Unbeaten Mexican Rafael Espinoza spent 10 years in the pro ranks before his first world title shot. And when the opportunity finally came, he made the most of it.
Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs) captured the WBO featherweight world title with a majority decision win against two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez (13-2, 8 KOs) Saturday evening at Charles F. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
Espinoza, enjoying significant height and reach advantages, kept Ramirez at bay with long-range punches to start the fight. Ramirez took a few rounds to find his distance, and at the end of round five, he landed a right hook that dropped Espinoza.
Ramirez appeared to regain control of the fight, hurting Espinoza again in the following rounds. But by round nine, Espinoza had recovered and began unleashing combinations with as much vigor as he did at the beginning of the fight.
Espinoza, sensing that he needed to close the show emphatically, overwhelmed an exhausted Ramirez and dropped him before the final bell.
One judge scored the fight 113-113, which was overruled by scores of 114-112 and 115-111 for Espinoza.
Espinoza said, “I didn’t think about anything in here. I just thought about winning. I even asked what round we were in. And I knew that I had to drop him in order to win. I just put my heart into it. I always do that. And thank God it happened.
“I think I’ve had a broken foot since the second round. But what kept me on my feet was my daughter, my parents, my wife and my family. I knew that all of Mexico was watching me. And I knew that I had to become a world champion.”