Clutch knockdown in dying moments of 12th sees Espinoza prevail in rock-em, sock-em Top Rank classic

PEMBROKE PINES, FLORIDA: A rock-em, sock-em war got underway Saturday at the Charles F. Dodge City Center venue north of Miami.

Rafael Espinoza, with his unique height, range, and leverage for a featherweight fighter, took the fight to Robeisy Ramirez atop the Top Rank card on ESPN+, and was having his fair share of moments until bang! down he went like Ramirez had chopped down a tree in the fifth with a lead right hook as his axe.

The two combined for more drama in the sixth, in a round that had so much switching momentum that it could be in the coversation for Round of the Year.

Having almost been finished in the round prior, Espinoza had Ramirez on the floor in the sixth but the referee ruled it a slip. The two then exchanged heavy slugs, with Ramirez landing absolute hammers of hook shots, one after the other, after another, with Espinoza displaying a chin so solid he had sufficiently recovered from the wobbly daze Ramirez put him in, back in the fifth.

Perhaps worryingly for Espinoza and his team was the fact he seemed to roll his right ankle, or had injured that leg, midway through the fight — something Ramirez pounced on by loading up on that side, and making him work that leg.

Showing heart, and absurd punch resistance, Espinoza continued to shake off Ramirez's better shots in the seventh and eighth, but still had enough in his tank to just come forward with each fist swanging and banging.

Ramirez landed his signature shot, the right hook, in the 10th, and even scored with two and three-shot combinations, putting more pressure on the battered cheekbones of Espinoza, who, when standing at a range so close to his opponent, would tuck an uppercut into his gut, then thunderbolt uppercut after uppercut into his face.

Uppercut then jab, uppercut and right hook … Espinoza was almost leading off of it with as much snap as a jab.

It was extraordinary that after all the abuse Espinoza had taken, he was still standing right in front of Ramirez in the 11th, taking a right hand to the face, but still wanting to throw close-range uppercut bangers to the face.

Even in the 12th, these two warriors, who had barely taken a backward step between them, who had put it all on the line, who had thrown with as much venom as they could muster, who had this crowd not on the edges of their seats but standing on top of them, were still trading like maniacs.

Espinoza even came close to flirting with a box office finish that could have caused a near-riot as he put Ramirez on the floor with a knockdown on his own after an unrelenting accumulation of shots, leading knife-edge tension to consume the intimate, chaotic crowd until the scores were counted and a decision was read.

With scores of 115-111, 114-112, and 113-113, Espinoza's clutch knockdown in the dying moments of the fight earned him the incredible majority decision win.

The win advances Espinoza's record to 22 wins (18 KOs) and sees him pick up Ramirez's WBO featherweight world title.