Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez is fine with the exceedingly high expectations placed upon him by his new promoter.
Upon signing with Golden Boy Promotions earlier this year, the former WBO super middleweight titlist was tabbed by Hall of Fame former six-division titlist and company founder Oscar De La Hoya to one day advance to 52-0 as a pro.
The unbeaten Mexican promises to offer that and so much more.
“I can realistically see myself fighting for another ten years,” Ramirez told BoxingScene.com. “I’m healthy, I’m young and take care of my body. Right now, I don’t really focus on how much longer I will fight.
“The main thing is living healthy, letting my body recover.”
Ramirez (41-0, 27KOs) will make his Golden Boy debut this Friday, as he faces former title challenger Sullivan Barrera (22-3, 14KOs). The light heavyweight bout headlines a DAZN telecast from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, Golden Boy’s first event in-state with fans in attendance since the pandemic.
With a win, the expectation is for Ramirez to be steered towards a shot at one of the reigning light heavyweight titlists—WBA claimant Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11KOs), WBO titleholder Joe Smith Jr. (27-3, 21KOs) and lineal/WBC/IBF champ Artur Beterbiev (16-0, 16KOs).
The 30-year-old southpaw is already in the record books as the first-ever Mexican boxer to win a piece of the super middleweight crown. Adding a second divisional strap is part of Golden Boy’s plan to move him past the 50-0 mark achieved by Hall of Fame former five-division champ Floyd Mayweather.
“That’s really good for me,” Ramirez admits of the lofty goals in place. “I want to break that all-time record, make history and become a legend. I want to be an idol for my people. I have to keep going. Breaking the record, winning the title at light heavyweight and maybe even cruiserweight and heavyweight, who knows. After I beat Barrera, I want to fight the champions and be known as the best pound-for-pound fighter.
“First thing’s first, though. I have to get past Sullivan Barrera.”
The bout is the first for Ramirez since signing with Golden Boy earlier this year.
The move to the California-based operation came after a one-stop venture on his own, when his personally branded Zurdo Promotions took the lead on a tenth-round knockout of Alfonso Lopez last December in Galveston, Texas. The win was the first for Ramirez since parting ways with Top Rank after a seven-year working relationship with the Las Vegas-based promotional outfit that included a near three-year stay as WBO super middleweight champion.
Ramirez vacated the belt shortly after his repeat win over Jesse Hart in December 2018, registering his fifth and final successful title defense before moving up in weight. Just two fights have followed at light heavyweight, a fourth-round knockout of Tommy Karpency before a lengthy legal battle with Top Rank stalled his career for more than 20 months.
Now armed with a new promoter and fully grown into a light heavyweight uniform, the intention is for Friday to serve as the launching pad for a career rebirth.
“I want to stay active, I definitely want to fight again this year. After I beat Sullivan Barrera, I would love to next face Dmitry Bivol. He has been calling me out. I am so excited. I want that fight.”
Bivol is widely considered among the best light heavyweights in the world, though lacking the opportunity to face his divisional peers. The unbeaten, long-reigning titlist has taken a more vocal approach to lining up top challenges, including his public desire to face Ramirez in the near future.
“It means a lot that these fights are going to become available,” notes Ramirez. “Bivol and I know each other well. We’ve sparred together before. He is a very good person and a tremendous fighter.
“But this is a business and we are both here to be the best. We have to fight the best. That is the way it should be. He has a lot of potential to be the best, but… Zurdo is coming.”
For now, the only opponent coming is Barrera.
Friday’s DAZN headliner marks the first for Miami’s Barrera in more than two years. The Cuban export dropped a ten-round decision to Hart in June 2019, having suffered losses in two of his last three fights. The other defeat over that stretch came versus Bivol in his lone career title fight, suffering a twelfth-round stoppage in their March 2018 clash.
Still, the anticipation by Ramirez is for Barrera to enter the ring with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“Sullivan Barrera is a good fighter. He’s been in there with the best,” notes Ramirez. “This is his last chance and I know he will fight like it. I have prepared very hard for this fight. It will be an explosive fight which is want. I want to deliver an exciting fight for my fans, where they will be entertained and where my hand will be raised in the end.
“I think that he will come with a plan to push me around the ring. I plan to do the same, to overpower him. He will try to get me on the ropes and let his hands go. I am not going to allow him to do that, but we will see what he comes with. It’s good if he tries to do that. It means the fans will be treated to an exciting fight.”
Now at a weight more befitting his 6’2½” frame, Ramirez expects to deliver on that front every time he steps into the ring.
“It’s so much better to make 175,” insists Ramirez. “The last time I fought (the rematch with) Jesse Hart, it was really hard to make 168. After that, I decided that was it for me and that I moved up.
“I feel healthier, I’ve added muscle and feel a lot stronger at this weight. When I feel like this, there isn’t anyone in the world who can stop me.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox