Gilberto Ramirez sees a ‘pivotal moment’ in his career as he takes on Joe Smith Jr.

Former super middleweight titlist Gilberto Ramirez and former light heavyweight beltholder Joe Smith Jr. will return in an intriguing looking cruiserweight contest with both men looking to get back in the win column’s having suffered world title defeats last year.

Ramirez is under no illusions as to the importance of beating Smith when the two collide at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Chelsea Ballroom, Las Vegas, on Saturday.

“I view this upcoming bout as a pivotal moment in my journey to kick-start my campaign in the cruiserweight division,” Ramirez (44-1, 30 knockouts) told The Ring. “Facing Joe Smith Jr., a former champion, adds an extra layer of challenge, especially considering the determination and heart he’ll bring into the ring. I’ve mentally rehearsed this match multiple times, fully aware that I must exert every ounce of effort to emerge victorious on that significant night.”

Last November, Ramirez lost his unbeaten record against WBA 175-pound titlist Dmitry Bivol in Abu Dhabi. Although Bivol boxed very well, it was a rather flat performance from the Mexican. To his credit, Ramirez prefers to offer praise as opposed to excuses.

“I take nothing away from Bivol, he’s a great fighter and was the better man that night,” he said. “I hope I can avenge this loss in the near future.”

Light heavyweight Joe Smith Jr. Photo credit: Leonard Wilson Jr./Nabeel Ahmad/Premier Boxing Champions

Light heavyweight Joe Smith Jr. Photo credit: Leonard Wilson Jr./Nabeel Ahmad/Premier Boxing Champions

The 32-year-old southpaw had been tabbed to return against Gabriel Rosado in March but missed weight coming in at 182.6, prompting the cancellation of the fight and him to step up in weight.

“This decision is based on a combination of factors that my team and I carefully considered,” he said. “One of the main reasons is my natural growth and development as an athlete. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve gained muscle mass and strength, making it more suitable for me to compete in the cruiserweight class.

“Additionally, we believe that this move will provide exciting new challenges and opportunities for me. The cruiserweight division is known for its competitive and diverse talent pool, and I’m eager to test my skills against opponents with different styles and strengths. This transition also aligns with my long-term goals in the sport, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to make a positive impact in this new weight class. I’ve worked closely with my coaches and trainers to ensure a smooth transition in terms of training, strategy, and overall preparation. While it’s a new chapter in my career, I’m embracing the change and looking forward to proving myself at cruiserweight.”

This match up will take place at a catchweight 193-pounds, and although “Zurdo” is targeting the cruiserweight division he isn’t ruling anything out.

“Every fight can be life-changing,” he said. “My plans are clear. Win this fight and hopefully be in a position to the fight for the title. [WBA titlist] Arsen Goulamirian, [WBC ruler] Badou Jack, and [former WBC champion] IIunga Makabu are the fights I’m targeting. To be clear, the light heavyweight division is not out of the question. If it makes sense, I’m always open to going back to as well.”

Ramirez hasn’t made any changes to his team but feels a new lease of life in returning at a new weight with new challenges ahead.

“Win or lose, I’m always looking to improve,” he said. “While the loss was disappointing, it provided me with invaluable insights. Physically, I’m pushing myself even harder in training to ensure I’m in the best shape possible. I’m always focusing on refining my techniques and working on any weaknesses that were exposed in the previous fight.

“Mentally, the loss has ignited a new level of determination within me. It’s reminded me that setbacks are a part of the journey and they only make us stronger.

“Overall, this camp is a unique opportunity for growth and transformation into the new division. I’m learning from my mistakes and adapting my strategy accordingly. I’m excited to showcase the improvements I’ve made and to prove that setbacks don’t define me – they motivate me to rise above and come back stronger than ever.”

A fight neither can afford to lose after taking time off and returning up at cruiserweight. The winner will be in a good position to fight for the world title while the loser could be something of an after thought. I think the added weight will suit Ramirez more and he’ll get the much needed 12-round unanimous decision.

Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) turned professional in 2009. The Long Island native won 21 of his 22 outings before his break through came when he shocked Andrzej Fonfara (TKO 1) and then became the first fighter to stop the legendary Bernard Hopkins (KO 8). However, Smith went 2-2 since, dropping decisions to Sullivan Barrera (UD 10) and WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol (UD 12). Scored a much-needed win over Jesse Hart (SD 10) and then impressively stopped former WBO titlist Eleider Alvarez (TKO 9).

He edged past Maxim Vlasov (MD 12) to claim the vacant WBO title and beat late-sub Steve Geffard (KO 9) in his lone title defense before losing to Beterbiev (TKO 2) in their unification last summer.

Ramirez-Smith, plus undercard bouts, will be broadcast on DAZN at 9:00 p.m. ET/ 6:00 p.m. PT.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].

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