LOS ANGELES -- Super middleweight world titlist Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez made the move up to the light heavyweight division and turned in a dominating performance Friday night at Staples Center.
Ramirez, who still holds the 168-pound belt he has defended five times, laid a beating on Tommy Karpency before his corner stopped the fight after the fourth round in the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card headlined by the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Anthony Crolla lightweight world championship fight.
"I feel more comfortable at 175 pounds than 168," Ramirez said. "I'm looking for all the champions at 175. I want to be a pound-for-pound fighter. I struggled making 168 for a very long time."
Last week Ramirez got engaged to his pregnant girlfriend, Priscilla, and went into the fight with new trainer Julian Chua. Ramirez had cut ties with the Zapari family, who he had been close to since childhood. Hector Zapari had trained him since he was 12 but was fired and replaced by Chua. Jesus Zapari, Hector's father, had managed him for his entire 10-year career.
Ramirez, who also recently moved from Mazatlan, Mexico, to Los Angeles, said he was not at all distracted by the many changes in his life and career, and it sure looked like he was being truthful.
By the second round, it looked as though Karpency's nose had been broken, his left eye was black and blue, and he was covering up. But Ramirez penetrated his guard with multiple combinations that knocked him back repeatedly.
Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs), a 27-year-old southpaw from Mexico, continued the assault in the third round, again blasting two-time world title challenger Karpency (29-7-1, 18 KOs), 33, of Adah, Pennsylvania, with his right hand. One punch sent him into one of the corner posts.
Ramirez continued to pound him in the fourth round and when it was over Karpency's corner said he had had enough, and referee Ray Corona stopped the fight. Karpency said he suffered a rib injury and was unable to continue.
"He hit me with a great shot to the body in the first 30 seconds, and it impacted me the rest of the fight," Karpency said. "He's no better, no worse, than the other champions I've fought at 175 pounds."
Now Ramirez has a decision to make: stay at light heavyweight or return to super middleweight to defend his title.
"We'll see what's next, but my body felt great at 175," Ramirez said. "My new head trainer, Julian Chua, did an excellent job preparing me for this fight. Karpency was a tough guy."
Ramirez has left open the possibility of returning to super middleweight, where he could meet Callum Smith in a title unification fight this summer in Smith's home country of England. Ramirez's promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who promotes Smith but is also in Los Angeles as Anthony Crolla's promoter, talked about the possibility of a deal this week.
But Ramirez could also have major fights at light heavyweight, where Top Rank promotes world champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, world titlist Artur Beterbiev and is the co-promoter for world titlist Sergey Kovalev and former titleholder Eleider "Storm" Alvarez.
For comparison's sake, Gvozdyk stopped Karpency in the sixth round before he won the world title, but Karpency knocked him down in the first round. Ramirez defeated him far more easily.
Barboza destroys Alvarado
Junior welterweight Arnold Barboza Jr. easily knocked out long-faded world titleholder Mike Alvarado in the third round of an utterly one-sided fight.
Barboza took it right to Alvarado, who hadn't won a significant fight since his 2013 rematch with Brandon Rios, from the opening bell. He landed multiple combinations in the first round and then snapped Alvarado's head straight back with a right uppercut in the second round.
Barboza kept throwing, and landing, punches against an Alvarado, who had little left but the heart he showed through so many brutal fights during his prime. In the third round, Barboza (21-0, 8 KOs), 27, of South El Monte, California, rocked Alvarado with an uppercut and a left hand and kept landing punches. He eventually connected with a clean right hand on the chin and Alvarado went down.
Alvarado (40-5, 28 KOs), 38, of Denver, barely got to the his feet but stumbled forward and referee Thomas Taylor waved it off at 49 seconds.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said this week that the winner of the fight could land a shot against junior welterweight world titleholder Jose Ramirez, who is also with Top Rank, later this year. A title shot is exactly what Barboza wants.
"That was a good fight, and now I want Jose Ramirez. I want [titleholder] Maurice Hooker," Barboza said. "That's what I want in my future. Alvarado is a tough guy, and I stopped him in three rounds. Hopefully, this performance will catapult me to a world title opportunity. To perform like I did in front of my hometown fans, it doesn't get better than that."
Alvarado probably is at the end of the line but was noncommittal about his ring future.
"He caught me with a clean, surprising shot. He just caught me. It's boxing," Alvarado said. "Some just sneak in and do the job, you know? My legs didn't cooperate. Hey, you know, I got back up. That's what I'm thankful for. I'm healthy. I'm safe."
More undercard results
Middleweight Janibek Alimkhanuly (6-0, 2 KOs), 26, of Kazakhstan, cruised to a one-sided decision over Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13 KOs), 27, of San Ysidro, California. Alimkhanuly, a 2016 Olympian and 2013 world amateur champion, won 100-90 on two scorecards and 99-91 on the third. Alimkhanuly, who is trained by Buddy McGirt, the former world champion who will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June, had no trouble whatsoever as he pounded Olivas to the body and head though he never appeared close to getting a knockout.
"I hurt my right shoulder in the fight, but I got valuable experience," Alimkhanuly said. "It's exactly what I needed."
Heavyweight Guido Vianello (2-0, 2 KOs), 24, a 2016 Olympian from Italy, blew away Lawrence Gabriel (3-2-1, 2 KOs), 32, of Syracuse, New York, in just 49 seconds. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Vianello badly hurt the 6-4, 208-pound Lawrence with a right hand and then pounded him to the ground with a series of follow-up punches. He beat the count but was in no shape to continue, and referee Thomas Taylor waved off the fight.
"I believe this was my strongest performance to date, and I'm only going to get better and better," said Vianello, who is trained by Abel Sanchez. "My power is improving with every fight."
Russian welterweight up-and-comer Alexander Besputin (13-0, 9 KOs), 27, who fights out of Oxnard, California, notched a one-sided rout of Alfredo Blanco (20-8, 11 KOs), 29, of Argentina. Besputin won 100-90 on two scorecards and 99-91 on the third. Blanco was very awkward and while Besputin didn't look impressive against a very slow journeyman opponent he won handily. Besputin suffered a cut on his forehead as a result of an accidental head but in the ninth round.
"He had a very uncomfortable, awkward style, which made it difficult for me to find my rhythm," Besputin said. "Most importantly, I got the win, and we can move on to bigger fights. I am a top contender now, and I am ready to fight for a world title next. Bob Arum says I can beat the top welterweights, and I know I can."
Arum has said he views Besputin as an eventual challenger for world titlist Terence Crawford.
Welterweight Ruben Rodriguez (6-0, 2 KOs), 22, of Indio, California, won a spirited majority decision over Ramel Snegur (3-4-1, 2 KOs), 23, of Portland, Oregon. Two judges gave it to Rodriguez 40-36 and 39-37 and one had the fight 38-38. Rodriguez seemed to control most of the fight and rocked Snegur with a left hook late in second round.