It was the toughest fight any of them had ever experienced as a professional boxer, and on Saturday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, super lightweights Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam put on a show, but Ramirez walked away the champion.
Ramirez won a unanimous decision and earned the vacant WBC junior welterweight title by scores of 115-113, 117-111, and a very questionable 120-108. FightNights.com scored the bout 116-112 for Ramirez.
The crafty Imam (21-2, 18 KO's), 27, of Albany, New York, got off to a fast start behind his jab and counter right hand, while Ramirez (22-0, 16 KO's), a 2012 U.S. Olympian from Avenal, California picked up the pace in the third round. He found success with left hooks upstairs, and targeted Imam's body.
In what had been a very close fight up to that point, Ramirez continued to cut off the ring, and stalk Imam.
Leaving himself vulnerable, Ramirez hurt Imam with a big right hand. Imam quickly recovered, but his face, particularly his right eye continued to get marked up.
“This is a dream come true for me. I dedicate this fight to all the immigrants. I fight for them,” said Ramirez, who has called for comprehensive immigration reform.
Imam's corner told their fighter to pick up the aggression, and he did just that in the eighth round with a triple jab, a left hand, and an uppercut. Ramirez came back at the end of the round with a big left hand.
Some blood on the mouth of Ramirez was noticeable in the ninth round, but that did not bother him one bit. A powerful upjab sent Imam into the ropes. However, the gutsy Imam responded with a combination of his own to the body.
Ramirez had a prime opportunity to knockout Imam in the 11th round, but could not seal the deal. A big left hook had Imam in bad straits, but he wisely held, and continued to stand bravely in the pocket.
With both fighters exhausted, they made it the distance, and put on a show for the 4,672 fans in attendance.
Imam had no issue with the decision.
"I should have done more to the body, and I needed to," Imam said. "I just keep thinking about all the things I should have done."
Ramirez had nothing but praise for Imam.
"Amir is a great fighter, and he came well prepared," Ramirez said. "That's why we gave the fans a great fight."
The bout marked the first time that Top Rank's Bob Arum and legendary promoter Don King had worked together on a card since 2011.
With Ramirez victorious, it sets up a possible bout with Regis Prograis, who won the interim WBC belt after knocking down former titleholder Julius Indongo four times en-route to a second-round TKO.