Robeisy Ramirez knows when and against whom he will next fight.
The location is the last remaining part to sort out for a WBO featherweight title defense versus unbeaten contender Rafael Espinoza. The two will meet atop a December 9 ESPN show, likely in South Florida though such details are still being worked out as this goes to publication.
Previously discussed plans called for Ramirez to headline a November 4 ESPN card from Tahoe Blue Event Center in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba will instead serve in the main event for that show in a ten-round bout versus Australia’s Joe Goodall.
Ramirez will instead headline Top Rank’s annual post-Heisman Trophy boxing show. However, it will mark just the second time that it will not take place on Madison Square Garden grounds in New York City, mere minutes from the site of the annual Heisman presentation celebrating the nation’s top college football athlete.
ESPN has aired the ceremony every year since 1994; a Top Rank show has immediately trailed the ceremony every year since 2017, its first year of an ongoing network output deal.
The five-week delay still provides Ramirez (13-1, 8KOs) with his third title fight of a productive 2023 campaign.
The double Olympic Gold medalist for Cuba—who defected to Florida but now lives and trains in Las Vegas—won the WBO title in a twelve-round decision over former 122-pound titlist Isaac Dogboe on April 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ramirez’s first defense came less than four months later in a fifth-round stoppage of Satoshi Shimizu on the Naoya Inoue-Stephen Fulton undercard in Tokyo.
Espinoza (21-0, 18KOs) will enter his first career title fight.
The 29-year-old Guadalajara native has knocked out his last five opponents, all in three rounds or less. The stretch comes after his lone career bout to go beyond the sixth round, when he went all ten in a lopsided points win over Carlos Ornelas nearly three years ago in Tijuana.
Top Rank recently confirmed that unbeaten lightweight contender Keyshawn Davis (10-0, 6KOs) will also appear on the show.
His placement was revealed by the boxer himself immediately after his ten-round, majority decision win over Nahir Albright this past Saturday in Rosenberg, Texas. An opponent is not yet in place, though efforts are ongoing to secure former two-division titlist Jose Pedraza for the assignment.
With a win, Ramirez will be required to make a mandatory title defense in his first bout of 2024. The current number-one contender is Arnold Khagei. However, the WBO has hedged its bets with a wait-and-see approach, regarding Naoya Inoue who is the reigning WBC/WBO junior featherweight titlist. Inoue is due to next face Marlon Tapales for the undisputed 122-pound crown on December 26 in Tokyo and—as a designated WBO 'Super' Champion—would have the flexibility to move up and immediately challenge for Ramirez's featherweight title if he sought to become a five-division champ.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox