With the mandate to fill a void atop the light heavyweight landscape, at least one party is making the process a difficult one.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) ordered a four-man light heavyweight tournament with the hopes of it leading to a vacant title fight. The two eliminators which have been are: top-rated former WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez (40-0, 26KOs) versus former WBO 175-pound titlist Eleider Alvarez (25-1, 13KOs); and Umar Salamov (25-1, 19KOs) versus Maksim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs).
The mini tournament was birthed following Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s decision to vacate the light heavyweight title, without established mandatory challengers in place to vie for the crown. All four parties accepted the WBO’s invitations to enter negotiations, although clarification on Ramirez’s current promotional situation could ultimately dictate when—and for whom—his next fight takes place.
The former super middleweight titlist is currently still signed to Top Rank Inc. but hasn’t at all been shy about his intentions in moving on without the Las Vegas-based promotional outfit. As much was made clear with the WBO, whose official letter of notification was submitted to Ramirez’s manager David Suh. Alvarez’s notification was sent to Top Rank founder and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum.
Far less problematic in the equation is getting Salamov and Vlasov on the same page. The pair of Russian contenders are both managed by Oleg Bogdanov, who is currently discussing the proposed bout with Salamov’s stateside promoter and former title contender Dmitriy Salita.
Ramirez has not fought since a 4th round knockout of journeyman Tommy Karpency last April in Los Angeles, California. The bout marked his official light heavyweight debut, putting an end to his three-year stay as a super middleweight titlist which began with a world of promise in an April 2016 win over Arthur Abraham.
Five successful title defenses followed, including a pair of spirited wins over Jesse Hart amidst an otherwise largely forgettable title reign. In vacating his super middleweight title, Ramirez was inserted as the number-two contender in the WBO light heavyweight rankings, directly behind then-unbeaten mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde.
Ramirez remains at number two even after Yarde’s knockout loss to then-reigning titlist Sergey Kovalev last August. Kovalev regained his title from Alvarez in a 12-round decision win last February, six months after suffering a knockout loss to the Canada-based Colombian boxer. Ranked ahead of Ramirez heading into the final quarter of 2019 was Canelo Alvarez, who went on to stop Kovalev in 11 rounds to win the title he’d eventually relinquish less than two months later and without registering a single title defense.
Eleider Alvarez punched his way back into contention with a highlight reel 7th round knockout of Michael Seals this past January in Verona, New York. The bout was his first since the aforementioned loss to Kovalev, though arriving right on time. One week prior to his win over Seals, then number-three ranked Hart suffered an upset points loss to Joe Smith Jr. whose feat placed him just outside the final four in the most recent set of WBO light heavyweight rankings.
While Ramirez has yet to indicate disinterest in proceeding with the ordered bout versus Alvarez, he is also clearly in the market for a new promoter—or at least a next fight without present company. The 28-year old southpaw from Mazatlan, Mexico was in Miami during Super Bowl week, a trip largely limited to networking and sightseeing but which included his taking in the January 30 DAZN offering presented by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA outfit.
Representatives from Top Rank declined comment to BoxingScene.com on the subject.
Answers will have to be provided one way or another in the coming days. The two sides have fifteen (15) days dating back from the official issuance of notification to come to terms or else will be subject to a purse bid hearing.
With that deadline looming, clarification will soon come regarding Ramirez’s next step.
Any party who fails to honor the terms of the WBO-ordered tournament will be replaced by the next highest-ranked available contender. Long Island's Smith Jr. is currently number-five.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox