Jose Ramirez makes his first defence as the unified WBC and WBO super-lightweight world champion when he faces Ukraine's former WBC belt-holder Viktor "The Iceman" Postal at Mission Hills, in Haikou, China on Sunday 2nd February. ESPN televises the card and provides a live stream on the ESPN++ app.
With Josh Taylor holding the other two recognised 140lb world title belts, it seems logical that the two will meet in 2020 in a huge unification bout. There are no obvious promotional commitments that would get in the way and although Taylor might start a slight favourite, it is in all intents and purposes a 50/50 fight.
In the meantime, Ramirez (25-0-0, 17 Ko's) makes a mandatory defence of the WBC strap he won in a vacant title bout with Amir Imam in March 2018. WBC title defences against Antonio Orozco and Jose Zepeda brought a mixture of reviews, with the Zepeda result especially doing little to bolster the Avenal, California born champion's reputation.
Viktor Postal has shocked the boxing world before, namely, when he won the WBC title from big-hitting Argentinian Lucas Matthysse in October 2015 at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. However, defeats to Josh Taylor and Terence Crawford appear to prove that the 35-year-old from Ukraine but now residing in Marina del Rey, California can't quite bridge the gap to elite level. I thought that until Taylor met Regis Prograis in London, Postal had pushed the Edinburgh man hardest in his career.
While Postol is not regarded as a big puncher, he hits hard enough to gain respect and is a tough competitor for anyone. Ramirez is unlikely to get an easy night facing his No1 contender. A Postol victory would be somewhat of a shock, but not out of the question. I just think that Ramirez is always value for money but raises or drops his performance level to those of his opposition. The Jose Zepeda result (majority decision win) was a bit baffling, but to me, it seemed that Ramirez didn't take Zepeda seriously enough, a trait he cannot repeat with Postol.
This is a fight that sees two very strong, tough box/fighters meet at different stages of their respective careers. Postal is nearing the end of his 12 years as a professional, whereas the 27-year-old former 2012 Olympian is coming into his peak fighting years. The 6 round Tko victory over the tall and effectively awkward Hooker has to be seen as a career-best performance for the Top Rank promoted champion and will propel him to a higher level.
Both are vastly experienced and fighting in China will not be an issue for either. In fact, Ramirez boxed in Macao back in 2015 so will be acclimatised to the cultural differences already.
Prediction: Ramirez to win on points in a hard-fought battle.