Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez will look to succeed where his illustrious Mexican compatriot Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez failed when he takes on WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol on Saturday.
Bivol boxed masterfully to claim a unanimous-decision win over Canelo in May, meaning Ramirez unquestionably finds himself in with one of the premier operators in the sport at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena.
Nevertheless, the former WBO super-middleweight champion will enter the ring buoyed by a phenomenal 44-0 professional record.
Win or lose on Saturday, that resume means Ramirez should find himself campaigning at the top level for the foreseeable future.
Here are a few of the options on the table for Zurdo in 2023.
Pascal first boxed for a world title against Carl Froch back in 2008 and the veteran Canadian continues to campaign at the top of his sport.
His stellar career was sullied last year, however, when he tested positive for four performance-enhancing drugs. A planned rematch with Badou Jack, who he beat to lift the WBA light-heavyweight title in 2019, was scrapped.
That hasn’t kept Pascal out of the running for elite fights and he was the presumed next opponent for undefeated Briton Joshua Buatsi, only for contractual wranglings to bring that fight down.
Pascal has fought a host of elite 175 pounders — including Bivol, to whom he dropped a unanimous decision in 2018. He has only ever been stopped by fearsome former champion Sergey Kovalev and Ramirez could look to make a statement.
MORE: ‘Boxing needs to do more’ – Chantelle Cameron reveals zero drugs tests before Jessica McCaskill undisputed fight
Buatsi’s planned leap to world level over recent months has not materialised, with the Rio Olympian unable to capitalise upon any momentum from his impressive May victory over former Bivol foe Craig Richards.
Before the Pascal fight ran aground, Buatsi had been slated to face Bivol, only for the WBA to order a clash with Ramirez, their mandatory challenger.
At 16-0 with 13 wins inside the distance, Buatsi is more than ready to make the step up and might find a willing dance partner in Zurdo. They are currently the WBA’s number one and number two in the light-heavyweight division.
Joe Smith Jr
Smith Jr was last seen being obliterated inside two rounds by Artur Beterbiev, when the folly of meeting the most feared puncher in the division head-on was quickly clear for all to see.
The American does only tend to lose to the best, however, and at 33 will be eyeing a final assault at another world-title reign.
His come-forward style could gel pleasingly with Ramirez’s combination punching to produce an all-action affair.
Benavidez and his team are certainly doing all they can to talk their way into a showdown with Canelo, whose gentlemanly approach of not wishing to fight fellow Mexicans in recent years is being severely tested.
Ramirez wouldn’t seem to have any such qualms and, if the undefeated Benavidez could be persuaded to abandon his bid for honours in a super-middleweight division that Canelo has locked down, a fight with Zurdo would be huge.
Even though Bivol has recently been lukewarm to the idea, if Canelo wishes to pursue a rematch with his most recent conqueror when he returns to action next year, Benavidez would possibly be left frustrated with all the major 168lbs belts out of commission.
Ramirez represents a stellar and money-spinning alternative.