Super middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham is 1-2 in fights in the United States. The German star will seek to even his record on April 9, when he will make his mandatory defense against Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez in the co-feature between welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley Jr. at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Abraham promoter Team Sauerland and Ramirez promoter Top Rank had been close to finalizing a deal for the bout to be on the card last week. But when they could not reach an agreement, a purse bid took place last Wednesday. Team Sauerland won the bid with an offer of $1,563,057. Top Rank offered $1,500,250.
Even though Team Sauerland secured the promotional rights to the bout and could have staged the fight in Germany on its own card, the sides continued talking and made a deal that will supersede the purse bid results.
"This is such a huge opportunity for Arthur," promoter Kalle Sauerland said. "We had a great offer on the table before the purse bid, but for us it was important to win the bid in order to control certain promotional aspects around the fight. Together with our partner ProSiebenSat.1, we are excited to be involved in this massive global event and believe this move will cement Arthur's position as the No. 1 super middleweight in the world on the biggest of stages."
Abraham is a star in Germany but said he is excited to fight in Las Vegas for the first time.
"I love boxing in Germany, but when the offer came to box in Las Vegas on the biggest stage on the planet, it was something we could not turn down," Abraham said. "It is every fighter's dream to see their name up in bright lights on Las Vegas Strip, and on April 9 this dream will come true. There is no chance that I will leave my belt there. I will train harder than ever to deliver the best performance of my career."
Abraham (44-4, 29 KOs), who will make his sixth title defense, first boxed in the United States in 2008, traveling to Hollywood, Florida, and knocking out Edison Miranda in the fourth round of a nontitle rematch that remains one of Abraham's finest performances. Then Abraham, 35, lost twice fighting in the U.S. during the Super Six World Boxing Classic. In March 2010, he was losing badly to Andre Dirrell in Detroit when Abraham hit Dirrell after he slipped to the mat and was disqualified in the 11th round in a nontitle bout. In May 2011, Abraham challenged then-super middleweight world champion Andre Ward in Carson, California, and lost a near-shutout decision.
Now Abraham faces a stiff challenge from Ramirez (33-0, 24 KOs), 24, of Mexico.
"This is perhaps the biggest challenge of Arthur's career," said Ulli Wegner, Abraham's trainer. "With a victory, he can become a German boxing hero. We will leave nothing to chance, and unlike [German countryman] Felix Sturm when he fought Oscar De La Hoya [in Las Vegas in 2004], we do not intend to leave the decision in the hands of the judges."
Ramirez, a pro since 2009, was willing to travel to Germany for the fight but is happy to fight Abraham in Las Vegas in what will be his first world title bout.
"This is the opportunity I have waited for since I turned professional," Ramirez said. "Fighting for the world title in Las Vegas has always been my dream. As a young boy I watched my idol Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. fight in Las Vegas on TV, and I said that one day I will fight for a world title in Las Vegas in front of my fans.
"I am very proud to represent my country Mexico and make history on April 9 when I beat Arthur Abraham for the WBO world title and become the first Mexican fighter to claim the title at 168 pounds."