Two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy “El Tren” Ramírez will lock horns with Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe in a 12-round showdown for the vacant interim WBO featherweight world title Saturday, April 1, at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
In the eight-round co-feature, Puerto Rican sensation Xander Zayas looks to extend his unbeaten record against nine-year veteran Ronald “Diablo” Cruz.
Ramirez-Dogboe and Zayas-Cruz headlines a packed card streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+.
“We have seen Robeisy Ramirez grow from a decorated Olympian to a young man on the verge of stardom. Isaac Dogboe is no pushover and represents the toughest test of Ramirez’s career. I expect an exciting, dramatic fight for the great fans in Tulsa,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “2023 will be a huge year for Xander Zayas, a superstar in the making who I believe will be Puerto Rico’s next champion.”
Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs), from Cienfuegos, Cuba, went from losing his pro debut in August 2019 to one of the division’s top contenders in 2023. Ranked No. 3 by the WBO, Ramirez had a breakthrough in 2022, knocking out Irishman Eric Donovan, the previously unbeaten Abraham Nova, and Argentinean contender Jose Matias Romero. Ramirez has knocked out five of his past six foes, a stunning power surge he hopes carries over to The Sooner State. He is considered one of the greatest boxers ever to emerge from the famed Cuban amateur system and seeks to author a career-best victory in Tulsa.
“I have been boxing for more than 20 years and have been a fighter every step of the way,” Ramirez said. “I never forgot where I came from, but I refuse to define myself by past accomplishments. Even after winning my second Olympic gold medal, I endured hardships. I embraced the challenges ahead of me and know that my greatest tests and most significant accomplishments in boxing are still ahead of me.
“On April 1, I will enter the ring with the hunger that has brought me here and the hunger that comes with knowing that there is still much to achieve. This is just the beginning for Robeisy ‘El Tren’ Ramírez.”
Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs) has a rapid championship rise at junior featherweight, but he lost his title and career momentum with back-to-back defeats to Emanuel Navarrete. He overhauled his camp following the Navarrete losses, linking up with decorated trainer Barry Hunter at Headbangers Boxing Gym in Washington, D.C. The Dogboe/Hunter partnership has resulted in four consecutive victories, including majority decisions over Adam Lopez and Christopher Diaz. He earned a shot at the interim title with last July’s split decision over Joet Gonzalez, a toe-to-toe battle in Hinckley, Minnesota, that ranked among the year’s best action fights. Dogboe, from Anyako, Ghana, represented his homeland at the 2012 London Olympics and spent much of his childhood in London.
“Nearly five years ago, I became the WBO junior featherweight champion of the world, to the shock of many people. On April 1, I will be crowned a two-time, two-division champion,” Dogboe said. “Ramirez is a good fighter, and I commend him for his achievements. I’ve waited patiently for this opportunity, and I want to thank Bob Arum and the Top Rank family for being good to me over the years. My team and I are preparing for this life-changing opportunity. God Bless all the boxing fans and boxing enthusiasts for their continuous support.”
The 20-year-old Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs), from San Juan, has been ticketed for stardom since signing with Top Rank at 16. He broke through in 2021 with six victories, setting up a 2022 that saw him graduate to eight-rounders. Zayas shut out Louisiana’s Quincy LaVallais over eight rounds, knocked out the durable Elias Espadas in five, and made a “Heisman Night” statement in December with a near-shutout decision over Alexis Salazar. Zayas’ road to contention continues against Cruz (18-2-1, 12, KOs), a Los Angeles native who has never been knocked out as a pro. Cruz went 10 competitive rounds with Damian Sosa last August, dropping a unanimous decision.
Zayas said, “2023 is going to be big for my career. I’m going into the new year with all the power and the mindset needed to make a name for myself in the division. I’m locked in. Laser focused. It all starts on April 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m very excited to be on this card since I’ll have the opportunity to showcase my skills as the co-feature on ESPN+. This time, I’ll be fighting against a worthy Mexican opponent, and I’m planning to put on a show for all the boxing fans.”
Undercard bouts, also streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+, include:
In an eight-round grudge match, Jahi Tucker (9-0, 5 KOs) will make his junior middleweight debut against Nikoloz Sekhniashvili (8-1, 6 KOs). Tucker called for a fight against Zayas, but he must first face Zayas’ training partner, a former amateur standout from the nation of Georgia. Sekhniashvili returned from a 15-month layoff last November to stop the previously unbeaten David Rodriguez in three rounds.
“I am excited to be fighting on a Top Rank card again, this time against an undefeated fighter,” Sekhniashvili said. “I know Jahi is going to run and likes to use his mouth more than his hands. He will try to avoid me, but once I make contact, he will slow down instantly. I can’t wait until April 1.”
Tucker said, “Nikoloz is going to be easy work. After I get finished with him, I want to fight Xander.”
Two-time world title challenger Joet Gonzalez (25-3, 13 KOs), from Glendora, California returns against Mexican veteran Jose Enrique Vivas (22-2, 11 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight firefight. Gonzalez looks to rebound from last July’s tight split decision defeat to Dogboe. Despite the Dobgoe setback, Gonzalez is still ranked in the top 10 of the WBC and WBO featherweight rankings. Vivas kept his title hopes alive last August with a split decision over Edy Valencia.
Junior welterweight phenom Tiger Johnson (7-0, 5 KOs), who represented the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics, fights in his first second scheduled eight-rounder against an opponent to be named. Johnson stopped Harry Gigliotti in five rounds at Hard Rock Tulsa last August.
Tulsa-born heavyweight prospect Jeremiah Milton (8-0, 6 KOs) returns home against an opponent to be named. Milton has fought in Tulsa three times a pro, securing two first-round knockouts and a second-round stoppage.
Cleveland-born lightweight Abdullah Mason (6-0, 5 KOs) makes his 2023 debut in a six-rounder. Mason fought at Hard Rock Tulsa last August, outlasting the game Angel Rebollar en route to a four-round decision win.
Light heavyweight prospect Dante Benjamin Jr. (5-0, 3 KOs), from Cleveland, aims to continue his knockout momentum in a six-rounder. Benjamin opened his 2023 campaign Jan. 14 with a first-round stoppage over Emmanueal Austin.