The shadows of Mexican boxing icons, if strewn across the searing Sinaloa sidewalk, would be noticeably congruent. Normally small in stature, tenacious and with a hankering for carnage within the squared circle, they’ve followed their own genetic blueprint…
Never before had Mexico boasted a World champion at super-middleweight, until the boy from Mazatlán captured the WBO title. Snatching it convincingly from Arthur Abraham in 2016, winning every round on every judge’s card, he’d finally announced himself to the boxing press and public. I tracked down the ‘forgotten man’, Gilberto Ramirez (38-0, 25KOs), exclusively for Boxing Social, in order to understand his stance on making history.
With its sandy beaches and fishing industry, the coastal resort where Ramirez was born is known as the ‘place of the deer’. Currently experiencing issues with gang turf wars, it was the homicide capital of Sinaloa in 2017, with an astonishing fifty-eight murders being registered within a bloody four-week span during its peak.
The young ‘Zurdo’ had managed to escape the temptation of the street, but opened up on his childhood, “It was beautiful. We were, and still are, very united. Our situation was poor, with very little income. We are [a family of] two brothers and one sister in the Ramirez family.
“I started to work as a construction worker at eleven-years old old until I was eighteen [in order] to help my family. I got involved in boxing because I liked to fight in the street, then my parents took me to a boxing gym in downtown Mazatlán. First, they wanted me to be a baseball player, but I decided [to pursue] the sport of boxing. If I had not started boxing I would have got involved in gangs, and probably got killed or ended up in jail [as a result].”
Built from early adolescence, hoisting bricks and heavy woodwork, the slick southpaw was destined for a career with his hands. Signed to Bob Arum’s Top Rank, his profile had been boosted mildly in the United States, though ahead of his rematch with Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart, he is in danger of being left in the cold by the division’s front-runners.
His first bout with Hart, son of former fighter Eugene Hart, ended with a unanimous decision for the reigning champion. It was close and relatively entertaining, yet hadn’t done much to increase ‘Zurdo’s’ appeal to the wider boxing public. Now, the pair are scheduled to revisit their rivalry on December 14th, reportedly in Corpus Christi.
Narrowly outpointing the American hadn’t left Ramirez satisfied. He confirmed his intentions for their rematch, “I beat him once already, and this time I want to do it convincingly. I don’t want to leave any doubt about why I’m the champion. Jesse Hart is a tough fighter with good skills, maybe better than some of the champions, but I want to clean my division out and I need to pass by Hart.”
The division itself, typically and most recently dominated by an Eastern European or British contingent, has opened itself up following the retirement of Messrs Ward, Froch and Kessler. The introduction of names such as Ramirez, Callum Smith and exciting American talent David Benavidez had injected life into the super-middleweight division, providing its succession and potential unification fights in the near future.
Although he missed out on participation in the World Boxing Super Series, the Mexican standout seemed keen to strip his peers of their World honours. With the Hart rematch only months away, he remained focused on handling the task at hand, but couldn’t help looking towards fights, most likely on British soil.
“It’s a very busy division and I want to fight in unification fights. I’m being patient [in order] to do it. This is my fifth defense and right now I’m only thinking about Jesse Hart, because it will be a good fight, maybe better than a unification!
“Callum Smith is a very good fighter. I would love to go to the UK and fight him, in a big fight for the UK fans. I hope the British champions want to fight me, and give the fans the entertainment they want. To the UK fans, I would love to go there and fight for them, hopefully it can happen soon!”
British names in-and-around the peak of the 168lbs division included; Liverpool’s youngest Smith, Rocky Fielding, John Ryder, George Groves, James DeGale and, of course, Chris Eubank Jr.
Fighting in the UK for unified World championships, or cashing in as the main attraction, seemed many miles from the construction site in Sinaloa. The boxing breeding ground which reared talents such as former champions; Jorge Arce, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Antonio DeMarco, was responsible for ‘Zurdo’s’ teak-tough durability. He’d yet to experience trouble between the ropes, but had to remain focused as his peers covered glossy magazines and websites across boxing’s media landscape.
One such fighter who hadn’t struggled to flaunt his mass appeal, was the cinnamon-topped, multiple-weight World champion – Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Now joining Gilberto at super-middleweight in a challenge for Rocky Fielding’s ‘regular’ WBA title, the two Mexican nationals could potentially find themselves on a collision course.
Ramirez offered me his thoughts, saying, “It’s good news that he steps up to 168lbs, that makes the division more interesting! The fight with [Rocky] Fielding is interesting to see how he feels in that division. I believe Canelo will win.
“I don’t think he will stay, maybe he goes back down again, but if the fans want him to fight a super-middleweight champion then he will go to 168lbs again for a mega fight. I believe he is strong and he can beat some super-middleweights champions – but not me, because I’m the best [of the lot]!”
The WBC title was due to be contested between Avni Yildirim and Anthony Dirrell, Callum Smith had punched the WBA ‘super’ title from George Groves’ grasp and Jose Uzcategui had recently captured the vacant IBF title. With every belt in his own division being held in separate households, it was clear his work at super-middleweight wasn’t done.
On the subject of fighters seeking challenges for themselves at higher weight divisions, I’d posed the question to ‘Zurdo’ about potentially stepping up to light-heavyweight.
The light-heavyweight shark-pool at present was littered with Eastern destroyers, but held no fear for the ambitious and unbeaten Ramirez. Potential bouts with Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beterbiev could act as his gateway to the European market, with the possibility of dragging big names to Central America looking unlikely. Already in the history books as the heaviest Mexican World champion, he was keen to go one better, when the time was right.
“I feel very happy to make my dream come true. I’ll [always] work harder to become the best of my division and be an undisputed champion. I want to go into the light-heavyweight division in the near future and keep making history as a [heavier] Mexican fighter.
“I hope the fans remember that I made history in the super-middle weight division, being the first Mexican to win this. I want to keep making history, and to be a champion in two ‘big’ divisions: 168lbs and 175lbs. The most important thing for me is to be remembered as an idol of Mexican boxing!”
Article by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209