By Jake Donovan
With reigning World cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez still sidelined from recurring injuries, Ola Afolabil and Victor Ramirez will move forward with their interim title fight. The bout now has a date and home, as the two will clash on April 10 in Ramirez' backyard of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The winner will be named IBF interim cruiserweight champion, and first in line to either get a shot at the real title or be upgraded to full champion in the event that Hernandez cannot—or chooses not to—defend his title in a timely fashion.
The bout marks a rare occurrence in which the IBF calls for an interim title fight. Whereas other sanctioning bodies willingly create and pass around titles to the highest bidder, the IBF reserves its usage of interim titles only for extreme circumstances.
Afolabi is the mandatory challenger to the title and was due a shot at Hernandez. The two were scheduled to fight last fall, but was pushed back after the champion suffered an injury and subsequently revealed he was not ready to return to the ring in the near future.
The IBF called for a negotiations period between Afolabi and Ramirez, with the bout due to go to a purse bid should the matter not be resolved. The matchup fell off the radar a bit, but resurfaced with confirmation of the April 10 date.
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 stay as a beltholder with losses to Huck, and was the closest their careers came to crossing paths until now.
The upcoming April 10 title shot 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, which came on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin's destruction of Daniel Geale at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The card will air live on TyC Sports in Argentina.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox