Gilberto Ramirez outpoints Joe Smith Jr. in cruiserweight debut
The official scorecards didn’t capture the competitive nature of the fight but even those who thought Gilberto Ramirez outpointed Joe Smith Jr. by the skin of his teeth agreed that the former super middleweight titleholder and light heavyweight contender exhibited the best boxing form of his 13-year career.
Ramirez (45-1, 30 KOs) won the 10-round Golden Boy/DAZN main event by unanimous scores of 99-91, winning his cruiserweight debut after clearly outgrowing the 175-pound division after getting outclassed by reigning WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol last November.
The official tallies weren’t kind to former WBO 175-pound titleholder Smith (28-5, 22 KOs), who though outboxed and outhustled over the first half of the fight, came on strong down the stretch, landing the kind of shots that would blast most light heavyweights.
However, Ramirez, who weighed in a pound and half under the contracted 193 pounds, looked like a small heavyweight (at least 215 pounds). But the southpaw flashed much faster hands than Smith and was surprisingly light on his feet. Beyond his movement and agility, “Zurdo” was razor sharp for six rounds, keeping Smith at the end of a busy jab and accurate combinations. Ramirez was also defensively sharp, evading most of Smith’s big punches whenever the Long Island, New Yorker got him on the ropes.
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But Smith, who was coming off a second-round knockout loss to unified titleholder Artur Beterbiev last June, kept plugging away and his persistence paid off when Ramirez began to tire in Round 7. Smith caught Ramirez with a right hand that stunned the Mazatlan, Mexico native near the end of the round, and he poured it on hard just before the bell.
Smith pressed a seemingly fading Ramirez in Round 8, taking the momentum of the bout, although the bigger fighter rallied at the end of the round. Smith rocked Ramirez at the start of Round 9, driving the 32-year-old lefty into the ropes when he landed mid-range right hands. But again, Ramirez came on in the final minute of the round.
Ramirez, who received excellent advice from new co-trainer Mailk Scott between rounds, caught a second wind in the final round. He moved well, was busier and landed more than Smith, who continued to swing for the fences and even connected on a few monster hooks and crosses. Ramirez’s chin is legit.
“I felt I was ahead on the scorecards, but I didn’t take any chances because Smith is a big puncher,” Ramirez said during his post-fight interview. “(With a) 20-pound difference (from the light heavyweight limit), I feel great.”
Smith didn’t feel as good but was still proud of his effort.
“I feel I was a little heavy on my feet,” said the 34-year-old veteran. “I wish I were a little more busy, but I hurt him a few times. He boxed well, kept his distance.”
Ramirez’s performance earned him shot at WBA cruiserweight titleholder Arsen Goulamirian, an undefeated 36-year-old French veteran.