This Saturday night, live from the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas and on ESPN, an epic battle between two undefeated fighters will take place. All five (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO & Ring Magazine) titles will be on the line when Jose Ramirez (26-0) goes up against Scotland’s own Josh Taylor (17-0).
In both the past and present, boxing has allowed politics to get in the way of fights being made. This one had no such issues as both fall under the same umbrella.
A few years ago, the WBSS was created in an effort to get the best to face each other.
The concept of a Super Lightweight tournament to emulate Showtime’s “Super Six” was initially well received. There was some doubt from promoters and managers that the tournament would go without a hitch. Although a virtual unknown, Josh Taylor was able to get himself 2 while Jose Ramirez did not.
Some say it was best that Ramirez didn’t participate as the WBSS wasn’t built on an established platform. Later on, we saw the WBSS run into funding issues which validated the concerns of many. The tourney did however benefit Josh Taylor. “The Tartan Tornado” went up against one of the top Super Lightweights at the time (Regis Prograis) in the final. That event was well received and caught the attention of the purists and the boxing world. This matchup was fought at an extremely high level as both men gave it they're all. With one eye completely shut, Taylor was still able to earn the close decision victory.
Winning the tournament certified Josh Taylor as a major player at super lightweight. While Taylor was progressing through the WBSS, Jose Ramirez was making his own claim within the division.
After beating Amir Imam (21-1) in March of 2018 to capture the WBC title, Ramirez went on an impressive run. He faced the following: Antonio Orozco, Jose Zepada, Maurice Hooker and Viktor Postol. If that isn’t a row of tough fighters to face, then I don’t know what is. In each of those fights, Ramirez was seen as the underdog. He did not allow that to affect his focus while proving time after time that he belonged on that stage.
While this fight deserves a full crowd, due to the COVID restrictions, it will have a “boutique style” setting at the Virgin Hotel. Boxing fans were upset about not being able to attend. Along with that, many felt the fight lacked the promotional backing it rightfully deserves. However, with an already crowded boxing month, any promotional tools used would have gone to waste. Everyone's attention was on Canelo and the Fury vs. Joshua talks. Also, the lead up to events has changed and fight weeks seem to be when the avalanche of media comes pouring in. This fight will continue to be the discussion of the week and when the bell rings, there will be a ton of excitement for this one.
Let’s take a look at each fighter and see what we can expect come Saturday night.
When Jose Ramirez was coming up with Freddie Roach, it was clear that he adopted the offense-first approach. Although Freddie took Jose to the championship level, moving on and hiring Robert Garcia when he did was the best move for his career. Jose needed the extra attention and Robert was able to provide that. The Robert Garcia Boxing Academy is the perfect place for Jose Ramirez. He has shown growth within the last few fights. Jose’s countering ability has really improved along with the in-ring adjustments he makes each fight.
In this one, Jose may have to bring the pressure early instead of allowing Taylor to get into a rhythm. Unlike Prograis, Ramirez has some bounce and head movement to go with his arsenal. This will not make it easy for the Scotsman to land. Ramirez should also keep the fight at a mid-range distance as Taylor tends to have success on the inside and from the outside. Jose has to establish that left jab early and focus on the body to slow Taylor down. This will be no easy task, which is why its such a great matchup.
I have probably typed this part a few times as I just couldn’t come to terms on a solid pick. This is going to start out as a battle of foot positioning. Initially, there won’t be a ton of flurries but some “oohs” and “ahhs” from lead and counter 1-2 punches from both men. After about the third round, both fighters will begin to open up as they will try to press the action. I think that the first half of the fight will favor Taylor while the second half will favor Ramirez. After giving this a lot of thought, we will either get a draw or a razor thin decision for Jose Ramirez, which sets up the rematch in the fall.
For the Josh Taylor piece of this article, I reached out to Colin Morrison. Colin is a writer out of Scotland and has followed Josh Taylor’s career closely from the start.
Now a household name among boxing fans around the world, Josh Taylor, from just outside Edinburgh, Scotland, is one big performance away from becoming the undisputed champion in the 140lb division.
Like many fighters, Taylor's 2020 campaign was severely disrupted by the global pandemic. He did manage one fight, but his September first round KO of IBF mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong (16-1) leaves us with more questions than answers. At the end of 2019, Taylor split from the Cyclone Promotions group to link up with Top Rank. As a result of leaving the McGuigan stable, his training relationship with Shane McGuigan was severed. Taylor linked up with former Tyson Fury head cornerman Ben Davison but we don't have enough competitive action to analyze to form any solid opinions on any wrinkles or stylistic changes that Davison may have brought to the Tartan Tornado's arsenal.
We all know that Taylor doesn't mind fighting up close and getting involved in all action fights. Should we expect him to do anything different against Ramirez? From what I have seen this style is also preferred by Ramirez – it has served him well as the American holds the WBC and WBO titles and is also on the brink of undisputed status. While I have no fears for Taylor in an out and out brawl with Ramirez, I think that tactically Davison will ask Josh to begin this bout by employing his boxing skills. This could bank the southpaw Scotsman some early rounds on the cards and force Ramirez into high-risk mode as the contest progresses.
As we know Taylor is an effective switch hitter as well as being one of the best body punchers active in boxing today. His fluid combination punching will catch the eyes of the judges I believe, again putting pressure on Ramirez to abandon any nuanced boxing and go all out for a knockout. This would suit Taylor down to the ground and provide him with some opportunities to take Ramirez out during the closing stages of the fight when more toe-to-toe exchanges are inevitable.
After praising Taylor in my above paragraphs, you won't be surprised to learn that my prediction is Taylor by late stoppage. While I have a great deal of respect for Ramirez and his trainer Robert Garcia, I am of the opinion that Taylor is a notch above in all aspects of boxing. By boxing and moving, Taylor can frustrate Ramirez and, once the fighters do get close on the inside, he can break his heart by demonstrating that he is also the better exponent of Ramirez' preferred approach.
This matchup should deliver – it is a big night for boxing and one of the best fights of the year. Laying the foundation by boxing early Taylor can really showcase his highlight reel skills in the trenches as the fight moves into its closing stages. I have no doubt that when it is all over it will be the Scotsman leaving the Las Vegas ring as the undisputed 140lb champion.
Abe's Three Cents:
The month of May has provided some really good fights. It's only right that we have this one to add to the very busy month. This fight will do big ratings as the promo train has left the station. Will we get the instant classic that this fight seems to be building towards? Can “The Tartan Tornado” sweep through Vegas and collect all of the belts? Will Jose Ramirez finally receive the respect he deserves amongst the purists and boxing media?
Tune into ESPN, ESPN Deportes or ESPN+ on Saturday at 8:00 PM EST/5:00 PM PST to catch this mega fight.