Jose Luis Ramirez vs. Pernell Whitaker (1st meeting)

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Whitaker and Ramirez trade jabs

1988-03-12 : Jose Luis Ramirez 135 lbs beat Pernell Whitaker 134¾ lbs by SD in round 12 of 12


The fight between WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Ramirez and Pernell Whitaker was agreed upon in October 1987. At that time, the fight had the full blessing of the WBC. Then, in November 1987, Julio Cesar Chavez defeated Edwin Rosario to win the WBA lightweight title.

WBC president Jose Sulaiman, who is Mexican, was rumored to be interested in a unification fight between fellow Mexicans Ramirez and Chavez. Following his win over Rosario, Chavez was rated #1 in the WBC lightweight ratings. It was an unusual move because the WBC had traditionally refused to rate champions of the WBA and IBF. "To be honest, the rating was at the request of Sulaiman," WBC ratings chairman Dickie Cole said. "The conclusion I'm drawing is that it was to give Chavez a mandatory fight."

Promoter Don King soon got Chavez and Ramirez to agree to a unification fight.

"That's when we protested," said David Downs, director of programing for ABC Sports, who purchased Ramirez vs. Whitaker for the network. "When King made Chavez-Ramirez, Sulaiman came out and said, 'I won't sanction Ramirez-Whitaker.' We told him, 'You already have.' It concerned us that Sulaiman would go back on his original sanction and try to undo a fight that was already made. We told him he'd be royally screwing ABC. He agreed and backed off."

Shelly Finkel, Whitaker's manager, said WBC executive Piero Pini approached Whitaker at the weigh-in for the Ramirez fight and "shoved a paper in front of Whitaker's nose and told him to sign for a Chavez fight in case he won. Ramirez had already signed one. We wouldn't do it. After that incident, we had a fear of what would happen."

Most observers thought Whitaker clearly won the fight. The Associated Press reported that Whitaker "appeared to have an easy time from the start and was peppering the champion with right jabs throughout the fight." United Press International reported that Whitaker "appeared to dominate the 12-round fight, continuously connecting to the face of the 29-year-old champion with right jabs and combinations and slipping most of Ramirez's punches. And Boxing 88 scored the fight 118-111 for Whitaker. However, Ramirez was awarded a split decision victory and retained the WBC lightweight title.

Lou Duva, Whitaker's co-trainer, called Sulaiman "a thief" and Finkel said, "King and Sulaiman fixed the fight, no question about it."

Sulaiman, claiming there was no fix, filed a $1 million slander and libel lawsuit. The suit was dropped after Duva admitted that he had no "direct evidence" that the WBC fixed the fight.

Ramirez and Chavez fought to unify the WBC and WBA lightweight titles on October 29, 1988. Chavez won by an 11th-round technical decision.

In the March 1990 issue of The Ring, the decision was called the worst of the decade in a lightweight fight.


The New York Times - March 13, 1988
The New York Times - December 20, 1990
Knockout magazine - Fall 1993