The upcoming showdown versus Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez is a perfect storm for Joe Smith Jr.
A move up to cruiserweight was all but inevitable for the former WBO light heavyweight titlist, who stuck around at 175 to at least exhaust every attainable option. With a title win plus losses to the division’s two clearcut top fighters—lineal, WBC, IBF and WBO champ Artur Beterbiev and WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol—a move up the scale is the logical next move.
“Personally, I have wanted to start bulking myself up and start moving up,” Smith told BoxingScene.com. “That’s really what I wanted. That’s why I was trying to get these big fights at light heavyweight as quickly as possible.
“For my age and light heavyweight, I’ve been fighting at 175 since I was 16 years old. It’s time to move up.”
Ramirez-Smith doesn’t quite take place at the full cruiserweight limit atop a DAZN show this Saturday from Chelsea Ballroom at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Still, the maximum contracted weight of 193 pounds is good enough for Smith (28-4, 22KOs) to test the waters, as he aims to become a two-division titleholder.
“The weight is 193 for the fight. I would like to be a solid 200 (on fight night),” noted Smith, who has officially never weight heavier than 181 ¾ pounds. “I don’t want to bulk up too much and be sluggish in there. I will make the weight, add a little more after we weigh in but nothing too crazy.
“It’s a big relief not stressing about my weight every day in camp. It’s good. I eat as much carbs as I want now. Obviously, I stay away from the sugar and the crap food. But basically, I can eat anything I want and I still feel good.”
The fight versus Mexico’s Ramirez (44-1, 30KOs) will be his first since a knockout loss to Beterbiev (19-0, 19KOs) last June 18 in New York City, which ended his WBO title reign after more than a year.
Smith—who hails from the Mastic hamlet of Eastern Long Island, New York—defeated to Maxim Vlasov in an April 2012 vacant title fight as part of a four-fight win streak. His prior loss came in a twelve-round, unanimous decision to Bivol (21-0, 11KOs) in March 2019.
A win over Ramirez is expected to elevate Smith to contender status at cruiserweight, which he can see as his final career destination absent the chance to avenge his two title fight defeats.
“If the opportunity came to me where I could fight one of those two guys again and everything was right, I’d do it. But I believe that once I move up to cruiserweight I’m there for good.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox