Super middleweight Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez is sitting pretty. The undefeated contender is in a mandatory position to challenge the winner of the fight between world titlist Arthur Abraham and Martin Murray, who meet on Saturday in Hannover, Germany.
But rather than wait on his world-title shot, which would be in early 2016, Ramirez and his handlers at Top Rank decided to keep him busy so he will be sharp. So Ramirez will risk his position when he takes on the experienced Gevorg Khatchikian in the main event of this week's "MetroPCS Friday Night Knockout" series on truTV (10 p.m. ET/PT) at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
"I took this fight against Khatchikian because I think it is important to fight the best, get the experience, get prepared for a world-title fight," Ramirez said. "I am not just trying to be better, but working in the ring to be the best. That's the importance of my fight Friday night and the reason we started our training camp so early.
"I learn every time we train, when we go into the ring, when we prepare for the next fight. We never stop. I know my opponent is hungry and wants to show what he can do, but I will be prepared too, so there will be no surprises on Friday night in Las Vegas."
Ramirez (32-0, 24 KOs), 24, of Mexico, will be fighting for the third time this year, but he last fought in June and did not want to stay inactive until the title fight, which probably would not happen before March.
"I know exactly what is at stake -- my world-title fight opportunity," Ramirez said. "When I go into the ring Friday night I need to be the best that I can be. I have a lot to lose, but is also very important to show everyone that I am ready for the title fight and that is what I will demonstrate.
"I am working very hard to not only become a world champion but to become one of the best fighters in the world. I know I can be as good [as] anyone out there and I just have to keep working hard and show improvement every time I step into the ring. My dream ever since I started in boxing is to fight for and become a world champion and that opportunity is right around the corner, but first I have to win Friday and keep my place in the world ranking and hopefully get the chance early next year."
Khatchikian (23-1, 11 KOs), 27, of the Netherlands, suffered his lone defeat in March 2014, an 11th-round knockout to James DeGale, an Olympic gold medalist from England who went on to win a world title in May.
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, prospect Saul Rodriguez (18-0-1, 13 KOs), 22, of Riverside, California, and Ivan Najera (16-1, 8 KOs), 22, of San Antonio, Texas, who suffered his first loss on June 13 in a one-sided 10-round decision to rising Puerto Rican star Felix Verdejo, will square off in a fight at 132 pounds.