Jose Ramirez and his team have done their best to justify the former unified titlist passing on a guaranteed title shot.
Regis Prograis and his team have a briefer and more direct response as to why the WBC junior welterweight title fight is no longer taking place.
“Simply, you passed up a title opportunity,” Sam Katkovski, Prograis’ manager, bluntly stated in direct response to Rick Mirigian, Ramirez’s career-long manager. “Facts”
“Zero attempt was done to try and strike a deal. If Ramirez tried and wanted it, why not call our side? You simply pivoted to an easier fight, there is no need for 1000 reasons/excuses.”
The claim made by Katkovski comes in the wake of a breaking news story by ESPN.com boxing insider Mike Coppinger, revealing that Ramirez (36-3, 28KOs; 2NC) — a former WBC/WBO 140-pound titlist from Avenal, California—was moving on from a mandatory title shot versus Prograis.
Ramirez and his team were displeased over a ruling by the WBC granting a 65/35 split in favor of Prograis (28-1, 24KOs) as the defending titleholder, already adjusted from the standard 75/25 split. The former titlist was willing to accept 40 percent of the winning bid, which he felt was already a compromise as the more notable draw and promotional backing.
Top Rank has enjoyed an output deal with ESPN since 2017. Ramirez long ago established himself as a reliable gate attraction in his home region.
"I'm disappointed in that split," Ramirez told ESPN.com. "This fight should definitely be a 50-50 [split] and I was OK on taking [ten-percent] less but I can't be fighting for free and risk too much of a pay cut. Boxing is a tough sport and we want to make sure we get valued. This is a huge fight that is not being promoted properly. Hopefully we can make the fight happen in the future when we both get compensated as we should."
ESPN.com reported that Ramirez will likely instead face former IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey next March in Fresno.
The fight was ordered shortly after the 33-year-old Prograis became a two-time champ following an eleventh-round knockout of Jose Zepeda in a sensational performance on November 26 in Carson, California.
Prograis advanced to the title stage after Ramirez declined the opportunity due to already scheduled wedding plans conflicting with the deadline to fill the vacancy left behind by Scotland’s Josh Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) earlier this summer. Ramirez was the number two ranked contender behind Zepeda (36-3, 28KOs; 2NC), with the two ordered to negotiate what would have been a rematch to their February 2019 clash where Ramirez defended the WBC title via majority decision.
The WBC proceeded with Zepeda-Prograis, with the instructions that the winner would be met with two consecutive mandatory title defenses. Ramirez was first on the list, with former unified and lineal lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez (18-1, 13KOs) next in line after a ten-round win over Spain’s Sandor Martin in their December 10 WBC title eliminator at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Talks figured to be problematic given their representation. Ramirez is a Top Rank fighter, while Prograis is signed to Richard Schaefer’s Probellum. The two promotional outfits do not get along, as evidenced in this fight as never progressed beyond the initial order.
Naturally, both sides disagreed on who’s at fault.
“Like I said, we made you an offer,” Mirigian claimed in an open message to Katkovski. “[Ramirez] tried and offered a fair split to get it done and that's not passing. “it's understood the two promoters don't engage but YOU and your side could have made an offer also. You can't find a better deal or situation, you know that.”
Prograis’ team challenged that claim.
“What offer,” questioned Katkovski. “A letter to WBC to change purse split (without letting us know) is not considered an offer. And I personally tried calling you twice, but got your voicemail. Stop with the misrepresentation of facts.”
Prograis will now wait for word from the WBC on the first defense of his second title reign. He previously held the WBA belt, which he lost to Taylor—then an unbeaten IBF titlist—via majority decision in their October 2019 unification bout which doubled as the World Boxing Super Series finals in Manchester, England.
Taylor went on to fully unify the 140-pound junior welterweight division, outpointing Ramirez over twelve rounds last May 22 in Las Vegas to win the WBC/WBO belts and defend his IBF/WBA titles. The titles were since splintered, with Taylor relinquishing—in order—the WBA, IBF and WBC titles. The Scottish southpaw still holds the WBO belt, which he plans to defend in a rematch with England’s Jack Catterall next March.
Alberto Puello claimed the vacant WBA title in a twelve-round win over Batyr Akhmedov on August 20 in Hollywood, Florida. The IBF belt remains vacant, though expected to be filled through an ordered fight between Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias (18-1, 18KOs) and Argentina’s Jeremias Ponce (30-0, 20KOs) on February 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
An ordered fight between Prograis and Lopez figures to produce the same set of problems already in place. Lopez told SI.com’s Chris Mannix that he “of course” wants the fight, in a bid “to be a two-time Undisputed world champion and the first male boxer to do it in [b]oxing [h]istory.”
However, it is believed that the WBC will ultimately run down the list before finding a willing available contender to next face Prograis.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox