By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Bryan De Gracia was the supposed puncher in his featherweight fight against Eduardo Ramirez.
It was Ramirez, however, that scored a knockout Saturday night and earned a 126-pound title shot. Ramirez rocked De Gracia with a right hook and a right uppercut around the midway point of the ninth round, unleashed a barrage of power punches on his stunned opponent and prompted referee Benjy Esteves to halt their scheduled 12-round WBA elimination match.
Mexico’s Ramirez (22-1-3, 9 KOs, 1 NC) won by technical knockout at 2:10 of the ninth round in the first of three fights Showtime televised from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Panama’s De Gracia (24-2-1, 20 KOs) had knocked out a much higher percentage of his opponents prior to this bout, but had fought largely a low level of opposition.
His victory made Ramirez the mandatory challenger for China’s Can Xu (16-2, 2 KOs), the WBA world featherweight champion. Leo Santa Cruz is the WBA’s “super” featherweight champion. De Gracia also won the WBA’s “gold” featherweight championship, a new WBA belt that inexplicably exists in a division that already has two WBA champions.
Following a largely uneventful seventh and eighth rounds, Ramirez landed several left hands within the first half of the ninth round. De Gracia kept coming forward, even after absorbing all those punches.
That was until Ramirez completely changed their bout by blasting him with the aforementioned right uppercut.
Ramirez connected with a right hook on the inside early in the sixth round. De Gracia came back to drill Ramirez with a straight right hand several seconds after shrugging off Ramirez’s right hook.
De Gracia shook up Ramirez with a right hand when there were about 20 seconds to go in the fifth round. Ramirez attempted to hold and rushed toward De Gracia, who drilled Ramirez with another right hand that knocked him off balance
De Gracia and Ramirez threw and landed many more punches during the fourth round than in any of the three previous rounds. De Gracia drilled Ramirez with a right uppercut and a straight right hand toward the end of the fourth round.
De Gracia mostly kept Ramirez on his back foot during the third round. Neither fighter landed many punches in the third round, but Ramirez hit De Gracia to the body, especially late in that round.
De Gracia pressed the action throughout the second round, yet he didn’t land many clean shots. Ramirez connected with a counter left hand late in the second round.
Ramirez twice landed straight left hands to the body during the first round. He also caught De Gracia with three right hooks in the final 30 seconds of those opening three minutes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.