Why Josh Taylor vs. Jose Ramirez represents a throwback to old-school boxing that fans should be watching


Given its disorganized nature and “wild west” reputation within the world of sports, it’s no surprise that any given weekend on the global boxing calendar can produce a number of events that span the full gamut of importance, prestige and ability levels. 

But it goes without saying that not all boxing events are created equal, especially as it pertains to a fight’s meaning. Very often, in fact, thanks to the sport’s open and free market — including the recent rash of exhibition bouts featuring celebrity names across the world of sports, entertainment and social media influence — some of boxing’s most anticipated fights have very little to do with the current state of boxing at all. 

All one has to do is take a look at boxing’s three biggest pay-per-view events over the last six years as evidence: Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor in 2017 (retired boxer vs. MMA star), Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. in 2020 (retired boxers with a combined age of 105) and Jake Paul-Ben Askren in April (YouTube star vs. retired MMA fighter). Mayweather, now 44, will also return on June 6 in an exhibition match against Paul’s brother, 26-year-old Logan, for a Showtime PPV event expected to only join that group from the standpoint of attention and pay-per-view buys. 

And then there’s this Saturday, when a fight takes place at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas to declare an undisputed king at 140 pounds featuring two elite and unbeaten champions who could likely walk down the street in any American city and be confused for a pair of average Joes. 

To be fair, it’s not as if Jose Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs), the Mexican-American pride of Fresno, California, will be taking on Scotland’s Josh Taylor (17-0, 13 KOs) in complete obscurity. Ask any hardcore boxing fan or journalist alike how far down the rabbit hole of illegal streams and non-English broadcasts they have been forced to go in the past — at all hours of the day or night — in order to see an important fight and you’d be anything from amazed to frightened. 

The 28-year-old Ramirez will defend his WBC and WBO junior welterweight titles against Taylor, 30, for his WBA and IBF straps in primetime (8 p.m. ET) on ESPN of all places. The fight also has the backing of promoter Top Rank, which has spent more than a year lining these two fighters up just for this moment. Make no mistake, this is very much big news within the boxing community. 

Still, in today’s era of social media clout and carnival sensationalism within boxing, Ramirez-Taylor remains everything that is still right about this broken, damaged and forever beautiful sport. It’s also the antithesis of the current circus era for the sport on the PPV level.  

For as many casual sports fans there are willing to fork over money to find out which aging athlete Jake Paul might sign up to box next, there’s a wonder how many of said mainstream consumers might be willing to stay and continue to invest in the sport beyond one fight or one night had they watched Ramirez-Taylor instead (provided the fight lives up to its bright potential).  

Asked to sum up what the fight means to the sport given its stature and stakes during last week’s appearance on “Morning Kombat,” Taylor could only repeat the same phrase over and over. 

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“It’s a massive, massive fight in boxing,” Taylor said.  

Maybe it’s apropos that the “Tartan Tornado” used such general terms to describe such a great fight. In so many ways, Ramirez-Taylor is about as much of an old school and lunch pail type bout that could be made.  

Aside from the obvious draw of two unbeaten champions squaring off for the undisputed crown in an era of watered-down belt proliferation that makes doing so increasingly difficult, it’s a perfect pairing of like-minded foes. Although both fighters hail from different sides of the globe in this contrast between orthodox (Ramirez) and southpaw (Taylor) fighters, they are more alike than different from the standpoint of temperament, reputation and styles as boxer-punchers who never shy away from mixing it up when things get hairy. 

Both Ramirez (in his 2019 slugfest with Maurice Hooker) and Taylor (in his majority-decision thriller against Regis Prograis the same year) also passed defining tests by walking through the fire of damage, fatigue and potential doubt to win their toughest fights to date. 

“I think for promotion sake, it could have been better and a little bit bigger considering the magnitude of the fight,” Taylor said. “It’s not very often that these fights happen, especially in this day and age. I think the awareness of this fight could’ve been pushed harder to get the public and even the boxing fans a little more knowledgable of what’s happened. 

“Things haven’t been clear and it has been a little bit quiet until now. But hopefully by the time [fight week] comes, things will pick up and people will be sick of hearing about this fight.”

The all-business Taylor, not surprisingly, doesn’t have a ton of love for the recent trend of celebrity fighter exhibitions brought on by the Paul brothers. Although he credits them for sound marketing strategies and shot more than a few “fair play to them” remarks about the money being made, he would prefer his fight with Ramirez to be thought of separately. 

“I think the [YouTubers] should maybe do their own sort of setups and their own fights or shows because they are making an absolute mockery of the sport,” Taylor said. “They are making it an absolute circus, which is very frustrating for fighters like myself and other top contenders who have given their whole life and soul to this fight game and these guys are making a mockery of it and acting like they are real fighters and doing all this circus WWE stuff. 

“They are setting up confrontations and things like that. This isn’t the wrestling game, this is a sport and they are disrespecting it that way. I think they should go and do their own thing.”

Although boxing has rarely shied away historically from bumping up close to the wild and bizarre provided there is a dollar or two to be made (making legendary scribe Jimmy Cannon’s “red light district of sports” moniker feel anything but untrue), it’s hard not to feel for Taylor and Ramirez in the grand scheme. 

For how many are willing to sit down and enjoy the theater this weekend, boxing has something to offer that simply shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed as typical fare. Ramirez and Taylor are prepared to leave it all on the line for the prospect of fame, riches and glory.

If you take a look around long enough in 2021, boxing might not exactly resemble the one your grandfather used to rave about back when it was cherished as “the sport of kings,” but make no mistake a fight like Ramirez-Taylor would fit in during any era and has all the makings to be a timeless classic worthy of your heed. 





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