Exclusive interview by James Stillerman – Undefeated former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (41-0, 27 KOs) will fight former world title challenger Sullivan Barrera (22-3, 14 KOs), this Friday, July 9th at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California in a twelve-round main event. If Ramirez, who is ranked third by the WBA and WBO and fifth by the IBF, in the light heavyweight division, beats Barrera, he hopes to be a step closer to accomplishing his goal of becoming a two-division world champion.
Barrera, who is ranked sixth by the WBC, has defeated several notable opponents: Jeff Lacy, Karo Murat, Felix Valera, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, and Sean Monaghan. His three losses were to world champion Dmitry Bivol, Hall of Famer Andre Ward, and former world title challenger Jesse Hart.
Ramirez won his first world title (WBO super middleweight belt) with a one-sided, twelfth-round unanimous decision over former three-time, two-division world titleholder Arthur Abraham in April 2016. Ramirez won every round on all three judge’s scorecards. With that victory, he became the first Mexican super middleweight champion and only the second Mexican fighter to win a world title above middleweight (Julio César González won the WBO light heavyweight belt over Dariusz Michalczewski in 2003).
The thirty-year-old southpaw, originally from Mazathlan, Sinaloa, Mexico made five world title defenses over two and a half years, with wins over Maksym Bursak, undefeated challengers: Jesse Hart, Habib Ahmed, and Roamer Alexis Angulo, and Hart in a rematch. After his victory over Hart, Ramirez vacated his WBO title and moved up to the light heavyweight division. He knocked out former three-time world title challenger Tommy Karpency in the fourth-round and then scored a tenth-round technical knockout over Alfonso Lopez for the NABF light heavyweight title, in his last bout.
Outside the boxing ring, he started his own promotional company Zurdo Promotions last year, which had its first show in December, co-promoting the fight card that he headlined. Ramirez became a principal member of 3PM Group that opened a 6,000 square foot, state-of-the-art boxing gym, Brickhouse Boxing Club in North Hollywood, California on May 31st. At the Brickhouse Boxing Club, he is training for this upcoming fight with his head trainer Julian Chua, trainer and four-time world titleholder Brian Viloria, and strength and conditioning coach Chris Wong. In addition, he signed a three-fight deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, with his first fight being against Barrera.
Ramirez was gracious enough to take time out of his busy training camp to discuss with me his upcoming fight against Barrera, his last outing against Lopez, why he signed with Golden Boy Promotions, his most significant victory, who he wants to fight in the future, the light heavyweight division, and much more.
James Stillerman: How is training camp going?
Gilberto Ramirez: I started my training camp two months ago. I am training hard for this fight. I always train hard for any kind of fight, especially this fight. All my fights are special for me because I do not want to lose my record. I know all my opponents are trying to take something from me, which is why I train hard.
James Stillerman: What kind of fight do you expect from Sullivan Barrera?
Gilberto Ramirez: I expect the best Sullivan Barrera because he knows that is a shot, big opportunity for him. I do not want him to take any advantage of me and he wants to win, which is why I am training so hard. We are both competitive fighters and we both want to prove something to ourselves and to the people that we are great fighters. We sparred with one another about seven years ago at Big Bear in one camp when he was a light heavyweight and I was a middleweight. Now, we are fighting at the same weight class, light heavyweight.
James Stillerman: How do you see this bout playing out?
Gilberto Ramirez: I want to see my hand raised by the referee. That is what I want. I know that we both will prepare hard for this fight and give the fans a good fight. I wish him the best of luck. I am training hard for this fight. No one trains as hard as I do, which is why I am confident that I am going to win this fight.
James Stillerman: What are your thoughts about your last fight against Lopez?
Gilberto Ramirez: I think I did well. It was a long time [eighteen months] since I had a fight, but I proved to myself that I can fight at 175-pounds. I fought well. He was a tough opponent. Everyone prepares well for me because they know that they can take something from me, so I always get good fights from my opponent.
James Stillerman: Why did you sign with Golden Boy Promotions?
Gilberto Ramirez: He [De La Hoya] was flexible with me and gave me some good ideas for my career. He was my boxing idol. I have watched him since I was a kid. I think that we are a good match and we can do some big things in the future, which is why I signed with him.
James Stillerman: Any update on your new promotional company Zurdo Promotions?
Gilberto Ramirez: I want to have a show in Mexico at the beginning of August. I have a few fighters here in the United States and Mexico and they are talented. I want to help them in this sport and achieve their dreams. I want to prompt a champion, like me.
James Stillerman: If you win this fight, who do you want to fight next, and why?
Gilberto Ramirez: Of course, I will win this fight. After that, I want a title fight. It does not matter who I fight. I have a better chance to fight Bivol because he is more available. I am willing to fight any of the world champions: [WBA titleholder, 18-0, 11 KOs] Bivol, [WBC and IBF champion, 16-0, 16 KOs, Artur] Beterbiev, and [WBO belt holder, 27-3, 21 KOs] Smith Jr. I think I can beat any of them because I have more skills than they do, and I work harder than they do. Everyone can train hard, but I train smart. I do not want to take anything away from them because they are doing good, but this is my time and opportunity to prove to myself and everyone that I can do it.
James Stillerman: What do you think of the current light heavyweight division?
Gilberto Ramirez: It is good because it is a really competitive division with a lot of talent right now. This makes it challenging to win a title, but it is great for the sport and great for the fans and great for the people.
James Stillerman: What made you decide to move up in weight classes?
Gilberto Ramirez: I moved up in weight classes because my body needed to move up in weight. I did not want to fight at 168-pounds my whole life. It was getting hard to make 168-pounds.
James Stillerman: What is the biggest accomplishment of your career?
Gilberto Ramirez: Beating Abraham was my biggest accomplishment because it was for my first world title.
James Stillerman: What is it like to be the only Mexican super middleweight champion?
Gilberto Ramirez: It was a great honor to be a champion and to represent my country and the Mexican people. It was great. Now, I want to continue to make glory, be a legend, and I want to be an idol for the kids and show them that anything is possible.
James Stillerman: Any closing thoughts?
Gilberto Ramirez: I want to say thank you to all the fans and thank you to all the people for all the support that they have given me. I want to make it a good fight. I want to continue to give glory to all the Mexican people and I want to make them proud that I am Mexican.
For more information about Ramirez and the latest updates on his journey to another world title, friend him on Twitter @ZurdoRamirezz and @ZurdoPromotions, on Instagram @zurdoramirez and @zurdopromotions, and check out his website www.ZurdoPromotions.com.