Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez possibly the most anonymous 44-0 former world champion in boxing history. He has 30 knockouts, a super middleweight world championship and five successful title defenses to his name, but most boxing fans wouldn’t be able to pick him from a lineup when he was paired with three Hooters girls.
He had nothing that came close to a truly significant fight against a first class opponent.
He will, however, get a chance to make his name around the world and, more importantly, position himself for significant fights on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates if he goes undefeated Dmitry Bivol for the WBA light heavyweight title.
Bivol grabs a hard-fought and well-deserved win over Canelo Alvarez in May, a win that raised his profile considerably. He’s one of the sport’s pound-for-pound elite, the very guy Ramirez didn’t fight during his 13-year professional career that began when he was still a teenager.
The Bivol fight will be one that will define it because nobody questions Bivol. It’s Ramirez who, despite the stellar record, all the victories in the championship fight and the slew of knockouts, has a lot to prove.
However, he’s not overwhelmed or enamored with the idea of becoming a star.
“Right now, the way I see it is just going to be a two-time world champion,” Ramirez said. “I don’t see it as becoming a boxing star. My goal is to become a two-time world champion, continue to build my legacy and eventually become a legend. That is my goal. I want to do that for all my fans out there.”
You don’t become a legend by beating second tier fighters. You do it by beating the best, often in hostile environments like the one he will face at the Etihad Arena on Saturday, which is proving to be heavily pro-bivol.
His promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, was the kind of fighter who would fight anyone, anytime, anywhere. De La Hoya won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and then turned pro and capitalized on his notoriety by competing and beating the best of his time in six weight classes.
He’s spoken a lot about the importance of the best battling the best and posted a mad rant on social media on Wednesday.
So it’s time for Ramirez to do the same and De La Hoya believes Bivol will be shocked if he expects Ramirez to be a step behind Alvarez.
“I love Bivol; his style is by far one of the best in the business,” said De La Hoya. “I think Bivol got a great win against Canelo, another Mexican superstar, in his last fight. He’s done a great job. But I have to say that Zurdo Ramirez is not a Canelo. Zurdo Ramirez is a fighter who hits in heaps, a fighter who’s big and strong and heavy and a southpaw. He will be very active.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Zurdo Ramirez. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for boxing to be on the big stage and show the world what Abu Dhabi is, show the world what big-time boxing is and show the world, yes, promoters can come together and stage the big fights.”
It won’t be easy for Ramirez, however, as Bivol has repeatedly proven far tougher than most are willing to give him credit for. He was largely ignored and overlooked before the Alvarez fight, but when the final bell rang, no one needed to hear the results read aloud. It was clear who won this fight.
If Bivol wins, he has his eye on Artur Beterbiev, the unified champion who holds the IBF-WBC-WBO belts. But he’s smart enough to know that the path to uncontested must be via Ramirez.
He insists he won’t rest on his laurels after Alvarez’s win and doesn’t expect to drive to victory against Ramirez.
“When people tell me I’ve achieved everything, it’s like they’re watering [fuel] on my fire,” said Bivol. “I try to only think about my dream to reach my full potential. I try to be hungry and angry every time and focus on training and my opponents. I’m trying to think that Saturday night is going to be the toughest fight of my career. This allows me to focus more on the night.”