By Chris Williams
Amir Imam (21-0, 18 KOs) weighed in at 139 ¼ pounds on Friday for his fight this Saturday night against unbeaten 2012 U.S Olympian Jose Carlos Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Council light welterweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York. Ramirez weighed in at 139 lbs. The ESPN televised Ramirez-Imam card starts at 8:00 p.m. ET.
The Ramirez-Imam fight will be shown on ESPN and promoted by Ramirez’s promoters at Top Rank. This is a 50-50 fight. Ramirez can win if he fights smart, and that’s a big if though. He’s not been showing much in the way of finesse recently with the way he’s been attacking his opponents with nonstop punches. Ramirez is going to need a good chin if he bum rushes Imam from the opening bell like he did against his last opponent Mike Reed. Imam knows what to expect from Ramirez, so he won’t be surprised the way Reed was.
Imam, 27, is promoted by legendary promoter Don King, whereas the 26-year-old Ramirez is promoted by 86-year-old Bob Arum. Both promoters have been in the boxing business for ages, and they’ve seen a lot of great fighters come and go. If Imam beats Ramirez on Saturday, it could be a big blow for Arum, who sees the 2012 Olympian Ramirez as being a guy that he can make do something with in terms of making him popular. It’s too bad Arum didn’t take a chance with Ramirez by matching him against Top Rank fighter Terence Crawford when he held all four of the 140 lb. titles last year.
Surprisingly, Imam is the underdog in the fight despite having looked very good throughout his career. He just has one loss on his record against Adrian Granados from 2015. Imam would likely avenge that loss if given the chance. He’s on another level than Granados. That was just an off night for Imam. He’s coming into this Saturday’s fight with a 3-match winning streak going for him.
Ramirez is undefeated, but he hasn’t had a good opponent yet like Granados. Ramirez might have a defeat on his record as well if he’d had to fight Granados earlier in his career the way Imam did. Ramirez had all he could handle in his fight with Johnny Garcia in 2015. Ramirez visited the deck in the 2nd round of that fight, and he was fortunate not to have been knocked out. Ramirez has gotten better since then, but he still is slow in terms of hand speed and easy to hit. Ramirez likes to throw repeated left hooks to the body. If he fights like that against Imam, he’ll be inviting trouble. Ramirez needs to vary his attack and not get stuck on throwing one punch repeatedly against Imam.
In other weights on the card, light heavyweight contender Oleksandr Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs) weighed in at 174 lbs. for his fight against fringe contender Mehdi Amar (34-5-2, 16 KOs) in a bout for the vacant interim World Boxing Council light heavyweight title. Amar weighed in at 174 lbs. This is the co-feature bout on the Ramirez vs. Imam card. Gvozdyk, 30, wants a world title shot against WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson, but he might end up imploding when that time comes. Gvozdyk does not look like he has the chin to beat the best fighters in the light heavyweight division. Gvozdyk has looked good against guys like Isaac Chilemba, Craig Baker and Yunieski Gonzalez, but he’s not shown the kind of talent that would indicate that he can beat the guys at the next level. I personally rate Gvozdyk as being just a step above Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in the talent department. I don’t think Gvozdyk would beat contenders like Sullivan Barrera, Eleider Alvarez and Marcus Browne. I don’t see Gvozdyk beating any of the current champions at light heavyweight. The best thing that could happen for Gvozdyk is if the 40-year-old Stevenson gets old and loses his speed, power, accuracy and timing. That’s the only way I see Gvozdyk being able to beat him at this point, because he’s too good right now.
Felix ‘El Diamante’ Verdejo (23-0, 15 KOs) weighed in at 135.8 lbs. for his 10-round fight against Antonio Lozada Jr. (38-2, 32 KOs). For his part, the 27-year-old Lozada Jr. weighed in at 135.4 lbs. This might be a good fight. Lozada Jr. has a nice record during his 12-year pro career, but he’s not done well when he’s stepped it up a level against good opposition. Lozada Jr. was knocked out by Roberto Ortiz in 4 rounds in June 2011, and then beaten by Ramiro Alcaraz by an 8-round points decision in September 2013. Lozada Jr. has won his last 6 fights, but those victories were against weak journeymen level opponents. Verdejo is coming off a 13-month layoff since struggling to defeat Oliver Flores by a controversial 10 round unanimous decision last year in February in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Verdejo appeared to lose that fight to Flores in the eyes of a lot of boxing fans, and he should have given him a rematch to prove that he’s truly the better fighter of the two. Right now, Verdejo is looking like a guy that might not pan out as a pro. When Verdejo turned six years ago in 2012, he was viewed as a can’t miss future world champion, but in his fights against Flores and William Silva, he’s not looked good. Verdejo looked beatable in both of those fights, and it’s now clear that he’s not as good as people though he was.