Gilberto Ramirez to move up to light heavyweight division for next fight

FRISCO, Texas -- Super middleweight world titleholder Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez told ESPN that he will be moving up to the light heavyweight division for his next fight.

"I am looking for another belt. That's why I am moving up. Also, last time I fought it was a little bit hard to make the weight, 168. My body is asking to move up," Ramirez said Friday before the weigh-in for the rematch between light heavyweight world titlist Eleider "Storm" Alvarez and former two-time titlist Sergey Kovalev, who meet on Saturday night (midnight ET, ESPN+) at the Ford Center at the Star, the practice facility of the Dallas Cowboys.

Ramirez (39-0, 25 KOs), 27, a southpaw from Mexico, will be ringside for the fight to get a good look at both combatants because he figures to be a future opponent for the winner.

"I am looking for those belts," Ramirez said. "They are really tough fighters. I want to be the Mexican idol. So I am looking for a challenge and an opportunity."

Ramirez will get one as long as he keeps winning, because he is promoted by Top Rank, which is deep in the weight class. In addition to its involvement with Alvarez and Kovalev, the company also promotes lineal champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk and recently signed world titlist Artur Beterbiev, although that deal has not yet been formally announced.

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN that the plan is for Ramirez to fight a nontitle fight at light heavyweight in April or May and then for a world title.

"He came to us. He was having trouble maintaining his weight at 168 [pounds] and thought he would be much stronger at 175," Arum said. "So without giving up his 168 title, I think we're going to put him in a good fight at 175, and then if he comes through that we'll match him with one of the champions to fight for a title.

"He knows as well as we do who he matches up well with. He has sparred with Gvozdyk so he feels he can handle Gvozdyk. He's watched Alvarez fight. Our matchmakers think he's competitive in either fight. With Beterbiev, who knows what you have."

Ramirez won his super middleweight world title by shutout decision of Arthur Abraham in 2016 and has made five defenses. Most recently, he edged Jesse Hart by majority decision in their rematch in a very rough fight on Dec. 14. Ramirez said he would only return to super middleweight if Top Rank could give him a major fight following his spring light heavyweight bout.

"Bob told me, 'Maybe you want to move up, fight, and after, if I don't give you a really good fight like [one against] Canelo Alvarez or [Gennady] Golovkin or Callum Smith, something like that, then we're going to look for a title at light heavyweight,'" Ramirez said. "It's a big challenge for me. I am really motivated to get another belt and be a champion in two divisions."

If Ramirez wins a light heavyweight world title, he would be only the second Mexican boxer to do so. The late Julio Gonzalez won a light heavyweight title in 2003 by upsetting Dariusz Michalczewski by split and then lost the belt in his first defense by unanimous decision to Zsolt Erdei in 2004. Arum said he believes Ramirez will be well served by the move up in weight.

"I think he's a big guy whether at 168 or 175, and if he feels stronger by not having the sacrifice to make the weight he will be a lot better puncher," Arum said. "He's a great boxer. The question is if he will develop a good punch. I think going up in weight will help that."