Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor are headed toward a memorable clash on ESPN in May
It happens very rarely in boxing, when two fighters who are the best come together when they’re at their best.
That’s the special treat Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor will be presenting, when they will meet on May 8, in Las Vegas, for the undisputed junior welterweight championship—on regular ESPN, according to numerous sources, like the Teofimo Lopez Jr.-Vasiliy Lomachenko fight last October.
If Canelo Alvarez decides to fight on May 8, the alternative dates will be either May 1 or May 15, so there will be no conflict.
Taylor, The Ring’s world champion and IBF and WBA titlist, is willing to come to the United States to fight Ramirez, who is rated No. 1 at 140 by The Ring and the WBC and WBO junior welterweight belt holder.
For his part, Ramirez wants to fight Taylor (17-0, 13 knockouts). For his part, “The Tartan Tornado” wants to fight Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs).
They both feel this is a fight that transcends boxing and it’s for more than just titles. For both, the fight is a generational bout for their legacies. It also carries heavy historical ramifications in the four-belt era.
“This fight has to happen, because it is very rare that you have fights for four belts, and becoming undisputed means the world to me,” Taylor said. “I trained my whole life and my whole attitude towards boxing. I dreamed of a fight like this since I was youngster having your name up in lights at the MGM Grand.
“It has to happen. There is no way I’m getting beat. I’m coming away with the four belts after I beat up Ramirez and I’ll be the first Scottish fighter to become undisputed champion since Ken Buchanan, who’s also a fellow Scotsman like myself. It’s historical for me.
“I will come to the United States to make it happen. I’m more than happy for the fight to take place in America. I respect the hell out of Ramirez. He’s a great champion, but I feel that I’m at my best right now. It will be a tough fight at times, but this is my time to shine. I should be the undisputed world champion already, because I was supposed to fight Ramirez in September of last year, but it didn’t happen because of travel restrictions involving the Corona virus.”
Ramirez, universally considered one of boxing’s good guys, like Taylor, wants to get a point across. His looming showdown with Taylor is about a real fight.
“It is real and it’s a little unfortunate right now with all of the YouTubers out there getting attention for something that isn’t even real,” Ramirez said. “That’s too bad the exhibition fights have misguided boxing fans from what is really going on, like real boxing fights like this.
“Hopefully, after this fight, I’ll get a little more respect in the eyes of boxing fans as one of the best boxers out there. I think I’ll be the first Mexican-American with all four belts at 140 pounds, and it’s something that definitely motivates me.
“I come from the Mexican culture and I’m very proud to be Mexican. I feel the Mexican people will take me in when this fight takes place. I deserve to be involved in this type of fight and we both want to fight each other. This is also a great opportunity for Josh to come to the United States and showcase his talent.
“Growing up, it was always a dream of mine to fight at the MGM Grand in Vegas. Josh is a great champion and he has a whole country backing him up. I plan on doing all of my talking with my fists. I will say this, Taylor is a better opponent than Teofimo (Lopez Jr.) or any of those other 135-pounders who want to come up and fight me.”
Ramirez and Taylor also realize that the winner has a better shot to eventually land in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, while the loser will be forced to go to the back of the 140-pound line.
There’s no doubt that Taylor-Ramirez is the quintessential fight fans fight. Can the fight draw a larger, crossover audience?
The talent is there. The backstories are there. With Top Rank promoting it, paired with the fight shown on ESPN, like the Lopez-Lomachenko lightweight title fight was back in October, could be a huge boost to the brands of both fighters.
“I think this fight has a chance to change the trajectory of our sport, because you’re dealing with two fighters in their prime, and erase the blackeye boxing has, because the best doesn’t fight the best when they’re at their best,” said Rick Mirigian, Ramirez’s manager who was a 2020 BWAA Manager of the Year candidate. “This is Manny Pacquiao in his prime fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his prime. This is Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford in their prime. This is the fight that changes the sport and how it goes forward.
“While this is a fight fans’ fight, to me, this is a fight that can bring mainstream America back to boxing. It’s not the internet kids, it’s not the AARP fight, because mainstream America lost boxing and gravitated towards these internet kids, the YouTube guys and AARP guys. That’s because boxing has not had the best willing to fight the best. If this fight gets done, it will include a big Hispanic audience, and it will remind mainstream America of what boxing, real boxing, is.”
The hope would be Top Rank and ESPN putting their considerable arsenals together to make it a huge affair.
“It will be huge and it will happen,” said Bob Arum, the Top Rank CEO and Hall of Fame promoter. “The fact that you’re talking about two undefeated fighters, who come from two different countries, is significant. It shows the worldwide nature of the fight, and they both fought tremendous opposition and they each hold two of the four world titles.
“Plus, Jose brings up that he would be the first Mexican four-belt world champion. This fight will be on regular ESPN, the same way Teofimo and Lomachenko was, which got between 4 and 5 million viewers. This is a fight that helps everyone—it helps boxing, it gives fight fans a chance to see a great fight and it helps Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor become household names.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.