Billy Joe Saunders urges Gilberto Ramirez to face him or vacate world title

Billy Joe Saunders will take on Shefat Isufi for the WBO interim super middleweight world title. Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images

Billy Joe Saunders has urged WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez to face him or vacate his world title strap.

Saunders (27-0,13 KOs) takes on Albania's Shefat Isufi on May 18, live on ESPN+, in a contest that had initially been billed to be for Ramirez's WBO world title, with the Mexican moving up to light heavyweight.

Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs) stopped Tommy Karpency in his debut in the higher division at the weekend, hinting his future lies at 175 pounds after struggling to make the lower weight after five defences of his world title.

But with Ramirez still holding the world title and hinting he could be open to facing World Boxing Super Series winner Callum Smith at 168 pounds in the summer, Saunders believes it's only fair he gets his shot at the belt first.

"I am raring to go for Ramirez," Saunders said. "If he doesn't want to face me, then give up the title and let me fight for the full championship.

"If it's not going to happen against me after my interim title fight, then I would rather him say, now.

"He has said he can make 12 stone for Callum Smith, so I don't see the problem with myself. If he can make 12 stone for Callum, he can make 12 stone for me.

"I understand the rules of boxing. If you haven't got the right style, opponents may not want to know you."

Saunders moved up to super middleweight after a torrid 2018, in which he was twice forced out of a contest with Martin Murray before being denied a boxing license by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission to take on Demetrius Andrade after failing a VADA drug test for the banned stimulant oxilofrine. He had to vacate his WBO middleweight title in the aftermath.

The Brit had been looking to become a two-weight world champion with Ramirez's belt seemingly up for grabs before the Mexican declared he hadn't vacated after Saunders' fight with Isufi was announced for the title.

Ramirez said after his bout with Karpency that he feels "more comfortable at 175 pounds than 168," suggesting he will be remaining at light heavyweight. But Saunders is optimistic Ramirez will make a decision on what to do with his world title soon.

"His promoter, Bob Arum, has a good working relationship with Frank Warren and MTK, and he has most probably had a conversation with Ramirez," Saunders added.

"They know they can make the fight, but do they want it?

"Personally, myself, I don't think Ramirez will go ducking anybody, but unless he 100 percent knows he's good at the weight, I can't see him taking the chance of fighting me.

"My way of winning fights is slick boxing, so that takes a lot of steam out of the opponent, especially if you're weight-drained."