By Derek Bonnett
Former 2012 USA Olympian Jose Carlos Ramirez met Amir Imam for the right to be labeled a world titlist at 140-pounds in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Ramirez put his unbeaten resume at stake against the once beaten Imam in a bout scheduled for twelve rounds to fill part of the void left by pound for pound entrant Terrance Crawford. In Imam’s lone defeat, he succumbed to the pressure of Adrian Granados to lose by TKO in the eighth. From the opening bell, Ramirez moved forward to suffocate the jab and powerful right hand of the number one rated contender.
Imam’s speedy jab earned him the first three minutes of the fight as he was able to connect on Ramirez as he chugged forward into the pocket. An uppercut from Imam wobbled Ramirez in the knees, but the California native pressed forward to catch Imam’s body. Ramirez continued to score to the body in the second round. Imam showed a bad habit of turning away from punches with his face unprotected, relying on athleticism to carry him out of range. Ramirez’ work cut Imam’s punch output drastically and his left hook began to land as Imam tried to pull back in defense. The Albany born boxer’s speed returned in the third as his jab regained control of the action for much of the round, but Ramirez responded well in the latter half of the frame to give the judges something to think about between rounds. Imam returned to his corner bleeding from the proboscis. Ramirez glued himself to Imam’s chest for much of the fourth. Imam’s feet served him more defensively, but the jab still fired off the back foot. After four rounds, Ramirez led 2-1-1 in rounds or 39-38 unofficially at SecondsOut.
Ramirez devoured Imam’s body in the fifth, but the number one contender showed great durability and did not wilt. Imam’s hands again slowed allowing Ramirez to take the round with some pretty flush lefts punctuating the round. Ramirez established the range he wanted as pressure usurped the presence of Imam’s jab. Imam appeared buzzed twice in the round by right hands he ate while being forced onto his back foot. Imam, as criticized by Freddy Roach before the opening bell, simply could not fight his game going backward. Ramirez continued his progress through the seventh, but took a breather by comparison in the eighth. Imam’s jab controlled much of the action and produced a little blood around the mouth of Ramirez. Ramirez led 68-66 on SecondsOut’s unofficial tally.
The round would be Imam’s last stand. For the remainder of the bout he remained dangerous due to the capability of his right hand; however, Imam looked like a fighter on the verge of a second stoppage loss. A stoppage never came, but Ramirez battered Imam along the ropes and raised considerable swelling around his right eye. Still focused on the torso of Imam, Ramirez scored well with both hands to the New Yorker’s head. The outcome became a matter of wills and Ramirez’ could not be denied by Imam, who showed tremendous grit in continuing until the final bell.
SecondsOut favored Ramirez widely by a margin of 118-111. The official scores awarded the vacant title to Ramirez by scores of 120-108, 117-111, and a ridiculous 115-113. Ramirez lifted his ledger to 22-0-0 (16). Imam dropped to 21-2-0 (18). Ramirez, earning his first world championship, now joins Kiryl Relikh and Mikey Garcia as co-titlists in the 140-pound class eager to replace Terrence Crawford as the best in the division.
On the undercard, Oleksandr Gvozdyk moved to 15-0-0 (12) to become the interim titlist for Adonis Stevenson’s belt at light heavyweight. The Ukrainian contender was unexpectedly pressed hard by Frenchman Mehdi Amar. Gvozdyk had previously looked more impressive against sterner opposition and may have been guilty of taking Amar lightly. The verdict was not in question and the scores were fittingly wide at 118-110, 117-111, and 116-112, but Gvozdyk worked hard to claim the majority of the rounds and was frequently tagged cleanly in each stanza. Amar fell to 34-6-2 (16), but gained new-found credibility in defeat.
Also in notable action, featherweight Michael Conlan scored a St. Patrick’s day victory in New York by stopping David Berna in two rounds with a knockdown in each frame. Conlan advanced to 6-0-0 (5). Also, in a major upset, Antonio Lozada Jr. stopped Puerto Rican contender Felix Verdejo in the tenth. Verdejo was on the canvas in that round. Lozada improved to 39-2-0 (33).