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Promoters talk Ramirez-Hooker unification fight

Junior welterweight world titleholders Jose Ramirez and Maurice Hooker have both been itching to unify belts and now they just might get the opportunity against each other.

Top Rank, which promotes Ramirez, and Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes Hooker with Roc Nation Sports, are negotiating the potential fight, which is targeted for July 27, both sides told ESPN.

The most complicated aspect of such a deal is that the fighters are each with different broadcasters. Ramirez fights on ESPN due to its partnership with Top Rank; Hooker fights on streaming service DAZN, which has a deal with Matchroom Boxing.

Hearn said the fight would be on DAZN and that Top Rank is not pushing back on that.

"We're in negotiations on that fight with Top Rank and we've also been talking to our co-promoter, Roc Nation," Hearn said. "It's a fight both sides want, a fight I think the fans want. It's a brilliant fight for the division. It would be on DAZN but there's still a long way to go to getting anything done but the conversations are positive."

Hearn got the ball rolling on the discussions by approaching Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti to gauge the interest.

"They want a big fight and they also want to unify titles, just like our side does," Hearn said, adding that if the fight is made it would take place either in California, where Ramirez is from, or Texas, where Hooker is from.

"I've had discussions about the fight with Sir Edward," Moretti said. "Hopefully, somehow this fight can be put together. We look forward to further discussions and negotiations."

It's the only unification fight available for Ramirez or Hooker this year because the other two belts are tied up in the World Boxing Super Series. On April 27, Regis Prograis won a title by sixth-round knockout from Kiryl Relikh to advance to the finals of tournament. On Saturday, Ivan Baranchyk defends his belt against Josh Taylor in the other semifinal in Glasgow, Scotland, with the winner to face Prograis to unify their two belts this fall.

Ramirez (24-0, 16 KOs), 26, of Avenal, California, won a vacant 140-pound world title by wide unanimous decision over Amir Imam in New York in March 2018 and has made two home-region defenses in Fresno, California, where he is a major draw. He won a one-sided action-packed decision over Antonio Orozco in September followed by a difficult majority decision over Jose Zepeda on Feb. 10.

Hooker (26-0-3, 17 KOs), 29, of Dallas, traveled to former lightweight world titlist Terry Flanagan's hometown of Manchester, England, and handed him his first defeat by split decision to win a vacant title last June. Hooker has made two defenses: a seventh-round knockout of then-undefeated Alex Saucedo in his hometown of Oklahoma City in November followed by a one-sided decision against then-unbeaten Mikkel LesPierre on March 9 in a fight Hooker badly struggled to make weight.

Regardless of whether the fight between Ramirez and Hooker is made, Hearn said Hooker would still fight on July 27 and that the card would also include the heavyweight debut of former unified cruiserweight titleholder Murat Gassiev, who recently signed a co-promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing.

Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs), 25, of Russia, who trains in Big Bear Lake, California, under the guidance of Abel Sanchez, was a devastating puncher as a cruiserweight. He won a cruiserweight title by decision over countryman Denis Lebedev in December 2016 and then immediately joined the field of the World Boxing Super Series' first-season cruiserweight tournament.

He blew away former titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in the third round in his first defense in the quarterfinals and then knocked out Yunier Dorticos in the 12th round to unify two titles in the February 2018 semifinals in Sochi, Russia, in an action-packed fight of the year contender.

But in the tournament final, Gassiev met Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed world title in July in Moscow and was outclassed in a near-shutout decision loss. Gassiev later announced his intention to move up to heavyweight, just as Usyk is also planning to do.