LAS VEGAS — Fighting for the first time since missing weight by more than seven pounds and having a scheduled 175-pound bout in March canceled, Gilberto Ramirez looked more than comfortable in moving up to cruiserweight Saturday night.
Ramirez pounded out a unanimous decision victory over Joe Smith Jr., 99-91, 99-91, 99-91, in an entertaining 10-round WBA cruiserweight title eliminator in the main event of a Golden Boy on DAZN card in the Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan.
It was a contract in styles, with Ramirez more patient to start, the southpaw picking his spots and thus, picking Smith apart with lead lefts to the body and then following with combinations to the head.
Smith, meanwhile, was content to load up and launch powerful rights to the head that more often than not, missed their mark.
Consider: 35% of Ramirez’s landed punches (59 of 169) were body punches, with 51 of those 59 punches (86%) being power punches. Ramirez was also precise in landing 31% of his jabs.
Smith landed 96 of his 266 power punches.
“He has a heavy hand, but as a Mexican I can take a punch,” Ramirez said. “But at that the weight, it should be right. I need to be smart all of the time and that’s what I did.”
Ramirez, who improved to 45-1, weighed in at 191.6 pounds.
Smith weighed in at 191.8 pounds and his record fell to 28-5.
“I gave him my best; he boxed great tonight,” said Smith, fighting for the first time since June 18, 2022, when he lost by TKO to Artur Beterbiev.
“I feel like I was a little heavy on my feet today and I didn’t let my hand go like I normally do, but I’m happy with my performance. I wish I was a little more busy. I hurt him a couple of times. It would have been nice to get him out of there but I’m happy I’m here, I’m good and congrats to him for boxing great.”
Smith said he would not return to 175 pounds.
Same with the 32-year-old Ramirez, who not only desires Dmitry Bivol after losing a unanimous decision (111-117, 111-117, 110-118) to him in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 5, 2022 for the WBA super world light heavy title, but Ramirez also has bigger plans.
“Of course, he hurt my ego, my soul and as a Mexican, I want a rematch, I want to beat him,” Ramirez said. “I want to do my best…I don’t need to look back. I need to look forward now and beyond and whoever is in front, I need to beat the guy.
“I don’t see that the point to come back [to 175]…I want to be the first Mexican cruiserweight champion. That’s my goal and that’s what I’m working for.”
And if Ramirez does win a title in the class and Canelo Alvarez decides moved up to cruiserweight sometime down the road?
Ramirez said it could like the Juan Manuel Marquez-Marco Antonio Barrera rivalry of the early 2000s.
“It’s a great fight, all the fans want to see two Mexicans in the ring, all the time,” Ramirez said.
In the co-main event, WBA intercontinental super middleweight champion Bektemir Melikuziev (13-1, 10) beat Alantez Fox (28-5-1) by TKO with a fourth-round stoppage at 2:44 of the round.