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Upcoming world title challenger to bring in Irish sparring for championship fight

Later this month the highly-rated Gilberto Ramirez [34(24)-0] will return from injury and defend his WBO super middleweight title for the first time.

The Mexican fighter will seek to retain his brown belt on Saturday April 22nd at the StubHub Centre in California as part of a Top Rank pay-per-view. Zurdo’s opponent will be Ukrainian contender Max Bursak [33(15)-4(0)-1], and the Eastern European has brought in some Irish sparring to round off his camp.

‘The Tiger,’ who was once scheduled to challenge Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO middleweight crown,  will spar with Mullingar’s JJ McDonagh [14(7)-3(1)] ahead of the fight in Carson. The Irish champion, being of a similar size to Ramirez and also fighting out of the southpaw stance, has been pin-pointed by Bursak’s team as perfect preparation for the big bout.


McDonagh, who shocked Matchroom light heavyweight prospect Jake Ball last time out, said that “it’s a pleasure to come and see how things are done when preparing for a world title fight.”

“I have world title ambitions of my own and if I can take even something small from this trip it will be a huge help to my career.”

The Midlands boxer is not the first Irish fighter to be brought in by a world title challenger in recent times, with Anthony Crolla calling in Anto Cacace ahead of his WBA lightweight title rematch with Jorge Linares, while former WBC cruiserweight champ Tony Bellew spent a month sparring withTommy McCarthy for his heavyweight fight with David Haye.

McDonagh’s promoter, Kaz Evans of Assassin Promotions, added that “in boxing, it’s always best to train at the highest level, and for JJ this will bring him a lot of experience.”

“He’s been drafted into this camp because he’s clearly a top fighter who fears no one and can trouble those operating at world level.”

Bursak, who holds wins over Nick Blackwell, Prince Arron, and Bryan Vera, is a huge underdog going into the bout, but the Ukrainian will have a pocket of support in Westmeath in just under three weeks time.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie