Gilberto Ramirez could not have really asked for a better Golden Boy Promotions debut.
Ramirez (42-0, 28 KOs) extended his perfect professional record to 42 wins after storming to a fourth round stoppage victory over wily veteran Sullivan Barrera in California on Friday night.
A typical Mexican offensive fighter, coupled with sharp fundamentals, ‘Zurdo’ landed a vicious body blow in the third round which forced the Cuban to hit the canvas for the first time.
Barrera (22-4, 14 KOs) was floored again after almost a carbon copy body shot in the fourth round, falling to his knees in a delayed manner, before bravely rising once more to his feet.
However, Ramirez closed the show as the pair traded, connecting with another brutal liver shot, with referee Thomas Taylor finally stepping in to put the 39-year-old out of his misery, suffering just a second stoppage defeat with his first coming in a 12th round TKO loss to Dmitry Bivol in 2018.
It was a eye-catching statement from the former long-reigning WBO Super Middleweight world champion, who due to his over 6ft 2” frame and 75” reach seems comfortable and potent at Light Heavyweight, as he seeks a world title in a second weight class in the coming years.
So, who could the 30-year-old Southpaw face next?
Ramirez immediately called for a showdown with WBA ‘Super’ Light Heavyweight world champion, Dmitry Bivol.
The Russian is undefeated in 18 professional bouts, most recently beating Craig Richards by unanimous decision in Manchester in May in his second victory since being elevated from ‘Regular’ to ‘Super’ champion.
In terms of a world title shot, Bivol appears the most viable current option with unified WBC and IBF titlist, Artur Beterbiev reportedly set for a unification with WBO holder, Joe Smith Jr and with the pair both signed with Top Rank and ESPN, a bout with the Bivol, 30, would appear more straightforward to make, with both fighting on DAZN, despite being tied to different promotional entities with the champion aligned with Matchroom Boxing.
A stumbling block could come in the form of a mandatory for Bivol, with Richards taken as a voluntary defence.
A highly-skilled operator, who is comfortable moving on the front and back foot, Bivol would certainly present Ramirez with his toughest test to date at Light Heavyweight, whilst ‘Zurdo’ has advantages in terms of his height and reach.
Asked whether he was ready to face the Russian, Ramirez replied to DAZN’s Chris Mannix: “You have to ask him is he’s ready for me?”
If ‘Zurdo’ is unable to secure a world title clash with Bivol, then a meeting with Callum Johnson could be a mouthwatering prospect.
Johnson (19-1, 14 KOs) returned to action after over two years out with an explosive second round stoppage win over Emil Markic to pick up the WBO Global Light Heavyweight title in April.
The 35-year-old is set for an August return, which could therefore set up a potential showdown for the Autumn.
‘The One’ is eyeing another world title shot himself having fallen short in his bid to dethrone Beterbiev in 2018, in a bout he dropped the fearsome Russian in, before succumbing to defeat in four rounds.
Johnson has made no secret of his desire to face Joe Smith Jr, whilst there are domestic rivalries building with the likes of WBO number one contender Lyndon Arthur and Anthony Yarde, but with a ranking of #11 with the WBO a fight with Ramirez, who is rated at #3 could feasibly be made as an eliminator for the world title.
As well as being a fan-friendly, powerful operator the Lincolnshire man has a profile in the USA where ‘Zurdo’ predominately campaigns and if a deal could be struck between Golden Boy and Queensberry Promotions and both fighters are keen to tackle each other, a potential barnstormer could lie in wait.
Another British option for Ramirez could be Callum Smith.
Another former world champion at 168lbs, Smith is set to move up in weight following his unanimous decision defeat to Canelo Alvarez in December, in which he saw his WBA ‘Super’ and Ring Magazine titles ripped away.
The 31-year-old was dominant for the most part at Super Middleweight, but admitted after his loss to the four-weight world champion, that he may just have grown out of the weight, prompting a move to Light Heavyweight.
Smith already has a #9 ranking with the WBO and actually has slight height and reach advantages over Ramirez, standing at 6ft 3” and with a 78” reach, which could suit him better, having appeared to struggle with fighters smaller than him.
‘Mundo’ is well schooled and hits hard with 19 KOs on his record and having faced Canelo in Texas, his profile has undoubtedly grown in the USA.
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Like with Bivol, Smith also fights on DAZN making a match-up seemingly on paper fairly simple, although they are with different promotional companies, with the latter tied with Matchroom Boxing.
Smith would be forgiven for having a slightly simpler first test at 175lbs, but if he is looking to become a two-weight world champion as quickly as possible, then a clash with ‘Zurdo’ would set him on the path back to world honours.
Let us know who you want to see Gilberto Ramirez face next.