All too often in the sport of Boxing, the politics of the sport for better or worse depending on one’s perspective tend to stand in the way of progress. The world “Progress” more often than not in Boxing usually means the pursuit for fighters to become not just a world champion, but to achieve what is a difficult goal, to become the one and only world champion in a weight division. To become “Undisputed.”
Due largely to the aforementioned element of politics that surround the sport, a world champion becoming truly “Undisputed” is rare. Perhaps more of a rarity is when an undisputed champion vacates their crown to seek accolades in a different weight class, where the reunification process of the crown they leave behind takes place in a relatively short period of time. The 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division is experiencing one such occurrence. Following undefeated undisputed world champion Terence Crawford successfully unifying the division in August 2017 with a third round knockout of IBF world champion Julius Indongo, Crawford immediately vacated the crown to set his sights on the 147lb. Welterweight division, where in his next fight, he knocked out WBO world champion Jeff Horn in June 2018.
For the Jr. Welterweights, Crawford’s exit created opportunities for fighters to compete for vacant world championships and the reunification process began. On this relatively brief journey, the Boxing world was treated to a memorable unification battle featuring Undefeated WBC champion Jose Ramirez successfully unifying his world championship by scoring a knockout of previously unbeaten WBO world champion Maurice Hooker in 2019.
Undefeated Josh Taylor, who spent the years of 2018 and 2019 competing in the highly-acclaimed World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) emerged out of that tournament, the second season of the WBSS concept, which featured tournaments in both the Jr. Welterweight division and the 118 Bantamweight division, as a unified world champion in his own right having won the IBF world championship and then successfully unifying it by scoring a twelve round majority decision over previously unbeaten WBA world champion Regis Prograis in the tournament final in October 2019. While this reunification process was largely streamlined by the WBSS concept, it was halted by the ongoing COVID-19 global epidemic that began in 2019 and unfortunately continues throughout the world in present day.
As much of the world including all of sports was brought to a halt for significant stretches throughout 2020, hopes for a quick undisputed championship fight between Ramirez and Taylor was obviously delayed. As the sport of Boxing began attempting to resume activity under the circumstances of COVID-19, both world champions were able to resume their respective careers. Ramirez returned to action in August of last year with a twelve round majority decision victory over former WBC Jr. Welterweight world champion Viktor Postol. In what was a close fight, Ramirez’ harder punches and general activity allowed him to retain his crown.
Taylor meanwhile, returned to the ring one month later and scored a first round knockout of Apinun Khongsong. A bout which Taylor ended with a left hook to the body. All off this including one title defense each for both world champions has finally culminated in the eventual showdown as Ramirez and Taylor will meet on Saturday, May 22nd at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas, NV to determine the Undisputed Jr. Welterweight championship of the world.
The fight, which will be broadcast in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+as well as simulcast on the main ESPN network on cable and satellite, is frankly one of the better bouts that could be made in the sport. An evenly matched battle between two boxer/punchers who each have the ability to end a fight quickly as well as implement a Boxing strategy to win a fight on the scorecards.
In thinking of how this bout could be fought, the scenario came to my mind that this could be a tactical battle where the ebb and flow might shift several times throughout. This is due to both fighters similarities as boxer/punchers and each having the ability to change tactics as a fight progresses. While Ramirez, who will enter the fight with a record of 26-0, with 17 Knockouts has boxed thirty six more total rounds in his career compiling 127 total rounds compared to Taylor who has boxed 91 total rounds, and has an overall experience edge having fought nine more bouts than Taylor, who will enter the fight with a record of 17-0, with 13 Knockouts, stylistically, this appears at least on paper to be an even fight.
If one were to look at something that could be an edge for Taylor compared to Ramirez experience and overall ring time, it would be in the career knockout percentage category in that Josh Taylor has established a career knockout percentage of nearly 77% compared to Ramirez’ 65%. Although these are simply statistics, what it does indicate is just how even this fight looks even though there are slight edges in favor of each fighter. Of course, as this observer has often said over the years, “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing, and that is what makes the sport great.”, if this does evolve into a closely fought battle that it appears might be the case, we might see a fight that not only ends up close in terms of scoring, but to be more specific, one where who wins rounds may be determined by segments in each round assuming both fighters are able to have periods of success.
What is even more telling about this fight beyond by all accounts what appears to be a Fight of the Year candidate on paper is for a rare instance, the sport of Boxing and the politics that surround it have allowed a quick reunification process to occur that was only delayed by circumstances of an ongoing global crisis that even the most jaded and cynical critics of the sport will acknowledge was out of everyone’s control at least in terms of the running and day to day business of an individual sport. If however, Ramirez-Taylor ends up being a memorable battle and is such that it demonstrates to not only promoters, but fighters, the respective sanctioning organizations that regulate and sanction world championship bouts, and competing television/streaming networks as to the benefits of unification to determine one world champion per weight class, it could be summed up with one simple word. “Progress.”
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Ramirez vs. Taylor takes place on Saturday, May 22nd at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. In the United States, the card can be seen on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 4:45PM ET/1:45PM PT. The main portion of the card, which will feature the Ramirez-Taylor main event will be simulcast on the main ESPN network across cable and satellite providers beginning at 8:30PM ET/5:30PM PT. (U.S. Times,) For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, lists of compatible streaming devices, and to subscribe please visit: https://plus.espn.com.
Outside of the United States, the card can be seen globally on digital combat sports streaming network FITEon a pay-per-view basis for £12.99. For more information about about how to order please visit: https://www.fite.tv/watch/top-rank-ramirez-vs-taylor/2p9bp/. (While FITE is also available in the United States, this event will only be available through FITE internationally.) Check your local listings for start times internationally.
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