Peter Wells previews the St Patrick’s Day headliner in New York as Amir Imam and Jose Carlos Ramirez meet for the vacant WBC Super Lightweight title.

After a stunning knockout in November, Jose Carlos Ramirez didn’t have to wait long at all for his first shot at a world title, and there will be no need to go through the former Super Lightweight kingpin Terence Crawford to claim it.

But to acquire the vacant WBC title, Ramirez must navigate his way past another fresh contender in Amir Imam.

Imam 21-1(18KO’s) is the elder by two years, and one can argue that he has had the greater experience on the way to this world title shot. For one, the New Yorker has tasted defeat, and bounced back convincingly.

That sole reverse was against the capable world contender Adrian Granados – an 8th round stoppage in a bout that seemed to rise up too soon for the young Imam. But the step up was not without good reason. A string of triumphs over Jared Robinson, Yordenis Ugas, Santos Benavides, Fidel Maldonado Jr, Walter Castillo and Fernando Angulo seemed to have Imam on the cusp of challenging for world titles.

Ramirez 21-0(16KO’s) will feel he is in a similar vein of good form now, stopping Issouf Kinda in 6 rounds, and last time out drilling Mike Reed in brutal fashion inside 2 frames.

The Californian will feel that his aggressive nature gives him the edge to bully Imam in the same way that Granados so clearly did on the undercard of James Degale vs Lucian Bute. But Granados is a fighter more suited as a Welterweight, highlighting he had a big size advantage over the rangy Imam.

Imam holds a slight advantage in reach, and will need to use it to its full effect if he is to land the win of his career. Likewise Ramirez will have to cut off that gap with smart pressure – it is unlikely that Imam will be quite as inviting as Reed.

This is the sort of matchup for a vacant world title that should be applauded by boxing fans. Two young, hungry and capable boxers, who both have time on their side to either rebound from defeat, or surge into their prime as world champion for years to come.

The result of the contest will come down to how long that Imam can keep Ramirez at bay. If the slight favourite – Ramirez – is able to close the gap and connect with power punches in the early stages, then Imam will be in for a long night. He will have the toughness to resist crumbling, but the judges will not be favouring his work off the back foot.

However, should Imam keep the bout long for an extended period of time, he can frustrate Ramirez – who has yet to go through these sorts of struggles in a prizefight. Losing patience from range, Ramirez will take less calculated risks, and Imam amidst a confident swagger will begin to break the edge from Ramirez’s work with heavier and heavier counters.

The pick is for the man who has experienced adversity before to put those lessons in to practice on Saturday night. Imam can put more emphasis on boxing on the move, keeping Ramirez at the end of his jab. Then as mentioned above, Imam can bring the power in to play as Ramirez seeks to force the action with less thought in his work.
Ramirez may look tired enough to take out, but Imam will stick to the instructions of his team, taking a narrow but fair unanimous decision.