Vergil Ortiz Jr.: Greatness Ignored
If Vergil Ortiz Jr. retires as a Hall-of-Famer, I wouldn't be shocked, but I am shocked that it is his fight week, and he isn't getting much media attention.
I first saw Ortiz the night before Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., he fought on the undercard, and an assistant coach of his at the time was next to me speaking his praises. Someone I respect deeply called Ortiz the best prospect he had ever seen. Skip ahead, and Ortiz has won all of his fights by way of knockout and looks to be the future of Golden Boy Promotions along with Ryan Garcia. Armed with a father, Vergil Ortiz Sr., who cares about his son as much as anyone in the world, the two are navigating the thankless water of pro boxing with a promoter in Golden Boy Promotions and the recent addition to the team of Rick Mirigian.
Starting in 2019, his notable names are pretty impressive for a young fighter with wins over Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, former Top Rank fighter Brad Solomon, Samuel Vargas, former world champion Maurice Hooker and former world title contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas, affectionally known as “The Mean Machine.” Oh, and each fight ended in a knockout.
Earlier this year, Ortiz's health forced him out of action with his scheduled opponent for Saturday, Michael McKinson, as Alexis Rocha vs. Blair Cobbs was promoted to the main event of that card.
This bout on August 6th, 2022, will be his third straight fight headlining a card in Texas, his native state though Ortiz trains in California now, and his second time headlining The Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. His opponent, Michael McKinson, helps him get one step closer to a world title mandatory but is everything you never want to see for a young fighter. McKinson has little power to go off based on his 2 KOs over 22 fights; add to it, he is a southpaw. Further, McKinson has a spoiler-style that only a mother or Sam Soliman might love. In short, the expectation is for Ortiz to brutally KO McKinson, and McKinson has all style to essential negate aspects of Ortiz's style to prolong or make this a weird fight.
So, is the result in jeopardy – not really? Yet, I feel that if he isn't careful, Ortiz could lose momentum for two reasons. We're heading out of summer and into fall, and for the 24-year-old fighter Ortiz, this will be his first fight. I know health comes first, but the last few years have been tough in terms of activity as he fought once in 2020, twice in 2021, and come next Saturday once in 2022. This is the same amount of fights Ortiz had in 2019, four that have been stretched out across three years – I know the opponents are improving, but I would hope to see a potential star a tad bit more active while young and on the cusp of stardom.
Ortiz is one of these guys I have enjoyed watching on the come-up, and every time I doubt him, he responds how a world champion should. For example, Antonio Orozco put him on the ropes; I wondered if he could take the pressure, then I saw it again and realized Ortiz was working on movement and different technical things early in that bout against a solid puncher.
Against “The Mean Machine,” I saw a punch catch his attention; what did he do? Proceed to knock out one of the biggest punchers in the sport. When things get tough, Ortiz gets tougher, and in this era, it feels like being a tough, physical fighter or labeled that is an insult which is confusing.
Why might Ortiz be the next star at welterweight?
Simple, power. Fans want to see power, and Ortiz offers a lot of that, and in a smart fashion. Ortiz is built like a bull, a workhorse in the gym, and has gotten the respect of world champions who have trained beside him. Currently, we have five welterweights I view above the rest Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr., Jaron “Boots” Ennis, Vergil Ortiz, and Keith Thurman. You can order them however you like; those are my top guys. If you ask me, I have Crawford and Spence as a 1a and 1b, Ennis as three, Ortiz at four, and Thurman at five – if we're talking about where they stand in 2022. That said, Ortiz is live against any of the top fighters currently, and even better, he wants to fight them.
Recently, Ortiz sparred with Brian Castano, and prior to that, world champions like Jose Ramirez and Mikey Garcia. Ortiz is doing what it takes to be a legend, but now we need the bouts that let us as observers make an informed decision as well.
Golden Boy Promotions has promoted him well.
Though people don't love to say this, Golden Boy Promotions did a fantastic job with Canelo Alvarez, they're moving Ryan Garcia well, and when Ortiz is able to fight – they're building him into a star as well. Despite Golden Boy Promotions having issues landing a TV deal at times or bouncing between networks, they have built Ortiz to the place to reach his full potential and are putting him in Texas to be a draw in his local market. The groundwork is set; now it comes down to two things Ortiz staying active and sanctioning bodies and/or the fans demanding fights that force networks and promoters to work together.
As I keep saying, the biggest lie in boxing is that promoters and networks can't work together. This narrative has been created solely for promoters and networks to make the easiest fights of high beneficial gain for them and does not serve the fans. For Ortiz, who has a limited option of welterweight in-house at Golden Boy Promotions, with guys like Alexis Rocha, or the winner of Maurice Hooker vs. Blair Cobbs being a future opponent as well, it is also important that fans seek what is best for the sport, to see what Ortiz's full potential is.
What inspires me about Ortiz is simple – he wants to be great. He wants to fight legends. Ortiz has called out Terence Crawford, and Ortiz has called out Keith Thurman. That is awesome, yet this is an era in which we talk more than we fight. These fights have yet to be made, and I applaud fighters like Vergil Ortiz and Jaron Ennis, who are forcing the hands of champions as if you're a champion; it is your obligation to continuously fight top opposition to keep your spot atop the sport.
Boxing is feeling as though it is 75% entertainment/marketing and 25% sport these days, and guys like Ortiz are the ones who get shafted. If this were the NBA, NFL, or any other sport, Ortiz would see where he stacks up, but in boxing, even the fans tell Ortiz, “…oh you should wait for money,” and all that stuff.
Why do we as fans care? Even more so, why do we judge fighters who want to be great? Ortiz is fighting a tricky southpaw at home, hurting Ortiz since not many people want to see this fight. Not unlike David Benavidez, we want these guys in big fights with big names, but we settle with whatever we can get because they're amazing. I just hope Ortiz gets his chance to define his legacy before a lot of the old guard leave the division. He deserves that. Ortiz is one of the guys, who I feel should carry the sport forward in the next generation, will he? Only time will tell.