By Jake Donovan
Gilberto Ramirez takes his next step towards super middleweight title contention as he faces veteran spoiler Derek Edwards in a scheduled 12-round bout Friday evening at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.
Both fighters came in right at the 168 lb. limit for their main event, which airs live on truTV as part of Top Rank's Metro PCS Friday Night Knockout series.
Ramirez (31-0, 24KOs) fights for the third time in Texas, where he continues to grow as a star on the rise. His previous two appearances in the Lone Star State both ended in knockout— stopping Don Moulton in the 1st round of their UniMas-televised bout last February in Laredo and then knocking out veteran Fulgencio Zuniga last November in San Antonio.
The win over Zuniga marked Ramirez' first career bout affiliated with HBO, with the bout headlining an HBO Latino telecast. His most recent ring appearance came on HBO's flagship station, scoring a 10-round decision over Maxim Vlasov this past January, on the undercard of Brandon Rios' three-round rout of Mike Alvarado in their rubber match.
Edwards (27-4-1, 14KOs) was once a prospect on the rise before running into hard times, his record 1-4-1 in his last six starts. The one win showed evidence that he is still capable of big things on any given night, scoring a shocking 1st round knockout of Badou Jack last February.
The win is magnified in retrospect, with Jack going on to win a super middleweight title earlier this year. The feat came at the expense of dethroned titlist Anthony Dirrell, whose older brother Andre scored a 10-round decision over Edwards in the North Carolina native's most recent ring appearance last December.
In the televised co-feature, Diego Magdaleno and Jose 'Chelo' Gonzalez collide in a scheduled 10-round matchup of previous title challengers.
Both fighters weighed 134 lbs.
Magdaleno (27-1, 11KOs) has won four straight since a failed bid at then-130 lb. titlist Roman 'Rocky' Martinez, dropping a competitive 12-round decision in their April '13 title fight. The 28-year old southpaw from Las Vegas—whose younger brother Jessie appeared in the first installment of Top Rank's developing series on truTV—has been out of action since last November, scoring a 3rd round knockout of Hevinson Herrera in a UniMas-televised bout in Pharr, Texas.
Gonzalez (24-1, 19KOs) appeared well on his way to winning a lightweight title, before quitting on his stool after nine rounds in his bid versus Scotland's Ricky Burns in May '13. The then-unbeaten challenger from Puerto Rico was up on all three scorecards but was unable to continue after suffering a fractured wrist.
The manner in which he exited the biggest fight of his career was met with heavy criticism, with the lone loss of his career followed by an extended ring absence. Gonzalez returned last December and comes in having won two straight, including a 5th round knockout of Marvin Quintero in April.
Friday's bout marks Gonzalez' first anywhere in the lower 48 states. His aforementioned title bid versus Burns was his first pro fight outside of Puerto Rico.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox