Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez is officially set for his Golden Boy Promotions debut.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the unbeaten former super middleweight titlist is due to return to the ring July 9 in a light heavyweight crossroads bout versus Miami’s Sullivan Barrera. The fight is paired with a recently agreed upon lightweight clash between Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz and Javier Fortuna.
Both fights will air live on DAZN at a yet-to-be-named venue in Los Angeles, Golden Boy announced Tuesday. The show will mark Ramirez’s first fight since signing with the Los Angeles-based promotional outfit earlier this year.
“There are a lot of major players in the light heavyweight division right now, and Gilberto Ramirez is ready to demonstrate that he is very much among them,” said Oscar De La Hoya, chairman and CEO of Golden Boy. “Sullivan Barrera possesses a decorated amateur background and has a lot of experience in this weight class, but Ramirez is totally committed to becoming a two-division champion.
“Zurdo’s world title campaign and his journey to 50-0 will start on July 9.”
Ramirez (41-0, 27KOs) enters the fight following a 10th round knockout of Alfonso ‘El Tigre’ Lopez last December in Galveston, Texas. The fight was the first for the 29-year-old from Mazatlan, Mexico after severing ties with former promoter Top Rank which came with a 20-month inactive stretch. The event came under his own Zurdo Promotions brand, though the intention was always to sign with a major promoter as he eyed a run at a light heavyweight title.
With that came the decision to sign with Golden Boy. Ramirez has long regarded De La Hoya as one of his boxing idols, and the best fit for his own brand.
“I'm excited to be headlining this show in Los Angeles with Golden Boy Promotions,” said Ramirez, who reigned as a WBO super middleweight titlist from 2016-2019 before moving up to light heavyweight. “It's going to be a great night of boxing with fans back in the stands. I've always enjoyed fighting here, and I can't wait to put on a show to continue my hunt for the light heavyweight championship.
“I appreciate Oscar and the Golden Boy family for their love and support, and I look will forward to a great night of boxing.”
Barrera (22-3, 14KOs) was on the short list of opponents considered for Ramirez, with the intention to sternly test the unbeaten Mexican contender. As much of a challenge is expected of Barrera, a Miami-based Cuban who has spent much of the past two years pursuing a big opportunity, even in the wake of a June 2019 loss to Jesse Hart in his most recent fight.
““I’m excited to have the opportunity to headline such a big card against Gilberto Ramirez,” said Barrera, who owns a July 2017 win over current WBO light heavyweight titlist Joe Smith Jr. “I know that my opponent is a former world champion with a lot of experience and that he will come very much prepared.
“However, I feel that I have faced much better opposition. I’ve also spent my entire career in the light heavyweight division, something that will be totally new for him. It will be a difficult fight, but I will walk away with my hands raised in victory.”
Barrera’s other two career defeats have come at the elite level, including a 12-round loss to Andre Ward in a March 2016 non-title fight. The lone career title fight for the 39-year-old light heavyweight came in a 12th round stoppage loss to WBA titlist Dimitry Bivol in March 2018.
The evening’s co-feature figures to steal the show—and comes after Diaz agreed to step in order to save it.
Diaz (31-1-1, 15KOs) found a quick path to redemption after losing his IBF junior lightweight title at the scale earlier this year. The 2012 U.S. Olympian and now former titlist from South El Monte, California badly missed weight ahead of an eventual 12-round draw with Tajikistan’s Shavkat Rakhimov on February 13, with Rakhimov now due to face Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa for the vacant title later this summer.
Without a clear path to a second title reign at the weight, Diaz considered a move to lightweight. That decision became easier to make once plans fell through for the originally targeted July 9 headliner. Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18KOS) was due to defend his WBC interim lightweight title versus Fortuna, only withdraw from the bout due to personal reasons.
Diaz jumped at the opportunity to fill in from the moment it was offered,
“I’m stepping in for Ryan Garcia to challenge Javier Fortuna,” Diaz confirmed. “I wish him nothing but the best. Mental health is a very important matter that people should deal with. I’m excited and ready to go out there and redeem myself to all my fans.
“I’m extremely focused and locked in. Fight night is going to be a movie. I’ll be putting the whole 130 and 135-pound division on notice.”
Fortuna (36-2-1, 25KOs) can finally breathe a sigh of relief, though it’s understandable if he continues to remain skeptical until finally hearing the opening bell. The former secondary junior lightweight titlist from La Romana, Dominican Republic has seen no fewer than four fights fall through since the pandemic, at least three of which would have included the WBC title or its interim version at stake.
Fights with top shelf opponents such as Jorge Linares (Covid), Luke Campbell (coronavirus pandemic) and now Garcia (mental health maintenance) were all finalized, only to all ultimately fall through the cracks. Fortuna also pursued a mandatory title challenge of WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney, who initially vacated the belt as he was recovering from shoulder surgery only for his reign to be restored due to a loophole provided by the pandemic.
Through it all has come just one fight, a 6th round knockout of Antonio Lozada last November in Los Angeles. Assuming present plans remain firm, Fortuna now secures his biggest opportunity since a 12-round split decision defeat to then-unbeaten lightweight titlist Robert Easter Jr. more than two years ago.
“I’m very happy that Jo Jo Diaz has accepted the challenge to face me, as long as after the fight he makes no excuses for getting knocked out”, said Fortuna. “I give Diaz credit for having the balls to fight me. Devin Haney doesn’t have those balls. But after I win this fight, Haney will have 90 days to find them. Haney can run but he can’t hide. Fight me or give up the WBC title!”
Per Golden Boy’s announcement, venue and ticket information are expected to come in the coming days.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox