In what ended up being an entertaining battle, Gilberto Ramirez barely retained his WBO super middleweight title, edging Jesse Hart in a 12-round majority decision Friday night at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Two judges scored the bout 115-113 for Ramirez, and the third scored it 114-114.
Ramirez (39-0, 25 KOs) needed a big 12th-round rally to keep his title. Hart (25-1, 21 KOs) had seized momentum in the middle rounds and seemingly had all the momentum going into the final round. Ramirez also said afterward that he was hampered by a left elbow injury suffered in the eighth round.
But in a thrilling 12th, Ramirez was hurt late but also was able to do damage to Hart several times with his right hand to win the round and retain his belt.
"I hurt my elbow in the eighth round," said Ramirez, who in the past has been accused of being in dull fights. "I came away with the victory despite that left elbow injury."
Friday's fight was a rematch of their September 2017 bout, which Ramirez won in a hard-fought, close unanimous decision.
Regarding the close scores in Friday's bout, Ramirez insisted, "I beat him again, no doubts. Had I not injured my left elbow, I would've knocked him out. But at the end of the day, I got the victory, once again. I don't know why they're making such a big deal."
Hart, 29, expressed disappointment in the result.
"That was no contest tonight, man," he said. "I pressed him, I boxed him, I did everything in the world to win this fight. And I'm not mad. Gilberto is a good fighter. But I believe I pulled it out tonight."
Hart said he felt he had turned the tide of the fight going into the 12th round, before Ramirez mounted his late rally.
"I mean, he had a good 12th round," Hart said. "But I came back, and I hurt him in the same round."
Ramirez, 27, said afterward that he intends to move up to light heavyweight if he doesn't see another big fight at super middleweight.
Friday's win was the type of exciting victory that Ramirez needed. Hart, meanwhile, leaves Texas after another razor-thin loss to his Mexican rival.
"It wasn't about the championship, it was about [Ramirez]," said Hart, who might not get a third crack at Ramirez. "If he moves up, that's on him."