Gilberto Ramirez & Alex Saucedo Pick Up Wins on ESPN Top Rank Event In Oklahoma
Super middleweight world titleholder Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez has not been able to get the major fights he has wanted, but he has nonetheless been taking care of lesser opponents while biding his time waiting for a big one.
He was at it again on Saturday night, as he soundly outpointed the obscure Roamer Alexis Angulo in a lackluster fight before 5,241 in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Ramirez got the victory, winning handily on the judges’ scorecards — 120-108, 119-109 and 119-109 — in a fight a bit tougher than those scores would indicate. ESPN.com scored it 117-111 for Ramirez, who retained his 168-pound world title for the fourth time since winning it by shutout decision from Arthur Abraham in April 2016.
Despite the clear-cut victory, Ramirez did little to enhance his reputation in a division that also includes world titleholders George Groves, David Benavidez and James DeGale.
Perhaps Ramirez is growing stale facing one obscure opponent after another. Other than a decision over top-10 contender Jesse Hart last fall, Ramirez has faced three totally unknown, unaccomplished challengers in Max Bursak, Habib Ahmed and now Angulo, and beaten each of them with little distress.
But of his performance against Angulo, Ramirez was blunt.
“No, I am not happy. I tried to do better,” Ramirez said. “I want to go back to training with my team, and we need to keep working, working because I want to be a pound-for-pound fighter. (Angulo) was undefeated. He came in really hungry to come for my belt.”
Angulo (23-1, 20 KOs), 34, of Colombia, did rock Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs), a 27-year-old southpaw from Mexico, a couple of times in the fight and at least pushed Ramirez more than he has been by anyone other than Hart.
The fight got off to a measured start and never truly heated up, but probably any fight would have looked pedestrian after the wildly intense action provided by the Alex Saucedo-Lenny Zappavigna junior welterweight slugfest in the co-feature.
Ramirez tried to establish his long jab and worked Angulo’s body in the early going. The shorter Angulo was warned by referee Gary Ritter to stop using his head in the first round.
The action picked up a bit in the third round when Ramirez rocked Angulo with a right hand and then ate one in return that knocked Ramirez back toward the ropes midway through the round. Angulo found a home for his right hand enough that by the fifth round Ramirez had swelling around his left eye.
“He got me in the fifth round,” Ramirez said.
The clean punches were few and far between but Angulo, facing his first name opponent, did manage to clip Ramirez with a solid left hook over a lazy jab from Ramirez in the seventh round.
Angulo trainer Pedro Diaz pleaded with him to go after Ramirez’s body following the ninth round, but it was Ramirez who landed some body punches and a good straight right hand. While there was not much action, Ramirez was at least the busier fighter, and he put his punches together well in the 10th round to force Angulo back.
As they went to the 12th round, Diaz told Angulo in the corner that “it’s now or never.” Angulo tried to press the action and landed a couple of decent uppercuts, but he never had Ramirez in any trouble, and the fight ended with the crowd booing the lack of action.
Ramirez finished the fight by outlanding Angulo 51-28 over the final three rounds, according to CompuBox punch statistics. For the fight, Ramirez landed 178 of 648 punches (28 percent) and Angulo connected with 113 of 485 (23 percent)
But will the performance be enough for Ramirez to get the unification fight he wants or an assignment against a bigger-name opponent?
“We’d love to fight the winner of Callum Smith and George Groves, or (interim world titlist) Jose Uzcategui, and unify the titles. Zurdo is ready,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said.
Groves will defend his title against Smith later this summer — date to be determined — in the final of the eight-man World Boxing Super Series tournament that Top Rank declined to enter Ramirez into despite overtures from event organizers.
That decision was out of Ramirez’s hands, and now he just wants a bigger fight against an opponent boxing fans have heard of.
“Right now, I want a unification,” Ramirez said. “That was a good fight for me, (but I want) James DeGale, Benavidez, Callum Smith. I’m ready for all those guys.”
Saucedo was fighting in his hometown of Oklahoma City for only the third time and doing so in his first fight with significant television exposure, in the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by the Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez-Roamer Alexis Angulo fight for the super middleweight world title at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Saucedo also knew the bout was the last hurdle to a likely world-title shot in the fall, and he got the job done — but it was a grizzly, brutal, fight-of-the-year contender that featured wild action from start to bloody finish when Zappavigna’s corner threw in the towel in the seventh round as he was taking punishment and had blood gushing from his mangled face.
After the fight Zappavigna announced he would retire, bringing to an end a 12-year career in which he was in many grueling fights. For Saucedo, however, it’s a different story.
“This is just the beginning of bigger things,” a battered Saucedo said as he drank in the cheers from his hometown fans. “It felt like another night at the office coming out here and getting the support from all the people. I am just looking forward to bigger things.”
Bigger things means a probable shot at the 140-pound world title against Maurice Hooker (24-0-3, 16 KOs), 28, of Dallas, who claimed a vacant belt by split decision over Terry Flanagan on June 9 in Manchester, England.
“He’s fighting Maurice Hooker. He’s the mandatory [for] that title and the [fight] will be later this year,” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who has been working on a deal for the bout with Hooker promoter Dino Duva of Roc Nation Sports. “He’ll be healed, and this will be the new champion from Oklahoma City!”
Saucedo, who is trained by Abel Sanchez, got off to a strong start when he opened a cut over Zappavigna’s right eye in the second round, which was no surprise given how often Zappavigna has been cut.
Saucedo (28-0, 18 KOs), 24, cracked Zappavigna (37-4, 27 KOs), a 30-year-old brawler from Australia, with a counter right hand in the third round that dropped him to his rear end. He got up, and they went toe to toe for most of the rest of the round.
The wild action continued in the fourth round, but it was Zappavigna who got the better of it. He rocked Saucedo with a right hand and opened a cut over his right eye.
“I’ve been in trouble before. We’ve been in that situation, we know how to control it,” Saucedo said of the difficult moments. “We stay calm and work on our punches and listen to our corner, and we got the result.”
There was more intense action in the fifth round. They were both pouring blood from their cuts when Saucedo hammered Zappavigna with a right hand that rocked his head back seconds before the round ended. As they continued to pummel each other in the sixth round, both were covered in blood — their faces, their chests, their trunks. After the round, the ringside doctor took a long look at the cuts and swelling around both of Zappavigna’s eyes.
Saucedo continued to pound Zappavigna, whose left eye was also virtually closed in addition to the horrific cut over his right eye. Zappavigna’s corner threw in the towel in the seventh round, and referee Gerald Ritter waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 31 seconds.
According to CompuBox, Saucedo landed 254 of 542 punches (47 percent) and Zappavigna connected with 143 of 508 (28 percent).
Zappavigna simply could not overcome the cuts.
“I hurt him, but my cuts were really bad,” said Zappavigna, a former lightweight world title challenger. “I had blood in my eyes. No excuses. The kid is a warrior. I hope he becomes world champion. I did my best. Now I’ll go home. I have to think about things. We’ll see what the future holds. The cuts are an issue.”
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @REALCOMBATMEDIA
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: REALCOMBATMEDIA