MMA

Ramirez to defend 168-pound title vs. Ahmed

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Super middleweight world titleholder Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, fresh off winning a grueling slugfest with Jesse Hart, will be back in action for his third defense when he faces Habib “Wild Hurricane” Ahmed.

The duo, undefeated in 63 combined fights, will fight Feb. 3 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, Top Rank announced Tuesday.

The fight will headline the first Top Rank ESPN card of 2018 and will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET, with the entire card to stream live on the ESPN App. Top Rank will host a news conference to kick off the promotion on Thursday at the American Bank Center.

“Gilberto Ramirez has proven that he is the best of the super middleweights,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “All you have to do is look at his world championship victories against Arthur Abraham and Jesse Hart. Gilberto has quickly become the face of boxing on both sides of the border.”

Ramirez (36-0, 24 KOs), a 26-year-old southpaw from Mexico, shut out longtime titleholder Arthur Abraham to win the 168-pound belt in April 2016 and then similarly dominated Max Bursak in his first defense this past April after Ramirez had to sit out a year because of hand surgery.

On Sept. 22, in Tucson, Arizona, Ramirez and then-undefeated Hart, the mandatory challenger, battled for 12 brutal rounds. Ramirez dropped Hart in the second round en route to winning a close decision, 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113, to retain the belt for the second time.

Ramirez will take on another unbeaten challenger in Ahmed (26-0-1, 18 KOs), of Ghana, who has a glossy record but has not yet faced a top opponent.

“Habib Ahmed is an undefeated fighter with a good knockout record. He is fighting outside of his home country for the first time and that makes him a very dangerous fighter,” Ramirez said. “He knows that he has a great opportunity in front of him. I’m going to train even harder than for my last title defense. I think this will be a very good fight.

“My world title and our undefeated records will be on the line. I’m very motivated and focused on defending and retaining my title for the third time against a good opponent. I want to show the world why I’m the champion in the super middleweight division.”

Ahmed’s most recognizable opponent has been onetime fringe contender Philip Kotey, whom he knocked out in the 11th round on March 17. Ahmed is excited for his first chance to fight for a world title.

“I have an important message for Gilberto Ramirez,” Ahmed said. “I am coming to America to take your title. I am going for the knockout. All of Ghana and all of my fans are going to be so proud, so happy. This is the opportunity I always wanted. I am taking Ramirez’s title with me to my homeland.”

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