By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Freddie Roach doesn’t expect Jose Ramirez’s next fight to be nearly as easy as his last bout.
Nevertheless, Ramirez’s renowned trainer does think Ramirez will leave The Theater at Madison Square Garden with the unclaimed WBC super lightweight title Saturday night.
Roach respects Amir Imam’s power, but believes Ramirez will prove he is the better fighter when they meet in a 12-round, 140-pound title fight ESPN will televise as the main event of a tripleheader (8 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. PT).
“This guy, I don’t see anything special there,” Roach told BoxingScene.com about Imam on Wednesday during an open workout in Manhattan. “He’s very beatable and Jose’s in great shape.”
“[Imam has] been down before. He doesn’t have a great chin. The thing is, you’ve gotta watch out because he can punch. He does have power.”
The 27-year-old Imam (21-1, 18 KOs), of Albany, New York, and the 25-year-old Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs), of Avenal, California, will fight for the WBC 140-pound championship Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) gave up when he advanced to the welterweight division last year. Imam is the WBC’s No. 1 contender at 140 pounds, despite that he hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since Adrian Granados stopped him in the eighth round of their November 2015 fight in Quebec City, Canada.
“He’s a good fighter,” Roach said of Imam. “He has a good right hand and doesn’t have a bad left hook, either. He’s a pretty good puncher. We have a good game plan to deal with what he does best and I think we’re better at what he does. I think we’ll stop him in this fight. I think we’ll break him down. But they’re both tough, durable guys.”
The third-ranked Ramirez knocked out previously undefeated Mike Reed (23-2, 12 KOs) in the second round of his last fight, November 11 in Fresno, California.
“It was a good performance,” Roach said. “He did exactly what I told him to do, went right to the body, because it looked like [Reed] had put on too much weight in between the weigh-in and the fight. So we had a big target to go after and it worked out really well.”
ESPN’s tripleheader Saturday night also will feature undefeated light heavyweight contender Oleksandr Gvozdyk and featherweight prospect Michael Conlan.
Ukraine’s Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs) will face France’s Mehdi Amar (34-5-2, 16 KOs) in a 12-round fight for the WBC’s interim light heavyweight title. Northern Ireland’s Conlan (5-0, 4 KOs) will square off against Hungary’s David Berna (15-2, 14 KOs) in the first eight-round fight of Conlan’s one-year pro career.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.