When Billy Joe Saunders faces Shefat Isufi on May 18 in Stevenage, England, the vacant WBO super middleweight title — not an interim belt — will be on the line. Frank Warren said at today’s public workout in Stevenage that Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez has finally officially vacated the belt.
“We always felt that was going to be the case, because there was no way Ramirez was ever going to make the weight again,” Warren told Boxing Social. “It was a little bit of uncertainty, but it came through and as we all know it’s a couple of weeks away, but it is for the full title, and Bill’s absolutely over the moon delighted with the chance to become a double weight world champion.”
Saunders (27-0, 13 KO) won the WBO middleweight title in Dec. 2015, beating Andy Lee by majority decision, and made successful defenses against Artur Akavov, Willie Monroe Jr, and David Lemieux. He was set to face Demetrius Andrade last October in Boston, but failed a VADA drug test and was set to be stripped of the belt, at which point he relinquished the title “voluntarily” to avoid being stripped. Andrade won the vacant title by beating Walter Kautondokwa.
Saunders-Isufi has always been designed as a vacant WBO super middleweight fight, but Ramirez sort of dragged his feet on actually vacating the belt. He last defended in December, beating Jesse Hart in a rematch, and scheduled a move up to 175 for a fight with Tommy Karpency, which he won on April 12.
But Ramirez held on to the title for some reason — in case he lost to Karpency, in case he just did worse than expected against Karpency, whatever, it appears to be done now and we’ll have a new WBO titleholder at 168 in a couple weeks.
Isufi (27-3-2, 20 KO) is a Serbian-born fighter now based in Germany who has won 10 straight fights against nobody in particular and isn’t considered more than a fringe contender in the division.
Also, Tyson Fury came along to his pal Saunders’ workout, and the pair arrived with trainer Ben Davison by helicopter, like Ric Flair showing up to The Great American Bash: