By Cliff Rold
After an injury kept him on the shelf for most of a year, 25-year old WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto Ramirez (34-0, 24 KO) of Mexico will finally get to make the first defense of his title. Relatively few will likely see it, coming on a Top Rank independent pay-per-view on Saturday night (9 PM EST/6 PM PST). That’s okay. It’s a small show not meant to capture a wide audience.
Ramirez’s foe doesn’t look like too big a threat. Max Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KO) is a solid enough professional. Against better opposition, he has faltered. He has a good chin and figures to last some rounds, a needed commodity for a young titlist who hasn’t had any since a shutout of Arthur Abraham for the title last April.
Bursak being unlikely to be there for more than rounds is okay too. Ramirez is in an interesting position. His division has some neat pieces but isn’t what anyone would call red hot in the markets where Ramirez will compete. Ramirez fights primarily in the United States and Mexico.
The rest of the division mostly fights somewhere else. Not all of it. The James DeGale-Badou Jack unification earlier this year ended with a debatable draw in the States. Jack appears since headed to light heavyweight; DeGale, of the UK, has fought his last four in North America. Could DeGale-Ramirez emerge as a possibility?
Consider that all of DeGale’s recent excursions abroad have come in concert with Al Haymon and/or Showtime ventures. For DeGale, his own national backyard probably makes more cents. George Groves, Chris Eubank, and Callum Smith present an exciting mix of rising and veteran talent for UK fans. Groves remains the only fighter with an official win over DeGale (Jack should probably have one too) and will soon fight for a vacant title in the class. Eubank and Smith have high ceiling potential.
So what does that leave Ramirez?
For Ramirez, who is probably just entering his physical prime, the answer might be to just hold in place.
Of the two premium cable outlets that still handle most of boxing’s biggest events, Bob Arum’s Top Rank falls on the HBO side of the universe. For the last year, Arum has talked up an eventual showdown for Ramirez with unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin.
Just as Golovkin has pined for that final perceived ingredient he needs to cross from boxing star to superstar, that big name foe he’s lacked for years, Ramirez can pine for Golovkin.
Beating Max Bursak isn’t going to set the world afire wondering about Golovkin moving up in weight to challenge Ramirez. It doesn’t have to. A win this weekend will accomplish the task of moving Ramirez forward while keeping him firmly in place as the most likely and easiest made attempt at a super middleweight title if Golovkin decides to move up.
There will surely be some waiting involved. Golovkin has his eyes on Saul Alvarez and we might just see that fight this September. If we do, and Golovkin wins, Golovkin may try to complete both the unification of the middleweight crown (he’d have to fight Billy Joe Saunders) and a claim to besting the consecutive defense record of Bernard Hopkins (he’s three away if one counts his defenses of the not-yet-Sooooper version of the WBA middleweight strap).
Considering the activity level Golovkin has kept until recently, a wait wouldn’t be a bad thing. Ramirez, if he keeps winning has a fan friendly style. He’ll be seen on larger platforms than this Saturday’s sooner than later. By the end of next year, he could be in perfect position for the fight his promoter says they want right now.
Can Ramirez keep his spot long enough to make a showdown with Golovkin a thing lots of people might want to see?
He’ll have his first chance in a year to plant himself in place as an obstacle this weekend.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]