Ramirez must keep record unblemished to get WBO title shot

There’s a title shot looming for super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez. But first things first.

Ramirez (32-0, 24 knockouts) must defeat Gevorg Khatchikian on Friday in the 10-round main event of Top Rank’s boxing card at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. If he does, Ramirez will get a chance to fight World Boxing Organization champion Arthur Abraham during the first quarter of 2016.

Ramirez, from Mexico, is the mandatory challenger for Abraham, who defends his belt against Martin Murray on Saturday in Germany.

“I know what’s at stake here,” Ramirez said through a translator. “It’s extra motivation for me. It keeps me focused because I know what comes next.”

Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said fear of the unknown makes the fight with Khatchikian (23-1, 11 KOs) a big risk for Ramirez.

“I hate this type of fight,” Moretti said. “There’s so much to lose if you don’t come through. It’s like leading the Daytona 500 for 499 laps, then blowing a tire. Yes, he’s Abraham’s mandatory, but that all goes out the window unless he wins Friday.”

The fight will be Ramirez’s second in Las Vegas. In April 2014, he knocked down Giovanni Lorenzo three times en route to a fifth-round stoppage at Mandalay Bay.

“It was a wonderful experience being able to fight in Las Vegas,” Ramirez said. “It’s the dream of every fighter to fight in Las Vegas and perform well. I want to impress the people in this fight and get my hand raised.”

Ramirez said fighting in this kind of situation can only help him.

“I’m still learning and growing as a fighter,” the 24-year-old said. “I know he’s going to be hungry, and we’re preparing for everything. We don’t want to be surprised.”

The fight will be televised on truTV on tape delay in Las Vegas at 10 p.m.

RIGO ADDED TO PPV — Guillermo Rigondeaux, a former super bantamweight champion, had been added to Saturday’s HBO Pay Per View telecast undercard for the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto middleweight title fight at Mandalay Bay.

Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs) will fight Drian Francisco (28-1-3, 22 KOs) in a 10-round super bantamweight bout.

“This is a great platform to take my career to the next level and showcase my talents on the big stage,” Rigondeaux said in a statement.

FINAL LOCAL CARD — After a busy November that will have contained six cards in a three-week span, the final Las Vegas boxing card of 2015 is scheduled Dec. 18 at the Palms’ Pearl Concert Theater.

In the main event, Denis Shafikov (36-1-1, 19 KOs) faces Rances Barthelemy (23-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant International Boxing Federation lightweight title. In the co-feature, Beibut Shumenov, the interim World Boxing Association cruiserweight champ, meets ex-champ Krzyzstof Wlodarczyk of Poland.

Both bouts are scheduled for 12 rounds and will be televised on Spike TV as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series.

“I’ve been preparing my whole life for this fight and to become world champion,” Shafikov said. “I have a great deal of respect for Barthelemy, but my trainer, Abel Sanchez, and I have been working hard for the past couple of months, and we will have a great game plan on fight night.”

Of Shumenov (16-2, 10 KOs), a Las Vegas resident from Kazakhstan, Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35 KOs), said: “Shumenov is a tricky guy, but he has no heart. He tried to run from the action in his last fight, and I do not like to fight guys who run. But if I want to fight the best, I have to destroy this chicken, and I will do it.”

WARD VACATES TITLE — When Andre Ward decided to move up to light heavyweight, it was only a matter of time before his reign as WBA super middleweight champion ended. Sure enough, Ward said Thursday he is vacating the title.

“It’s been a wonderful ride with the WBA,” Ward said. “I’m looking forward to moving up and hopefully winning the WBA light heavyweight belt.”

Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) was scheduled to fight on the Alvarez-Cotto undercard, but a right knee injury suffered in training two weeks ago forced him off the card. Ward hopes to return in the first quarter of 2016.

PROVODNIKOV WANTS REMATCH — In the wake of Timothy Bradley’s impressive performance in stopping Brandon Rios on Nov. 7 at the Thomas & Mack Center, Ruslan Provodnikov wants another crack at Bradley. The two engaged in boxing’s fight of the year in 2013, when Bradley prevailed in a 12-round slugfest.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact Bradley’s former trainer, Joel Diaz, now trains Provodnikov. In his first fight under Diaz, Provodnikov stopped Jesus Rodriguez inside of four rounds Nov. 7 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

“Ruslan looked great,” said Provodnikov’s promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions. “The collaboration between Ruslan and Joel Diaz is going well.

“This win sets everything up for a big 2016. He indicated to me he wants to avenge his losses and also seek the biggest fights. I think he is in prime position to do just that.”

— Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him: @stevecarprj

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