The long-awaited return of Vergil Ortiz Jr. to the ring after a 17-month layoff was too brief for anyone’s liking, including Ortiz Jr. – just one round. Yet another controversy was caused by referee Tony Weeks, who stole the storyline in Las Vegas Saturday.
Ortiz Jr. of Grand Prairie, Texas (20-0, 20 KOs) rattled Fredrick Lawson of Chicago via Ghana (30-4, 22 KOs) with a series of stiff jabs buckling Lawson. Ortiz moved in to pin Lawson in the corner. Applying pressure while delivering multiple power shots to the body and head, referee Tony Weeks waved off the fight, giving Ortiz Jr. a first-round TKO at 2:33.
If 2024 seems a lot like 2023, you're forgiven. Here we go again with Weeks.
The crowd at The Chelsea in Las Vegas began to boo. Ortiz Jr. misunderstood their irritation, thinking they were booing him rather than Weeks.
“I was hurting him with all the jabs. I wasn’t putting anything behind it. People are saying Ortiz sucks,” said Ortiz Jr. after the bout. Interviewer Beto Duran interjected, asking the crowd if they were booing Ortiz Jr. The boos turned to cheers.
A sheepish Ortiz Jr. smiled, saying. “All right, my bad guys. Look, you guys know what I’m about. I love to fight. I wish I could have kept going. I need the rounds. But hey, I was hurting with the jab. I stung him with the jab and I wasn’t even throwing it that hard. I’m ready for anyone out there.”
Ortiz Jr. Passes Early Test
Although disappointed at his brief return, Ortiz Jr. said “It felt like I’m back to doing what I usually do. This is my calling. This is what I live for. I want to continue doing this.”
Ortiz Jr. seemingly intends to jump in with both feet in the super welterweight division. “There’s a lot of fighters I want to fight. I know people would love to see this fight. So Tim Tszyu, with all respect. I would love to fight you. I think you’re a hell of a fighter. Let’s make this happen.”
Ortiz clarified the callout was all business. “I’m a competitive person. I want to fight the best.” Promoter Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy didn’t dismiss the idea. “Tim Tszyu, anybody at 154. Ortiz will even go to Australia and fight Tim Tszyu.”
It seems Tszyu is up for it.
Weeks Explains Himself In Controversy
Weeks told interviewer Beto Duran he stopped the fight because he saw Lawson’s eyes roll back after taking multiple punches. There is no standing eight count under Nevada rules, so Weeks stopped the bout.
Weeks may have become gun-shy after allowing the fight between David Morrell and Aidos Yerbossynuly to go too far last November at The Armory in Minneapolis. Yerbossynuly suffered severe injuries and was placed in a medically induced coma.
Yerbossynuly has since recovered, but a future boxing career is unlikely.
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) January 7, 2024
Despite the disappointment at the abbreviated return, it was a relief for everyone concerned to see Ortiz Jr. look strong and mentally aggressive after 17 months out of the ring.
Given the easy work, Ortiz Jr. would be wise to come right back in three or months with another test run against an opponent who would test him before he takes on Tim Tszyu. We suggest Tony Harrison, who went nine rounds with Tszyu and would provide a measuring stick for Ortiz Jr. before he jumps into the deep end of the super welterweight pool.
Barroso Gets Revenge – Bring On #RomeroBarroso2
Fans universally agreed Ismael Barroso of Venezuela (25-4-2, 23 KOs) was done wrong when his fight against Rolly Romero last May was prematurely stopped by Tony Weeks. Even Romero agreed it shouldn’t have happened.
Barroso got his revenge at the expense of Ohara Davies of London (25-3, 18 KOs) with a vicious first-round stoppage to win the WBA Interim Super Lightweight title.
Barroso caught Davies within seconds of the opening bell with a hard right hand, dropping him to the canvas. Davies was badly hurt but got to his feet. Barroso was not leaving the outcome in anyone’s hands but his own. He drilled Davies again with a lead left hook combination, and Davies was dropped a second time.
Referee Celestino Ruiz gave Davies a count, and he made it to his feet. But Davies’ corner threw in the towel, resulting in Ruiz calling the fight done at 1:53 of the first round.
“After that first punch, I knew that I had him. I knew it was a good punch,” said Barroso.
Later in the evening, Davies posted a message to his fans.
— Ohara Davies (@OharaDavies) January 7, 2024
With his previous foe Romero ringside, the 40-year-old veteran Barroso said, “The people have been asking for Barroso vs. Romero. Romero, I’m right here!” exclaimed Barroso. We say bring on Romero Barroso 2. However, Barroso may need to wait in line behind Ryan Garcia, who now has designs on fighting Romero instead of Devin Haney.
Haney's father and trainer Bill grabbed Golden Boy Promotions executive Bernard Hopkins and no doubt high-level conversations were going on about their respective 140-pound fighters' futures.
Barboza Jr. Calls Out Garcia, Lopez After TKO Win
Arnold Barboza Jr. of Los Angeles (29-0, 11 KOs) shook off his ring rust with a strong performance against Xolisani Ndongeni of South Africa (31-4, 18 KOs). Ndongeni stood in tough, but after eight rounds, the South African challenger’s corner had seen enough and asked referee Raul Caiz Jr. to stop the fight.
Barboza Jr. wanted to impress promoter Oscar De La Hoya in his first fight under the Golden Boy banner. Mission accomplished.
A fired-up Barboza Jr. called out big names in the 140-pound division. “I want Queen Ryan (Garcia), I want Teofimo bitchass (Lopez). Man, I want anybody, any day, any day ending with the letter Y.” Barboza Jr. admitted to being tense after a year out of the ring in early rounds. “But that won’t happen no more!” vowed Barboza Jr.
“His fan base is incredible. We’re looking to do big things with him. Sky’s the limit. 140 pounds is the hot division,” said De La Hoya after the fight.
Barboza Jr. scored with excellent bodywork, jabbing his way inside effectively to land his power shots. Barboza Jr. wasn’t getting the matchups he wanted fighting for Top Rank. Now that he’s passed the test, he needs better opposition at 140 pounds.
Curiel Stops Diaz in Eight
In the opening bout, new father Raul Curiel of Tampico, Mexico (14-0, 12 KOs) stopped Elias Diaz of National City (12-2, 7 KOs) in the eighth round of a planned 10-round welterweight fight. Diaz gave a good effort, but a damaged eye that closed up stalled him, and Curiel moved in to get the TKO win when referee Mike Ortega had seen enough.
Trained by Freddie Roach, the 2016 Mexican Olympian Curiel said he thought he did a great job. “All the hard work over the holidays was worth it. I’m going to get right back in the ring and get prepared for 2024. I will try to keep active this year,” said Curiel.