Gilberto Ramirez boxed better and moved more than usual Saturday night, and it served the Mexican contender well.

The sturdy southpaw also withstood Joe Smith Jr.’s power when Smith caught him during their 10-round cruiserweight fight at The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Ramirez’s performance in his cruiserweight debut was more than enough to impress judges Tim Cheatham, David Sutherland and Steve Weisfeld – each of whom scored nine rounds for the former WBO super middleweight champion, 99-91 apiece.

Ramirez made a successful comeback from failing to make weight for a light heavyweight fight against Gabe Rosado that was canceled March 17 because Ramirez couldn’t even come close to meeting his contractual obligation. He also moved closer to a title shot in the cruiserweight division because he beat Smith in a WBA elimination match.

“I think I felt all the time I was ahead on the scorecards,” Ramirez told DAZN’s Chris Mannix in the ring. “But I never take any chance because he has heavy hands and he bring a lotta [power] to the ring.”

A thankful Ramirez credited Malik Scott, Deontay Wilder’s trainer, for helping him stick to his game plan Saturday night. Scott worked Ramirez’s corner because his longtime trainer, Julian Chua, couldn’t attend his fight with Smith.

Ramirez (45-1, 30 KOs) won in his first fight since he lost a one-sided, 12-round unanimous decision to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) last November 5 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The hard-hitting Smith (28-5, 22 KOs), a former WBO light heavyweight champ from Mastic, New York, has lost back-to-back bouts to Ramirez and Russian knockout artist Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs), who dropped Smith three times and stopped him in the second round of their 12-round, 175-pound title unification fight in June 2022 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.

Smith, 34, and Ramirez, 32, both made their debuts as legitimate cruiserweights in this fight. They both weighed in Friday a pound-plus below their contracted catch weight of 193 pounds, seven below the maximum for the cruiserweight division.

“It was a 20-pound difference and I feel great,” Ramirez said. “I feel a great performance, I feel healthy, I feel blessings. … Zurdo Ramirez is back.”

Smith drilled Ramirez with enough power punches to concern Ramirez, but he couldn’t put him down.

“You know, I gave it my best,” Smith said. “He boxed great tonight. I feel like I was a little heavy on my feet today and not letting my hands go, like I normally do. But yeah, I’m happy with my performance. I wish I was a little more busy, but I hurt him a couple of times. It woulda been nice to get him outta there, but I’m just happy I’m here, I’m good and, you know, congrats to him for boxing great.”

Smith seemingly needed a knockout in the 10th and final round to win.

Ramirez’s hard left to Smith’s body backed him into the ropes at the midway mark of the 10th round. Ramirez pressured Smith for much of those final three minutes and outlanded him.

Smith caught Ramirez with a hard right hand a few seconds before the final bell sounded.

After taking some hard shots from Smith early in the ninth round, Ramirez became the aggressor, let his hands go and landed right hooks and straight lefts later in that round. He snapped Smith’s head back with a left hand toward the end of the ninth round.

Smith stunned Ramirez with a right hand barely 30 seconds into the ninth round. Ramirez reacted awkwardly to that shot, but he kept coming forward.

Ramirez’s straight left connected as Smith was backed into the ropes toward the end of the eighth round. Smith’s right hand landed cleanly a little less than a minute into the eighth round.

Smith hammered Ramirez with a left hook up top a few seconds before the seventh round ended. Smith caught Ramirez with a left hook to his head and then two rights to Ramirez’s body with less than 50 seconds on the clock in the seventh round.

Smith landed a right to Ramirez’s body that made Ramirez move away from him just after the halfway point of the seventh round.

Ramirez boxed and moved well throughout the sixth round, when Smith had difficulty connecting with clean punches.

Ramirez rattled Smith with a left hand that landed to his jaw with just under 20 seconds to go in the fifth round. Smith previously had success with his right hand during the fifth round.

A left hook by Smith backed up Ramirez just before the midway mark of the fourth round. Smith then caught Ramirez with two hard rights within the final 30 seconds of the fourth round.

Smith went down with just over 50 seconds remaining in the third round, but it was the result of a slip. Ramirez affected Smith with a right to the body a little earlier in the third round.

A clubbing right hand by Smith got Ramirez’s attention with just over 1:50 on the clock in the third round. Weeks warned Smith for holding and hitting Ramirez with just under 2:10 remaining in the third round.

Smith nailed Ramirez with a right that made Ramirez retreat with about a minute to go in the second round.

Another straight left by Ramirez landed flush a little less than a minute into the second round. Ramirez’s straight left landed about 30 seconds into the second round.

A straight left by Ramirez made Smith paw at his face barely a minute into the first round. Several seconds earlier, Smith landed a left to Ramirez’s body and then a right downstairs in response to Ramirez’s hard left to his body.

Ramirez moved more than usual during those opening three minutes of their fight.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.