Jose Ramirez will have to wait a while longer before he gets his first fight as the unified junior welterweight champion.
Ramirez was supposed to defend his WBC and WBO world titles against mandatory challenger Viktor Postol on a Top Rank card from Mission Hills in Haikou, China, airing live on February 1 in the United States (February 2 in China). However, that fight has gone up in smoke due to the recent coronavirus that has hit China in recent weeks.
Top Rank announced the fight has been postponed to avoid any potential health risks that comes with flying in China. The fight is likely going to be rescheduled in the coming weeks in a new location.
“The health and safety of our fighters and everyone working on the event is the most important thing. We hope the situation is brought under control soon. We look forward to staging events at Mission Hills Haikou in the very near future,” Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum said in a press release.
According to the Washington Post, there are more than 830 confirmed cases of infection, and at least 26 people have died. A total of 8,420 people are reported to be under observation. There has also been at least two confirmed cases in the United States.
The fight was going to be Ramirez's second in China in five years, but first as the headlining act. Arum, who has a long history of promoting world title fights outside the United States, said he first thought of bringing Ramirez to fight in Haikou when the promoter was approached by China about staging an event there.
Prior to the fight's cancelation, Arum told Fightful in a media conference call that he wanted to showcase Ramirez to the world as a great person and fighter in a similar manner that Arum did with various fights he promoted for Muhammad Ali.
"You have to go back to my history when I started out as a boxing promoter, I was just in the Muhammad Ali business. I promoted 20 Muhammad Ali fights and 40 percent of those fights took place outside of the United States, whether it would be Asia, Japan, Europe, the United Kingdom. It was all over the world because if you get a great person and a great fighter, you want to show him more around the world. I believe in Jose Ramirez, and I'm not comparing him to the great Muhammad Ali who is unique, but so is Jose. He is a man who not only is a tremendous fighter, but epitomizes the American dream when you look at his history, how his family worked in the fields and how he worked in the fields as a young child, and to have this drive to be active in his community. That is special and that is why I take someone like Jose and not just have him in the United States but show him around the world, show what a great country the United States is and what a great person Jose is," Arum told Fightful.
Ramirez became the unified champion this past summer when he defeated Maurice Hooker to unified the WBC and WBO titles. Ramirez hoped to get a fight before the end of the year, but Ramirez needed surgery on his left hand two weeks after the fight, delaying his in-ring return.
The 27-year-old Ramirez had hoped to get the fight against Postol over with so he can focus on a potential fight against WBO mandatory challenger Jack Catterall next to then clear the way for a fight against Josh Taylor, who holds the WBA and IBF titles. Taylor, who signed with Top Rank recently, has his own potential mandatory challengers to deal with but a unification bout between Ramirez and Taylor would crown an undisputed junior welterweight champion, the first since Terence Crawford back in 2017.