Vergil Ortiz Jr. got his first real test Saturday night. And oh, did he pass.
Fighting tough veteran and top 5 junior welterweight Antonio Orozco on DAZN proved anything but easy. They swapped rounds until the 6th — the first time Ortiz had even seen that round — when Ortiz shifted into a gear neither man had demonstrated to that point. Three knockdowns later, it was all over.
Now, that 6th round was the special version of Ortiz, the version that ranks him among the best young boxers in the sport. But this wasn’t a perfect performance; Ortiz himself acknowledged as much afterward. His complaint about himself was that he got too excited when he thought he had Orozco hurt (Orozco escaping from a near knockdown demonstrated this wasn’t going to be another cakewalk).
There was more, though. He backed against the ropes too often and stayed there too long, even as he fought well there. He might have loaded up too much on his shots, because he looked gassed after the 5th, compounded by a savage Orozco body attack. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was and that’s why he tore out of his corner intent on ending things. He dropped Orozco with a right uppercut, then forced him to take a knee with a flurry of blows, then landed a left that sent Orozco flying backwards. The ref stopped it, and Orozco looked resigned to the outcome.
That Ortiz wasn’t perfect meant we got a good fight. This was a masterclass of intelligent, diverse offense, with Ortiz delivering the bigger power shots. We saw body jabs and lead left uppercuts and blind overhand rights. That Ortiz wasn’t perfect and got such a challenge from Orzoco made the showing all the more impressive, in a way.
This was Ortiz’s third consecutive fight above 140, the last two at the full welterweight limit, with some sort of meaningless strap on the line. That Ortiz fought for it, though, suggests he might be here to stay. He’ll fit right in. Welterweight has rarely been anything but a powerhouse division since this scribe was in his boxing-writing diapers, and it’s no different now. Ortiz probably shouldn’t chase the big game just yet, as he’s just 14 fights in and has more to work on. Just watch out, elite welters, because it looks like he’ll be threatening you pretty soon if that’s where he is going to make his living.