Espinoza Anticipates His First Featherweight Title Defense

Espinoza Anticipates His First Featherweight Title Defense

Espinoza is set to face Chirino, who is looking to cause an upset and disrupt plans for a rematch with Ramirez. Rafael Espinoza was supposed to be a stepping stone—a tune-up fight, a severe underdog.

Unknown and untested, he was the handpicked opponent for two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez’s second WBO featherweight title defense last December. However, Espinoza clearly didn’t follow the script, delivering a dramatic and major upset by snatching the world title from one of 2023’s best boxers.

Ramirez knocked him down in the fifth round, but Espinoza ended the fight with a twelfth-round knockdown of Ramirez, winning by a heartbreaking majority decision—115-111, 114-112, and 113-113—establishing himself as boxing’s latest “Cinderella Man.”

It was a spectacular fight, and Top Rank had immediate plans for a rematch. However, Espinoza understandably wanted another defense of his newly won title first, and that’s exactly what he will get when he faces Sergio Chirino tomorrow night in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing card on ESPN+ (preliminary bouts at 7:00 p.m. ET, main event around 10:30 p.m. ET) at the company’s first event at the “Fontainebleau Las Vegas.” Chirino was just as unknown as Espinoza was in December.

Despite his outstanding victory six months ago, Espinoza doesn’t seem fazed by it. In fact, the 30-year-old Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs) from Mexico, who appears very humble, said that not much has changed for him since winning the featherweight title.

“The only thing that has changed in my life is that people now call me a champion,” Espinoza said on Wednesday through an interpreter at the fight week press conference. “I’ve also learned a lot. I’ve learned to enjoy the moment and work as a champion. Everything has remained the same for me and my family. They are with me, and that’s what matters.”

Having turned professional in 2013, it has been a long journey for Espinoza to realize his championship dream, and he is savoring every minute of it.

“I’m excited and happy,” Espinoza said. “My heart is leaping because another dream has come true. This is another reason why I started boxing, and now it’s happening, thank God. I’m very happy to be here with all my people, and I’m excited, waiting for the day to come.”

If Espinoza, who recently signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank to collaborate with Zanfer Promotions, retains his title and Ramirez defeats 26-year-old Brandon Leon Benitez (21-2, 9 KOs) from Mexico, who has won seven consecutive fights, in the 10-round co-feature of the unified/WBO junior welterweight champion Teofimo Lopez’s title defense against Steve Claggett on June 29 in Miami, Espinoza is slated to face Ramirez again in a rematch this fall.