For the first time since he rose from prospect to contender, Vergil Ortiz Jr. felt he needed to shut down his skeptics on Saturday with a strong performance against Michael McKinson of Great Britain. Mission accomplished.
Ortiz Jr. settled in, got down to work, and methodically battered McKinson for eight hard rounds. The Texan punctuated the power punching clinic with two left hooks to the liver to open the ninth round. McKinson’s corner mercifully threw in the towel due to the accumulated damage, including what looked like a bad leg on McKinson. Ortiz Jr. of Grand Prairie, Texas (19-0, 19 KOs) retained his perfect 100% knockout ratio and dealt McKinson his first loss (22-1, 2 KOs).
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) August 7, 2022
Ortiz Jr. admitted it took him a few rounds to get down to what he does best. “Honestly in the first seven rounds, I didn’t really do anything good. I needed to adjust big time. I should have listened to my corner from the beginning. We did, and we got it done,” said Ortiz Jr. He praised the addition of trainers Manny Robles and Hector Beltran to his team along with his father, Vergil Sr. “Manny has been a great addition to this camp. I’m honestly very happy we added him. We couldn’t have chosen anyone better.”
McKinson Skilled and Tough But Lacks Pop
McKinson proved he’s a skilled boxer with a solid chin and an even tougher gut. His downfall is his lack of punching power. Ortiz Jr. knew it and was more than willing to trade with McKinson. Perhaps McKinson would have been better off boxing from the outside, but he took Ortiz Jr. into the ninth round for the first time.
“I felt like I figured him out in the first round. I just went away from it (the game plan),” explained Ortiz Jr. “My corner had the game plan laid out. My dad bitched me out for three or four rounds in the corner. I finally started listening, and I finally got him out. You think you know everything and you don’t.”
Ortiz Jr.: ‘I Had A Chip On My Shoulder'
Ortiz Jr. missed his originally scheduled fight with McKinson in March due to being hospitalized with what turned out to be rhabdomyolysis, a blood disorder often caused by overtraining. Doubters speculated whether Ortiz Jr. was having trouble making weight, or was training improperly. Ortiz Jr. shut that noise down. “I definitely had a chip on my shoulder, not necessarily toward the guy in front of me. When it’s out of your control (becoming ill) and people are blaming you for it, it sucks mentally. It still gets to you. We worked through it. I put it off to the side and went for it,” said Ortiz Jr.
Ortiz Jr. said he performed better when he started to relax. When I stopped trying to go for it, that’s when everything started falling in place. “That body shot, It was going to work all day. It just does.”
With Terence Crawford once again looking on from the seats, the 24-year-old Ortiz Jr. must have known the question would come about the pound-for-pound welterweight champion. “First of all, I told you earlier he’s a little tied up, but if the opportunity comes, I’m more than happy to fight him,” said Ortiz Jr. He said he wants to fight whoever becomes available to him before the end of 2022. Don’t be too surprised if it’s Golden Boy stablemates Alexis Rocha or Blair Cobbs.
Marlen Esparza Works Her Way Toward Undisputed
Marlen Esparza of Houston (13-1, 1 KO) retained her WBA, WBC, and Ring Magazine flyweight titles by unanimous decision over Eva Guzman of Venezuela (19-2, 11 KOs, WBA/WBC/Ring Flyweight titles, 10 rounds. Scorecards: 98-92 X 2, 99-91. Guzman's thin resume came up for criticism but rose to her status as mandatory challenger. She put up solid opposition and forced Esparza to engage and work hard for her win. Esparza's punch output is crisper, and she was in excellent condition for the contest. However, the outcome wasn't as wide as the scores suggest.
Blair Cobbs Brings New Flair, Beats Maurice Hooker
Fans got all the entertainment with a new Flair in the make-or-break fight between Blair “The Flair” Cobbs of Hollywood via Philadelphia and “Mighty Mo” Maurice Hooker. One man would win, and the other would need to consider another profession. Cobbs buckled down with new trainer Roger Romo and was all business in the ring, scoring three knockdowns to win a lopsided decision. Scores were 97-90 X 2 and 96-91.
