Joe Smith Jr. has told his promoter, Joe DeGuardia, that he wanted to try fighting in the cruiserweight division for quite some time.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Smith and his team will allow Gilberto Ramirez any “wiggle room” if the former WBO super middleweight champion struggles to make weight again. Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs) and Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) are scheduled to meet at a contracted catch weight of 193 pounds Saturday night, seven below the cruiserweight ceiling, in a 12-round main event DAZN will stream from The Chelsea, a concert venue inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
“Look, if [Ramirez] comes in overweight, then we’re not gonna have a fight,” DeGuardia told BoxingScene.com. “He’s gotta come in on weight and that’s that. That’s what we negotiated. There’s no wiggle room.”
Ramirez’s weight is an issue, of course, because his last fight was canceled on the day he was supposed to weigh in. Mexico’s Ramirez reportedly was more than seven pounds over the contracted weight of 175 pounds March 17, the day before he was supposed to fight Philadelphia’s Gabe Rosado in what would’ve been Rosado’s debut as a light heavyweight.
Rosado (26-17-1, 15 KOs) had never weighed in at more than 168¼ pounds for a professional fight, thus his main event versus Ramirez was canceled at the 11th hour. Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions instead elevated JoJo Diaz into the main event, which he lost to Mercito Gesta by split decision March 18 at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California.
The 32-year-old Ramirez admitted that he could no longer get down to the light heavyweight maximum of 175 pounds.
He’ll fight for the first time since the Rosado debacle when he meets Smith in an intriguing WBA elimination bout between former champions. Ramirez will end an 11-month layoff, as he hasn’t boxed since Russia’s Dmitriy Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) outpointed him comfortably last November 5 in their 12-round fight for Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
Smith will end an even longer layoff than Ramirez. The former WBO light heavyweight champ hasn’t fought since Russian knockout artist Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) dropped Smith three times and stopped him in the second round of their 175-pound title unification fight in June 2022 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
The 34-year-old Smith has never weighed in at more than 180 pounds for any of his 32 professional fights.
“It’s a big step up in weight for Joe, and it certainly makes a big difference in a fight,” DeGuardia said. “With that being said, Joe is a big guy himself. He’s been fighting at 175 since he was 16 years old. And he feels comfortable going up. He likes the idea, actually.”
Smith might consider squeezing himself down to the light heavyweight limit again, but only for a high-profile fight.
“If he beats Ramirez, obviously he can compete at that division,” DeGuardia said. “I think Ramirez is certainly a cruiserweight. I know it’s his first fight at cruiserweight, but he’s a big, big guy. Obviously, it was evidenced last time when he was scheduled to fight and couldn’t make light heavyweight.”
Most sportsbooks have made Ramirez, a 6-foot-2 southpaw, more than a 3-1 favorite to beat Smith.
“I think [a win] pulls Joe right back,” DeGuardia said. “It shows that he can compete at the top level, at a higher weight, 20 pounds, just about, over the weight division where he currently competes. And I think it would be a phenomenal win. When you’re weighing risk versus reward, it’s a tremendous reward if he comes through in this fight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.