It’s hard to be bullish on Gilberto Ramirez these days.
The “Zurdo” brand took a significant hit last November in Abu Dhabi when the then-unbeaten former super middleweight king threw down with WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol.
He was bigger, perceived as stronger, and entered the ring brimming with confidence.
Twelve rounds later he was on the wrong end of a comprehensively one-sided fight from which Bivol emerged as a legitimized pound-for-pounder and Ramirez was dismissed as a protected wannabe.
And now, at 44-1 with 30 KOs, it’s time to rebuild the mojo.
Step No. 1 toward that task comes Saturday night in Long Beach, California, where the 31-year-old Mexican lefty takes on 37-year-old Philadelphia vet Gabe Rosado in a scheduled 12-rounder.
Rosado has the legacy chops of an ex-title challenger with an iron will and a plus-.500 KO rate, but he’s regressed to full-on has-been status since the start of 2018 with a 2-5-1 mark in his last eight fights.
In fact, he’s beaten precisely zero top-20 foes since decisioning Joshua Clottey in 2015.
But to the recovering Ramirez, he’s just what the doctor ordered.
“He is a tough opponent who is always ready to fight,” he said. “He has been in the ring with the best and can be dangerous at any time of the fight. And to have it be a Mexico versus Puerto Rico matchup is just a cherry on top to make this an exciting fight for fans.”
On the press releases, perhaps.
In the ring, though, it’s got the makings of a familiar-faced mismatch.
Ramirez stands three inches taller, has a three-plus-inch edge in reach, and should be able to impose his will on a foe who’s never scaled-in beyond 168 pounds in a career stretching back to 2006.
“It’s a different feeling,” he said. “But preparation does not change. I’m more motivated than ever to get back on track and show why I’m still one of the best in the game.”
He’s ranked third by the WBA and 12th by the WBO, which recognizes Artur Beterbiev, another unbeaten Russian, as its champion. And his cause is still championed by hype man extraordinaire Oscar De La Hoya, whose Golden Boy Promotions apparatus works alongside Ramirez’s Zurdo Promotions.
“This is a dangerous crossroads fight featuring the explosive Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry,” De La Hoya said. “Zurdo will attempt to make a comeback statement against the certified dream-spoiler Gabe Rosado who has derailed the careers of various top fighters.”
Ramirez was a champion at 168 pounds after defeating Arthur Abraham on the Pacquiao-Bradley III undercard in 2016, then defended five times before elevating full time to 175 in 2019.
Rosado, meanwhile, was 21-5 when he challenged then WBA middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin and was battered on the way to a seventh-round stoppage loss 10 years ago.
He was beaten by Peter Quillin (TKO 10), Jermell Charlo (UD 10) and David Lemieux (TKO 10) in successive fights over the next two years, then beat the aforementioned Clottey and later became a full-time super middleweight in 2019. He’s come down just once since – for a 12-round loss to Jaime Munguia in 2021 – and was at 167 1/2 for a 10-round shutout loss to Ali Akhmedov in September.
“I’m excited to start the year off with a bang,” Rosado said. “I have a great deal of respect for Zurdo Ramírez. We’re friends, But come March 18, it’s all business. This is the kind of fight Gabriel Rosado shows up for. I will not let myself or the fans down.”
Ramirez knows that feeling.
He lost 28 of a possible 36 rounds on three scorecards against Bivol and looked both competitively and psychologically rattled by the end. He landed just 7 percent of the 556 jabs he threw and 12 percent of the 878 overall punches he attempted – and was hit with 29 percent of the power shots Bivol tried.
Gone were the consistent forward pressure and bodywork he’d shown in 44 victories, replaced by a tentative approach in which he tried to outbox a faster and more fundamentally skilled rival.
“It just wasn’t my night and meant for my opponent,” he said. “Looking back, I could have been a little more active, but it is what it is. I definitely would like a rematch in the future.
“I’m glad to be back. I had a lot of time to reflect since my last fight and am looking forward to putting on a show against a very game veteran like Gabe Rosado. Just like everyone else, I have goals, dreams, and aspirations to be on top and I feel more motivated today than ever.”
He remains fourth at 175 in rankings compiled by Ring Magazine – three spots below Bivol, two behind Beterbiev, and ahead of former world title claimants Joe Smith Jr. (fifth) and Jean Pascal (eighth).
Pascal, incidentally, is riding a three-fight win streak since his own 12-round loss to Bivol in 2018 and will be back in the ring on Thursday night against once-beaten Michael Eifert in Laval, Quebec.
“We may get knocked off our path, but my quest for greatness will never stop,” Ramirez said.
“I appreciate all the love from my fans and supporters, and I promise to be back with vengeance.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week's picks: None
2023 picks record: 6-2 (75.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,256-410 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.
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