By Jake Donovan
With reigning World cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez still sidelined from recurring injuries, Ola Afolabil and Victor Ramirez vie for an interim title, with the winner likely to face the hobbled cruiserweight king.
The pair of battle-tested cruiserweights throw down Friday evening in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Afolabi (21-3-4, 10KOs) will gun for his fourth shot at a major title. His previous three attempts have all come versus Marco Huck, going 0-2-1 in the series. The British cruiserweight—who now lives in and trains out of Los Angeles—has also twice won interim titles, with both occasions directly resulting in separate cracks at Huck.
Ramirez (21-2, 17KOs) briefly reigned as a cruiserweight titlist before suffering his own loss to Huck, dropping a 12-round decision on the road in Germany to end his reign.
The fight appeared to have ended his career as well, as Ramirez fell off the boxing radar following the Aug. '09 loss before resurfacing late in 2013. He has since won six straight contests, the last five all sanctioned by the IBF in climbing up the rankings in his pursuit of a second title reign.
Ramirez' initial reign began—and ended—in Germany, knocking out then-unbeaten Alexander Alekseev in nine rounds in their Jan. '09 clash. The belt was for an interim version that was soon transitioned to full version, although at a time when Afolabi also fought for the same interim just two months later.
Both ended their respective stays as a beltholder with losses to Huck, and the closest their careers came to crossing paths until now.
Tonight’s bout marks the first trip to Argentina for the well-traveled Afolabi, who has fought in the U.S., England, Poland and Germany over the course of his 13-year career. He has been out of the ring since his 3rd round knockout win over Anthony Smith last July, on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin's three-round destruction of Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The card will air live on TyC Sports in Argentina. Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes the cruiserweight action plays out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: VICTOR RAMIREZ vs. OLA AFOLABI
Ryan Burton (Afolabi UD): “The more talented fighter will dominate on the road.”
Jake Donovan (Ramirez Dec.): “Afolabi has the perfect style to get snubbed by judges. Fighting on the road in a bout with title implications sounds like the perfect recipe for the home team to prevail. Perhaps Ramirez wins straight up; perhaps he wins with assistance from the three ringside scorers. Whatever the case, he finds a way to win here.
John MacDonald (Afolabi UD): “Ramirez can punch and puts his opponents under pressure but his offence is crude and - as seen in his two round fire-fight with Elam - can be hurt. Afolabi should win off the jab alone as long as he doesn't take any unnecessary risks.”
Takahiro Onaga (Ramirez UD): “I think this one might be controversy with Argentina judge giving home fighter win.”
Cliff Rold (Ramirez Dec.): “This could be close all the way and that will make a lot of difference for Ramirez at home in Argentina.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Ramirez UD): “Ramirez wins at home.”
Alexey Sukachev (Afolabi Maj. Dec.): “Three points make me think Afolabi will upset the Argentinean. Firstly, Afolabi is a fighter of the same level with Ramirez but a better boxer. Secondly, Ramirez has lost four and a half years off the ring, and it should affect his performance. And, finally, Ramirez can be defeated at home as well, which was almost proven by Ali Ismailov, a crude but limited fighter. Given that, I think Afolabi will outpoint Ramirez in a close fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox