The next step in the career of Vergil Ortiz Jr. will come without head trainer Robert Garcia Sr.
A three-plus year relationship between the unbeaten welterweight contender and the veteran cornerman has come to an end, both parties confirmed Friday. News of the split was first reported during an ESPN+ boxing telecast live from Las Vegas, though with both sides feeling the need to clear the air after a subsequent claim regarding Ortiz’s future.
“We already knew three weeks ago,” Garcia stated in a video with son and assistant trainer Robert ‘Pita’ Garcia Jr. on the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy (RGBA) YouTube channel. Both Vergil Sr. and Jr. came to the table. “At first, we thought they were back at training camp. But the dad, [Vergil Sr.] told me they were no longer training with us.
“We talked really long, it was good. (No animosity) not at all. The kid heard everything the dad was telling me. I know the father has been with the son since day one. Sr has trained his son since he was a kid. I personally thought they were going on their own. They didn’t say anything else, just that they weren’t going to train with us anymore.”
Ortiz (18-0, 18KOs) has trained out of RGBA for his past nine fights, beginning with a third-round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado in June 2018. The move came after having spent the first nine fights of his career with another renowned trainer in Joel Diaz. Both stretches came with Ortiz’s father Vergil Sr. also in his corner, in fact taking the lead on occasions when Garcia wasn’t available.
The latest instance came in Ortiz’s most recent fight, an eighth-round knockout of former title challenger—and former Garcia-trained welterweight—Egidijus Kavaliauskas this past August in Frisco, Texas.
Ortiz—who is from nearby Grand Prairie, Texas—was fighting at home for his second straight fight and favored to win despite the step up in competition. The fight aired live on DAZN the same evening that Ortiz’s stablemate and friend Joshua Franco was defending his secondary WBA junior bantamweight title in a trilogy bout versus Andrew Moloney on ESPN in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Garcia was presented with a hard choice as to who needed to be where from RGBA.
It was decided that Garcia would make the trip with Joshua while sending his father Eduardo—who trained Robert to the IBF junior lightweight title during his pro career—and son Robert Jr. to Texas to accompany Vergil Sr. who took the lead in his son’s corner. Both fighters emerged victorious—Ortiz surviving a brief scare early in the second round to floor Kavaliauskas five times in the win, while Franco outpointed Moloney 116-112 on all three scorecards to go up 2-0-1 in their three-fight series.
The matter was openly discussed during training camp, with Garcia insisting an issue was never raised. It became part of the hard discussion between Garcia and the Ortiz family a couple of weeks ago when he was informed of their decision to head in a different direction.
“For me, it was more important to be with Joshua Franco,” insisted Garcia. “He was the underdog. He was in the tougher fight. It was a Top Rank show and he was facing a Top Rank fighter. The payday with Vergil was way bigger, three times more. But I decided. Josh needed me more in the corner to back him up and defend him. Me and Ernie (Gabion) from Everlast/Golden Boy was the only ones there. That’s why I felt like I had to be there.
“I talked to Vergil Jr. and Sr. They didn’t say no. [Vergil Sr.] was the one who came to me two weeks ago, there were other reasons. But the main reason he told me [Vergil Jr.] said was because I wasn’t there (in August). Little Vergil was there, he accepted it. I felt a little surprised by it. If I went with Vergil and you (Robert Jr.) went with Josh, Josh would have been OK. I thought they would have taken it the right way. Both guys won. Main events won in different locations.”
It remains unclear if Vergil Ortiz Sr. will assume head training duties or if a new lead cornerman will be brought into camp. A breaking news report on ESPN+ from ESPN.com boxing insider Mike Coppinger stated that Ortiz will begin working with Eddy Reynoso, the 2019 Trainer of the Year best known for his work with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez with the two in Las Vegas this weekend for Alvarez’ undisputed super middleweight championship clash with Caleb Plant.
That part of the story was vehemently denied by both father and son.
“Unless me, my manager Rick Mirigian or my dad has spoken on anything related to my career, don't believe it,” Ortiz Jr. stated on Twitter following the ESPN+ report. “I already said no, Mike Coppinger. [R]espect my answer.”
The latter part is in reference to a direct message conversation where Coppinger asked the boxer about the rumored switch to Reynoso for his next fight, which Ortiz denied.
Added Vergil Sr. in a response to the claim (and to Coppinger, specifically): “You just asked him and he told you NO, dude.”
Efforts to reach Ortiz Sr. and Mirigian seeking confirmation on any part of the development went unreturned as this goes to publish.
The contact made by ESPN to the Ortiz family prompted Garcia to jump out ahead of the story, although the video couldn’t get released quick enough to beat the televised news break.
“The reporter called me, thinking I didn’t know,” acknowledged Garcia, though not naming the reporter in question. “He told me, “I’m calling you because word is that Vergil is no longer going to be training with you. He’s going with Eddy Reynoso.” I didn’t know that; that part we didn’t know. When they came to talk to me, they told me they weren’t going to be training with us. That was it. They never said they were going to Eddy Reynoso. I thought he was going on his own. The dad knows his boxing, he’s been around for years, Same with Hector Beltran.”
Whatever move is next made by Ortiz and his father will come with the sincerest of wishes from his previous trainer.
“We were both very professional. It’s not the first time something happens to us, won’t be the last,” noted Garcia. “We had fighters come to us from other trainers. It doesn’t mean I stole the fighter from them. Just like if they go somewhere else, it doesn’t mean the trainer stole him from me.
“This boxing world circulates like that. It’s just the way it is. We had Vergil for a few years. He was doing very good. He was getting better and better. He’s probably the hardest working kid in any gym he goes to. He’s focused, his dad is very focused. They’re going somewhere else and we wish them well.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox