You have to give long-time super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham credit for wanting to fight highly touted Gilberto Ramirez this Saturday night at the MGM Grand. The encounter will air on HBO pay-per-view as the top undercard bout to Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley III and is for Abraham's WBO World super middleweight title.
The 36-year-old Abraham is of Armenian descent, but he has fought most of his thirteen year career in Germany. He has compiled a record of 44-4 and has been at the top of the sport for a long time.
Back in December of 2005, now more than a decade ago, Abraham captured the vacant IBF World middleweight title when he knocked out Kingsley Ikeke (23-1) in Leipzig, Germany. Over the course of the next three-plus years, Abraham defended the belt 10 times. One of those fights was in Switzerland and he also fought a non-title bout with Edison Miranda in Florida, but he was a fighter cast in the German scene.
By the fall of 2009, the then 29-year-old Abraham was looking for a challenge and he found it in the way of Showtime's Super Six tournament. The choice to compete in the tournament meant giving up his IBF middleweight belt and moving up to the super middleweight class, but the chance to compete against the world's best in the weight class was what Abraham wanted. For him it came at exactly the right time. He had already been champion for four years at middleweight and he had outgrown the German scene and craved attention at a world level. When he tossed his name in the hat for the Super Six, then undefeated (30-0) Arthur Abraham was installed as one of the early favorites to win it all.
The opening match of the tournament saw Abraham knock out Jermaine Taylor in the 12th round in brutal fashion. Though Taylor was also a former middleweight who had lost three of his previous four, the match moved Abraham to the clear favorite in the Super Six.
But for Abraham, that first step onto the world stage unraveled after the win over Taylor. It did not help that sloppy management of the tournament format by Showtime extended the tournament for almost three years, but Abraham would fight three more times in the Super Six and go 0-3.
In March of 2010 he lost to Andre Dirrell by disqualification. Dirrell had campaigned his whole career at 168 pounds and was not a true middleweight. In round four Abraham was sent to the canvas for the first time in his pro career, and by the 11th round he was far behind on the judges scorecards. He was lunging at Dirrell who was back pedalling, and when Dirrell hit the canvas the first time, it was ruled a slip. Abraham charged again and Dirrell fell down again, and this time Abraham slugged him with a knockout blow while Dirrell was on his knees. Gone was Abraham's undefeated record. Dirrell was ahead comfortably on the cards when the end came, as the southpaw had outworked and outboxed Abraham throughout the fight.
HIs next Super Six fight came in November of 2010 when he faced England's Carl Froch in Finland. Though he extended the “Cobra” the full twelve round distance, in the end Froch won a wide unanimous decision. Abraham went home and won a 10 round bout when his opponent got hurt in the 2nd round, but that win did little to prepare him for Andre Ward, his May of 2011 opponent in the Super Six. Against Ward, the eventual tournament winner, it was more of the same as Ward won a wide unanimous decision to expel Abraham from the tournament and send him back to Germany.
Since the end of the Super Six tournament, Andre Ward has fought just four times. Carl Froch fought five more times and retired in 2014. What did Arthur Abraham do? He want back to Germany and stayed busy, going 12-1 since his loss to Ward.
Abraham has fought at super middleweight since, and in August of 2012 he fought fellow countryman Robert Steiglitz (42-2 at the time) and defeated him to take the WBO World title at 168 lbs. The match put him back in the good graces of the German boxing public, and he settled in to fight at home. The lone loss he experienced came at the hands of rival Steiglitz when he lost the WBO title back to him in their March of 2013 rematch, but part of Abraham´s success in Germany has been going 3-1 overall against Steiglitz in a series of grudge matches. Steiglitz, for those who may not know him, is 49-5-1 over his long career and the Abraham-Steiglitz rivalry has been one of Germany´s hottest boxing rivalries this century.
Since winning the WBO 168-pound belt for a second time from Steiglitz, Abraham has gone on to make five successful title defenses. Before you chalk it up to “regional” competition, Abraham had a busy 2015, going 3-0. His last outing of 2014 saw him face England's Paul Smith, and though he won the fight, he did not have a top shelf performance. To open 2015 he took on Smith again, winning more decisively and ending the budding rivalry.
His second match of 2015 saw him give Steiglitz a fourth bout despite having won the trilogy 2-1. Like with Smith, he gave an opponent a rematch when he didn't have to and Abraham made it pay off. He finished Steiglitz in the sixth round for the most definitive win of the series. For his final fight of 2015, he faced England's Martin Murray in late November and won a hard fought split decision. He went 3-0 against opponents with a combined record of 114-10-2.
Upon arriving in Las Vegas this week for the fight with Ramirez, Abraham spoke about his place in German boxing history. He stated that he was proud to be the first German world champion to defend his belt in Las Vegas. He also left no doubt that he did not come just to defend the belt, he came to win.
Abraham had options back in Germany. A showdown with Felix Sturm (40-5-3) has been talked about for years and would be a big money fight in the German market. A move to light heavyweight could have created a big money fight with Juergen Braehmer (48-2). But four years after the end of the Super Six, Abraham still craved the attention of the world stage.
Abraham finds himself the underdog to the talented Ramirez, who is undefeated (33-0) and enters the fight taller, longer and 12 years younger. This is a challenge that would have kept many others in Germany.
Not Abraham. Arriving in Vegas, he stated he was not worried about what Ramirez was going to do, that he was more worried about executing his plan and what he was going to do. Sounds like a confident champion. Can he do it? We will see this Saturday night.