Hooker had trouble making the welterweight limit, saying he’d had trouble sleeping and walked in with a heavy heart due to the recent death of his close friend, the beloved boxing photographer and personality Stacey Snyder. Hooker never seemed to have his head in the fight. Trainer Brian McIntire and stablemate Terence Crawford did what they could to guide Hooker, but it wasn’t his night or his fight. Cobbs was lit up, moving smartly and in good condition. By the times Cobbs started losing some steam, Hooker was in too deep a hole to dig out. He had moments but nothing more. Cobbs suffered cuts from two headbutts as Hooker lurched in. He could cruise through the last third of the fight and still easily win. Cobbs didn’t let out his trademark “Woooo!” until he heard the scores.
Bek Goes Back to Bullying
Bek the Bully is back. Bektemir Melikuziev of Indio (10-1, 8 KOs) got back to form, drilling a determined Sladan Janjamin of Boston (32-13, 24 KOs) within the opening 30 seconds of their fight, followed by a left hook to the body and a right upstairs in the second round. No one would have blamed Janjamin for calling it a night. Give him credit. Janjanin carried on with little more than misplaced pride. After the third body shot knockdown, surely Janjamin would say no mas. But he rose again, fighting on under the watchful eye of referee Neil Young until he stepped in and did the right thing at 2:18 of the round.
“After I dropped him with the body shot, I was hoping he would keep going,” said Melikuziev. “We didn’t come here to end it one punch. We want to make sure we get some rounds in to gain some experience. But he was an awkward fighter, very uncomfortable, but I think my training really showed off today.” It did. Melikuziev’s footwork, movement, and patience were much improved. He and trainer Joel Diaz learned from the loss to Gabe Rosado. It will serve Melikuziev well moving forward.
Undercard Results: Schofield, Martin, Nava, Ramirez, Palanco Get Wins
Promising prospect Floyd Schofield of Austin (11-0, 9 KOs) unleashed his best power shots on durable Rodrigo Guerrero of Mexico City (26-15-2, 18 KOs), putting on a show for his Texas fans. Guerrero was dropped but refused to yield, forcing referee Ruben Perez to stop the bout at the start of the sixth round. Guerrero, who came up a division, admitted the 19-year-old hit hard.
“The man has a hard head, all credit to him. I appreciate him taking the fight,” said Schofield. “You have to adapt and do what you got to do … I’m just happy to be here. It’s amazing. It’s a dream come true. I never thought I would be here so soon. I’ve got a job to do.”
Alex Martin of Chicago (18-4, 6 KOs) fought with a heavy heart after the death of his brother William from a seizure last Sunday. Despite a knockdown in the first round by veteran “Hammerin” Hank Lundy of Philadelphia (31-11-1, 14 KOs), Martin picked himself up to win the ten rounds super lightweight bout on the cards. The scores were 98-91 and 97-92 X 2. “RIP my brother, my best friend, my hero,” said Martin.
Carlos Nava of Pasadena, Texas (9-0, 6 KOs) delivered an aggressive performance, forcing a fourth-round TKO stoppage at 36 seconds for the win in his super lightweight fight over Rodolfo Hernandez of Mexico City (30-11-1, 28 KOs).
Figo Ramirez of Dallas (2-0) went the four-round distance in his second pro fight in front of his Texas fans against Francisco Bonilla of Chihuahua, MX (6-14-3, 3 KOs). Scores were all 39-36; Ramirez was docked a point for low blows in round two.
Rohan Palanco of Santo Domingo, DR (8-0, 5 KOs) made the third of three left hooks to the body count for a second-round knockout over Dedrick Bell of Memphis (31-33-1, 17 KOs) in their welterweight bout opening the card.