By Ryan Burton
On March 17th Jose Ramirez (21-0) and Amir Imam will battle for the vacant WBC super lightweight title. The fight will headline an ESPN card that will take place at the Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York. Oleksandr Gvozdyk (14-0) will face Mehdi Amar (34-5-2) for the interim WBC light heavyweight title in the co-feature bout. Michael Conlan (5-0), Felix Verdejo (23-0), Christopher Diaz (22-0) and Teofimo Lopez (7-0) are also slated to return to action on the loaded card.
Both Ramirez and Imam will be facing their toughest opponent to date.
They both last fought on November 11th when Ramirez blew out the then unbeaten Mike Reed (23-1) in two rounds. On the undercard, Imam stopped Johnny Garcia (19-5-1) in four rounds. Imam has now won three fights in a row since suffering a massive upset loss when he was stopped by Adrian Granados in 2015.
The California native is already a few weeks into camp and said that he will more than ready to go when fight night night arrives.
"We have started working. 100% of my focus is towards Amir Imam. He is the only thing left from chasing my dream which is becoming a world champion and having that WBC belt around my waist. That is a dream I have had since I was a kid. All those 200 amateur fights I had, going to the Olympics, all those sacrifices I had as a kid - all of that is going to be on my mind. I am more than ready for it and ready for March 17th," said Ramirez.
One of the keys to the fight will be how Ramirez deals with Imam's speed advantage. In his loss, Granados was able to withstand Imam's punches and overwhelm him with an accumulation of punches. Ramirez feels that his own speed is being underrated and that his timing and precision will be too much for the Albany, New York native.
"I think whoever has the best timing that will say who is faster. Like I said, most people don't really focus too much on my speed. Mike Reed was known to be really fast and my punches landed before his punches. I know my reach is longer than Mike Reed and Amir Imam is a completely different fighter but I feel like my timing and my IQ inside the ring will be a big difference in the fight. I am always ready for war and ready to go 12 rounds. I just hope he brings his best. When I fight tough opponents it brings the best out of me and someone technical like Amir I think he will bring the best out in me. He will bring something out that people have never seen before and I am excited for that," Ramirez stated.
Ramirez-Imam will be the latest and perhaps last battle between long time rivals Bob Arum and Don King. Their rivalry has lasted decades and while Arum's stable of young talent is still very deep, especially after his haul of 2016 Olympians, King is down to a handful of fighters. Ramirez, who is from the 2012 US Olympic class fights under the Top Rank banner while Imam is part of Don King Productions.
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