ESPN’s Hard Sell Makes Zurdo Ramirez Look Bad

By Paul Magno on July 2, 2018
ESPN’s Hard Sell Makes Zurdo Ramirez Look Bad
The Mexican didn’t “box,” as much as he played the long game. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

It’s hard to be too harsh on the defending WBO super middleweight champ for looking fairly pedestrian against Angulo…

If it weren’t for the extreme hard sell by the increasingly infomercial-like ESPN broadcast crew, most people would not be talking about how NOT incredible Zurdo Ramirez looked against Alexis Angulo last Saturday night.

It’s hard to be too harsh on the defending WBO super middleweight champ for looking fairly pedestrian against Angulo. The 34-year-old Colombian, aside from having legitimately heavy hands, has a touch of craft in his game and the kind of battled-honed instincts that one would expect from a fighter who has fought in seven different countries over the course of his career. Angulo was looking to draw Ramirez in and counter with a big right and managed to seriously buzz the defending champ at least three times.

Ramirez then decided to play things relatively safe because, as was clearly the case, he could win from the outside without ever really engaging within arm’s reach of Angulo. He was made to respect Angulo’s power and, more importantly, was made to fear his ability to work his heavy hands into a position to counter. The tall, lanky Mexican didn’t “box,” as much as he played the long game, which, in the Mexican fighter playbook, is as close to “boxing” as one gets.

Forget most of what you saw on Saturday—or at least put it in the context of who Ramirez is, who Angulo is, and why we would ever even expect Ramirez to run right over Angulo. Ramirez is a good fighter and still improving, but he’s not an elite-level fighter yet, no matter who he’s fighting.

But one would never know that by the way the ESPN broadcast crew was talking Zurdo up before the fight.

The guys with the mics were pushing Ramirez like he was a true elite pound-for-pound talent. Tim Bradley’s pre-fight assertion that Angulo did not belong in the ring with Ramirez was a classic BoxRec assertion from someone who clearly should know better. Looking up their records on BoxRec, maybe, one could make the claim Bradley did. But, even then, while Angulo’s undefeated record was obviously padded, Ramirez’s résumé is not exactly deep by any stretch of the imagination. 

The constant and aggressive hard selling of Top Rank fighters by the ESPN crew has gone beyond the cheerleading often reserved for “house” fighters. It’s at the Jim Lampley-level now and it’s pretty damn annoying. From Vasyl Lomachenko to Zurdo Ramirez to Jose Ramirez to poor ol’ Terence Crawford, locked away on the other side of the ESPN+ cyber fence, everyone is the greatest, most awesome—so awesome our brains will burst at their awesomeness. Enough. This clenbuteroled hyperbole is also putting their guys into tough spots, bringing on criticism that wouldn’t be coming their way if they weren’t pre-sold by the announce team as some sort of glove-wearing super human.

Nobody’s suggesting that Top Rank on ESPN go full cynic on their house fighters, but it’s really to no one’s benefit when they blow smoke up fans’ asses and then the fans see what REALLY is there.  Screaming at the audience, “you gotta see this…this is something special” and then delivering nothing at all special is not good business.

There’s a balance to be made between enthusiasm and realism and ways to sell fights that don’t make every main event seem like a super hero’s coming out party. There’s something to be said for knowing enough about the fight to sell the fight—and every fight can be sold to the public if the right angle is taken.

At the end of the day, Zurdo Ramirez’s solid win against a solid opponent became a total letdown because of how hard ESPN was pushing the fighter to be something he simply isn’t. That’s no way to make a star.

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  1. Kid Blast 11:34am, 07/02/2018

    But Lenny Z was and is a true warrior who must be saved from himself.

  2. El Conscripto 10:29am, 07/02/2018

    Lenny Z shot his wad in desperation because he knew that was his one and only chance before his face fell apart! Some in this “sport” have faces that are damn near impervious to any real damage regardless of how many punches they eat and others like Lenny and a very talented Frankie Ryff not so much!

  3. Kid Blast 07:18am, 07/02/2018

    actually, Angulo came to fight and he impressed me a lot, especially since Tim Bradley said he would be beaten up,

    Very good article Paul. You captured the essence of the situation.

  4. Lucas McCain 07:11am, 07/02/2018

    You get an extra point for a knockdown.  And for a phrase like “clenbuteroled hyperbole.”

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