight,” Ramirez said. “He has been in the ring with the best and can be dangerous at any time of the fight. And to have it be a Mexico versus Puerto Rico matchup is just a cherry on top to make this an exciting fight for fans.”
Going into a fight off a loss for the first time is something Bivol hopes won’t happen again.
“It’s a different feeling,” Ramirez said. “But preparation does not change. I’m more motivated than ever to get back on track and show why I’m still one of the best in the game.”
In the 12-round lightweight co-feature, former junior lightweight titlist Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. will face former two-time lightweight title challenger Mercito Gesta.
Diaz (32-3-1, 15 KOs), 30, of Downey, California, will attempt to rebound from back-to-back one-sided decision losses — a challenge to Devin Haney for the WBC lightweight belt in December 2021 and against unbeaten contender William Zepeda in October.
Gesta (33-3-3, 17 KOs), 35, a Filipino southpaw fighting out of San Diego, is 2-2-1 in his last five fights, including a lopsided decision loss challenging then-WBA lightweight titlist Jorge Linares in 2018.
Boxxer signs Buatsi
British light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi has signed an exclusive multi-year promotional deal with Boxxer, which will return his bouts to Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, Boxxer announced on Wednesday.
Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, who turned 30 on Tuesday, has not fought since a tight unanimous decision over former title challenger Craig Richards in May.
Since then, Buatsi and Matchroom Boxing, which had promoted him for his entire career, parted ways.
The first fight of Buatsi’s new contract will have him fighting an opponent to be determined on May 6 at Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England.
“I want to get the biggest fights on the biggest, most accessible platform for sports fans, so that’s why I’ve signed with Boxxer and Sky Sports,” Buatsi said in an obvious dig at DAZN, where Matchroom went for a long-term deal after leaving Sky.
DAZN is far smaller of a platform in the U.K. than Sky, which is the dominant sports outlet in the country.
“We’re incredibly proud and excited to welcome Joshua Buatsi to the Boxxer stable. He is an exemplary role model and one of the most talented fighters we have in this country,” Boxxer CEO Ben Shalom said. “Buatsi wants the biggest fights possible in front of the largest possible audience to achieve his unlimited potential. He feels he wants to make up for lost time and we’re looking forward to sharing this journey with him as he sets out to bring major nights and titles to Britain.”
Zepeda back in action
Longtime junior welterweight contender Jose Zepeda will meet Neeraj Goyat in the 10-round main event of a Golden Boy “Fight Night” card on March 25 (DAZN, 8 p.m. ET) at the Domo Alcalde in Guadalajara, Mexico, Golden Boy announced on Wednesday.
Zepeda (35-3, 27 KOs), 33, a southpaw from La Puente, California, is a three-time world title challenger (twice at junior welterweight, once at lightweight) and coming off a brave effort when he squared off with Regis Prograis for the vacant WBC 140-pound title and lost by 11th-round knockout in an all-action fight in Carson, California, on Nov. 26.
Goyat (17-3-2, 7 KOs), 31, of India, has boxed around the world and has won eight fights in a row but never faced a notable foe.
In the co-feature, junior middleweight Carlos Ocampo (34-2, 22 KOs), 27, of Mexico, will face an opponent to be named in a 10-rounder. Ocampo, whose first loss was a first-round knockout to Errol Spence Jr. in a 2018 welterweight world title fight, is coming off his second defeat, a lopsided decision challenging Sebastian Fundora for the WBC interim junior middleweight belt in October.
The WBC announced it has ordered three-belt light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev to next face WBC mandatory challenger Callum Smith. They have until April 11 to make a deal or a purse bid will be scheduled. This means Beterbiev promoter Top Rank and Matchroom Boxing, Smith’s promoter, were notified to begin discussions. Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs), 38, of Canada, is coming off a slugfest with WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde, whom he stopped in the eighth round Jan. 28. Smith (29-1, 21 KOs), a former super middleweight champion before losing his belt to Canelo Alvarez in 2019, has won both of his light heavyweight fights, including a fourth-round KO of Martin Bauderlique in a WBC eliminator in August. An injury forced Smith to withdraw from a fight scheduled for last Saturday.
The date and site for the rematch between middleweights Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jr., ticketed to take place in May or June, will be announced next week, a source with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite. Last month, Eubank Jr. (32-4, 23 KOs), 33, exercised his right to an immediate rematch with British countryman and former junior middleweight titlist Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs), 34, who stunningly knocked Eubank out in the fourth round in an upset in their high-profile fight on Jan. 21 at sold-out AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Junior middleweight Dennis Hogan (31-4-1, 7 KOs), 38, an Irishman based in Australia, will fight James Metcalf in a 12-rounder on Katie Taylor-Chantelle Cameron undercard on May 20 (DAZN) at 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland, Matchroom Boxing announced. Hogan will be fighting in his birth country for the first time. He has won three fights in a row since three straight losses, a fifth-round knockout to Tim Tszyu in March 2021, a seventh-round knockout versus WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo in December 2019 and a controversial majority decision loss to then-WBO junior middleweight titlist Jaime Munguia in April 2019. England’s Metcalf (24-2, 15 KOs), 34, has also won three fights in a row.
With Michael Zerafa withdrawing this week from an order to face Esquiva Falcao for the vacant IBF middleweight title in order to pursue a mandatory shot at WBA titlist Erislandy Lara instead, the IBF has ordered Brazilian southpaw Falcao (30-0, 20 KOs), 33, to face Vincenzo Gualtieri (20-0-1, 7 KOs), 30, of Germany, for the 160-pound belt recently vacated by Gennadiy Golovkin. They have 30 days to reach an agreement or a purse bid will be ordered.
Show and tell
Timothy Bradley Jr. had been given a split decision against Manny Pacquiao to claim the WBO welterweight title in one of the worst and most controversial decisions in boxing history. Bradley, who will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June, received massive criticism for the boring style he employed as well as death threats — even though he had nothing to do with the scoring. But the massive amount of blowback still got to Bradley in a big way. He vowed to give fans something memorable in his first title defense when he was matched with noted brawler and former junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov in an HBO main event. Bradley was true to his word. He threw caution to the wind and slugged it out toe-to-toe with the very willing Provodnikov from start to finish in an enthralling and dramatic battle at what was then known as Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Bradley, who was nearly knocked out in the first and second rounds and dropped in the final 15 seconds of the fight, hung on to win a close, deserved unanimous decision (115-112, 114-113, 114-113), despite suffering a concussion. The epic slugfest, which was hailed as the fight of the year and one of the best fights of the decade, took place on March 16, 2013 — 10 years ago on Thursday. There were three different posters produced for the event and I have them all in my collection: A very scarce thin cardboard site poster; an HBO poster, which is also extremely scarce because the network put almost no marketing behind the fight, so only a few were made; and the more common Tecate sponsor poster.
Ramirez photo: Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy; Buatsi photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
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Zurdo getting some grief for his opponent this weekend. Maybe he should do what so many Boxers do nowadays. Fly under the radar, by being inactive. Mix any combination of Zurdo, Joe Smith, Callum Smith, Yarde, or the comebacking Gvozdyk. Those would be fun fights.
Esquiva Falcao and Vincenzo Gualtieri are fighting for a middleweight belt. Putrid. Lara-Zerafa isn't as bad, but it sure ain't good! Big Charlo is teasing a June fight that will be against whom exactly? Anyone but Adames, apparently. Munguia won't take remotely tough fights (though with these 3rd tier guys scooping up belts, he might change his tune) and Steve Rolls and Mosley Jr have world rankings, amongst other witness protection program enrollees. The 160 division is pure garbage.