Opening Bell: Everything right about boxing
ARLINGTON, Texas -- From the negotiations that were handled quickly and professionally, to a good buildup, to a fantastic fight-of-the-year contender, to sportsmanship and humility in the aftermath, the Jose Ramirez-Maurice Hooker junior welterweight title unification fight put everything that is right about boxing on display.
It was a gem of a fight on Saturday night that most would never have expected to happen in the first place. But with political will on both sides, a competitive yet friendly relationship between Top Rank's Bob Arum and Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn (not to mention $4 million plus for the Ramirez/Top Rank side), the deal got done because, in the end, money talks in boxing.
Boxing would thrive in a major way if more deals and fights like this one could get done on a regular basis.
Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs), 26, of Avenal, California, ultimately unified two 140-pound belts with an explosive sixth-round knockout on the home turf of Hooker (26-1-3, 17 KOs), 29, of Dallas. Both fighters were defending their respective titles for the third time, and they produced the kind of memorable battle each predicted the fight would be.
Ramirez got credit for a first-round knockdown from referee Mark Nelson that should never have been called when Hooker went down because Ramirez stepped on his foot. Thankfully, that did not affect the result of a tremendous fight -- one Ramirez led 49-45 and 48-46 on two scorecards, with the third reading 47-47, going into the sixth round -- when Ramirez landed a clean left hook that rocked Hooker and sent him into the ropes. Ramirez unleashed nine more unanswered punches until Nelson stopped it at 1 minute, 48 seconds.
Both fighters elevated themselves with the way they carried themselves before, during and after the fight.
"I thought both of them were absolute consummate professionals in and out of the ring," Hearn said.
To Hooker's credit, he did not moan about the knockdown that shouldn't have been called. He admitted he was upset by it but didn't make a big deal. He didn't complain about the stoppage, instead saying he "lost focus."
"I went out like a true champion," Hooker said with two of his young children sitting on his lap at the postfight news conference. "I have no excuse. I lost. It wasn't my night. [Ramirez is] a champion for a reason and I know that."
Ramirez was rightly overjoyed with his victory.
"I'm still in shock a little bit. I didn't go after a vacant title. I went after a guy who was a world champion, who's a humble champion. I feel very proud of myself," Ramirez said.
He said nobody should be down on Hooker just because he lost.
"One fight doesn't define someone," Ramirez said. "This fight doesn't define Maurice Hooker. I guarantee he'll come back stronger. Maurice Hooker is a great guy."
Ramirez wants to back before the end of the year, likely in a mandatory defense before going after the undisputed title against the winner of the Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor unification fight. Prograis and Taylor meet in October in the final of the World Boxing Super Series.
"I plan to stay a humble champion and continue going after the best. I want to fight the best and I'm not afraid to take a loss on my record," said Ramirez, who plans to auction off his fight-night wardrobe and donate the proceeds to the family of fallen Top Rank stablemate Maxim Dadashev.
Junior lightweight unification?
Junior lightweight world titleholders Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Tevin Farmer, who have called each other out, both won in lopsided fashion Saturday. After their victories, they each stepped up their calls to face the other in what would be a very interesting unification fight. A bout between the two would present a major contrast in styles -- Davis being the explosive offensive juggernaut, Farmer the defensive wizard -- not to mention a nice regional rivalry, given that Davis is from Baltimore and Farmer is from Philadelphia.
For his second defense, two-time 130-pound titlist Davis (22-0, 21 KOs), who at 24 is the youngest current American to hold a world title, drew an announced sellout crowd of 14,686 to the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore as he destroyed overmatched mandatory challenger Ricardo Nunez in two rounds.
It was the first world title bout held in Baltimore in 49 years, since Hall of Fame light heavyweight champion Bob Foster stopped Mark Tessman in the 10th round in June 1970 in the same building, formerly called the Baltimore Civic Center. Davis was also the first Baltimore native to have a hometown title defense in 79 years, since Harry Jeffra defended the featherweight title by 15-round unanimous decision over Spider Armstrong at old Carlin's Park in 1940.
With promoter Floyd Mayweather watching closely at ringside, Davis looked fantastic. He easily won the first round and then pummeled Nunez (21-3, 19 KOs), 25, of Panama, in the second, badly rocking him with a left hook and then unloading numerous punches on him, including another head-snapping left hook along the ropes, before referee Harvey Dock stepped in at 1:33.
Shortly after Davis disposed of Nunez, Farmer (30-4-1, 6 KOs), 28, completed his one-sided mandatory defense against Guillaume Frenois (46-2-1, 12 KOs), 35, of France. Although Farmer lost a point for a low blow in the 10th round, he won easily -- 119-108, 116-111 and 116-111 -- to retain his title for the fourth time in the co-feature of the Hooker-Ramirez card.
The promoters for Davis and Farmer have discussed making the fight, but they're on different broadcast platforms and that has made things difficult. But if it's a fight both fighters want, just like Hooker-Ramirez, it can be done.
"Tevin Farmer fought tonight. I want Tevin," Davis said immediately after his bout, hoping to regain the belt previously stripped from him for failing to make weight. "That's a fight that can be made. Let's get it on later this year."
"Right now we want Tevin Farmer," Mayweather concurred.
Farmer has been calling for Davis since before he won a title, and he said it again after winning. "I want a unification [fight]. If I can't get that I want Joseph Diaz. I want to fight the best, but it's hard to get these guys in the ring with me."
The next step: Davis and Farmer will both likely fight once more this year, but don't hold your breath as far as the unification bout being next. Davis could wind up facing Yuriorkis Gamboa, who won on his undercard, and Farmer could wind up facing Diaz in a much easier fight to make, since they both fight on DAZN and have also called each other out.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Baltimore
Lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-2, 18 KOs) TKO2 Roman "Rocky" Martinez (30-4-3, 18 KOs).
In the Showtime-televised co-feature, Gamboa, 37, the Miami-based 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist and former two-division world titlist, looked the best he has in years thanks to perfect matchmaking against the even more faded three-time junior lightweight titlist Martinez, 36, of Puerto Rico, who was fighting for only the second time since mid-2016.
This fight was all Gamboa, who looked fast, strong and motivated. He dropped Martinez with a left hook early in the second round and then connected with a left hand, followed by a right to the chin that dropped a hurt Martinez to his rear end. Martinez tried to get up but was counted by referee Bill Clancy at 2 minutes. While Martinez could be headed for retirement, it was a big win for Gamboa, who could get the fight he wants: a shot against main event winner and junior lightweight world titlist Gervonta Davis.
Lightweight Ladarius Miller (20-1, 6 KOs) W10 Jezreel Corrales (23-3, 9 KOs), scores: 96-93, 95-94 Miller; 96-93 Corrales.
On the Davis-Nunez undercard, Miller, 25, a southpaw fighting out of Las Vegas, escaped with a victory thanks to the unnecessary intervention of referee Brent Bovell, whose 10th-round point deduction from former junior lightweight world titlist Corrales with 40 seconds remaining was very questionable, because Miller had shoved Corrales to the mat when they had been grappling on the inside. Instead, Bovell made an entirely ridiculous call in the final round of a close, competitive fight and affected the outcome. Had Bovell not taken that point from Corrales, the bout would have been a draw. Corrales, 28, a southpaw from Panama, deserved a better fate, while Miller, who owns a 2017 decision win over reigning junior lightweight titlist Jamel Herring, won his 11th fight in a row.
Saturday at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Junior welterweight Alberto Puello (17-0, 9 KOs) W12 Jonathan Alonso (18-1, 7 KOs), wins a vacant interim title, scores: 115-113 (three times).
With Regis Prograis due to meet Josh Taylor in a junior welterweight title unification fight Oct. 5, naturally the WBA created a pointless interim belt, as usual, and Alonso, 28, of the Dominican Republic, and Puello, also from the Dominican but based in Spain, were deemed worthy of fighting for it --- even though neither had faced anybody remotely close to a legitimate contender.