Undefeated southpaw Josh Taylor’s two knockdowns of previously undefeated Super Lightweight Jose Ramirez were crucial in earning a close unanimous decision and become boxing’s sixth man to hold all four belts
LAS VEGAS (May 22, 2021) — Top Rank boxing returned to ESPN, and ESPN+ for a 5-fight undercard, with its first live crowd in the building at the new Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was fitting for a main event bout to decide whether boxing would get its sixth undisputed male champion in the 4-belt era.
A pair of Olympians, in Super Lightweight WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez and IBF and WBA champion Josh Taylor, entered the ring for 12 rounds to decide ultimate supremacy in the talent-laden division.
Tension between the two camps boiled over a couple of times during fight week. By fight night both men had promised to stop the other. Scotland’s Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs) nearly kept his promise. The southpaw dropped Ramirez with single punches in both rounds 6 and 7. The set up for each knockdown confirmed Taylor was more skillful, craftier and bigger puncher.
Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) fought through the sketchy moments, but never recaptured the advantage he established in three of the first 4-5 rounds. Ramirez, of Avenal, Calif., fought aggressively, but Taylor appeared to be executing his game plan of figuring out how to use the Mexican American’s hastiness to his own advantage.
Ramirez made some runs to get back in the fight over the last 3-4 rounds. Taylor opted to looking to time Ramirez as he went to attack. The strategy had worked well back in Round 6. However, the same openings never presented themselves, and the waiting eventually cost Taylor in a couple of spots where Ramirez landed a clean punch.
Going away from a consistent work rate proved to be risky. The judges – all three – saw the fight a lot closer than Taylor, and awarded the Scot a unanimous decision with the difference being the two points gained from the knockdowns. Three scorecards of 114-112 handed Taylor his 18th victory, making him boxing’s latest unanimous champion.
Currently, Teofimo Lopez, the fully unified Lightweight champion, is the only other undisputed champion. On the women’s side, the distinction is held by Lightweight Katie Taylor, Welterweight Jessica McCaskill and Super Welterweight Claressa Shields. Shields was the Middleweight undisputed champion before dropping down a weight division to become boxing’s only two-time undisputed champion.
Taylor opened the fight flashing his flicking right jab. Ramirez bobbed side-to-side and darted forward with some early swings. Taylor stepped around and landed a big hook to the body first. Moments later Ramirez responded with a body shot of his own. The blow may have caught Taylor’s elbow. Both fighters looked extremely sharp.
Taylor’s flicking jab returned at the Round 2 bell. Ramirez landed an overhand right at the bottom of the first minute. Taylor maintained the space many experts predicted as being a major key for his success in the bout. Ramirez started an outburst of flurries in the round’s closing seconds. Taylor fired a pair of right hooks upstairs.
Ramirez landed a couple of early jabs over Taylor’s guard at the start of Round 3. Ramirez closed the distance and banged away at the Scot behind his guard. Following that rush, Taylor responded by pressing his way forward. Ramirez pushed back, ripping shots underneath. Ramirez rallied even more fiercely over the last minute. Taylor looked unsettled. Ramirez received credit for landing power punches in 21-of-25 total shots for the round.
Taylor went into the fourth round looking for some get back. He handed out his best punishment by going to the body of Ramirez. He landed a left hook in the middle of the Mexican American’s stomach. Ramirez roared back with a flurry of punches.
Taylor set up outside in Round 5. He added in some feinting and jabbed. A cut on the outside corner of the Scot’s left eye appeared early in the round. Ramirez was less explosive in the round.
Taylor scored a knockdown 15 seconds into the sixth round. Ramirez ran into a counter left hand that dropped him. Ramirez beat referee Kenny Bayless’ count and gathered himself quickly. A few extra seconds elapsed as Bayless finished up his evaluation of Ramirez’ condition. Shortly after getting up he landed a telling left hook of his own. Taylor tried to maintain his space to set up his power shots. Ramirez rallied with some looping shots.
The two champions dueled away with their jabs through the first half of the subsequent round. Taylor looked to time Ramirez who was no longer coming inside with the same aggression. With 30 seconds left to go, as the two were separating, Taylor suddenly dropped Ramirez, flat on his back, with a left uppercut. Ramirez willed himself back to his feet. Again, Bayless’ count seemed awkward. Ramirez survived the rest of the round.
Taylor stalked Ramirez in Round 8. He studied Ramirez to determine how solid his legs were and possibly land a finishing combination. Ramirez was unsteady through most of the stanza, but he fought with the heart of a champion.
Taylor patiently set up his attack in the ninth round. Ramirez’ work rate slowed. He stood in front of the Scot early on and threw some insignificant jabs. Taylor flicked his jab, mixed in some upper body feints and looked for reactions to strike. The fight moved to Round 10.
Taylor fought safely through the first minute of Round 10. He worked from the outside still looking to time Ramirez with a big punch. Taylor went to work with about 60 seconds to go. Ramirez sprung forward with 20 seconds left to land a straight left hand. The punch got Taylor’s attention and confirmed Ramirez was still competing. Taylor closed the round by slipping another shot and landing a powerful left hook to Ramirez’ head.
A game of cat and mouse ensued in the first championship round. Taylor, still looking to put Ramirez away, never lost full control of the fight. But Ramirez had the better moments near the end of the round. Taylor clinched him twice after getting hit while misreading Ramirez. Ramirez fought to the bell.
First minute of the 12th round, Taylor continued sitting back. Ramirez pursued Taylor, throwing powerful punches to the head and body of Taylor. The Scot threw very few punches throughout the round and opted to showcase his elusiveness. This was an interesting choice in a fight that could have actually been closer than the opinion of Taylor and chief second Ben Davison.
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank