The contender run is officially under way for Vergil Ortiz Jr.
A power-punching display by the red-hot welterweight paved the way for a one-sided stoppage win over Canada’s Samuel Vargas. An onslaught of punishment forced a stoppage of 2:58 of round seven in their DAZN-streamed main event Friday evening, live in front of a crowdless Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
The bout came to light nearly four months after its originally scheduled March 28 date at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The show was canceled two weeks prior to the opening bell due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, though both boxers remained eager to pick up where they left off.
Ortiz was forced to work without the services of his normal head trainer Robert Garcia, who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving at the quarantine bubble earlier this week. Manning the corner of the 22-year old was his father Vergil Sr., although muscle memory alone was enough to guide Ortiz to victory on a night where he couldn’t rely on his regular coach or even fans in attendance.
“I didn’t notice, I was just so focused on the fight,” Ortiz insisted afterward. “I didn’t really notice the difference.
The unbeaten welterweight came out strong in the opening round in a fight dedicated to the memory of Austin’s Travell ‘Black Magic’ Mazion, an aspiring junior middleweight who was killed in a car crash on July 16. Mazion would have turned 25 on Friday, with Ortiz honoring his friend by wearing “Travell” and “Mazion” on each side of his trunks, graced with “Black Magic” across the middle.
Vargas offered little offense or movement, allowing Ortiz to power his way inside in round one. Right hands and heavy left hooks landed for the Grand Prairie, Texas native, establishing his dominance almost immediately from the opening bell.
Vargas continued to bear the brunt of Ortiz’s offensive attack in round two. The Toronto-based Colombian managed a couple of jabs to the body, but leaving himself exposed just long enough to catch a right hand which bloodied his nose.
Ortiz continued to punish Vargas in round three, though not always without repercussion. A heavy jab by Ortiz set up his right hand, which he landed in succession as Vargas did his best to duck and cover at close quarters.
The most drama to come of the round was when Ortiz was warned at length by referee Jack Reiss for spinning Vargas around and hitting him while defenseless. Ortiz offered the counterpoint that he was waiting for the veteran ring official to call for a break in the action, with the sequence limited to a warning.
Ortiz saw a knockout well within sight in round four, picking up the pace. Vargas grew worse for the wear as the round moved along, absorbing a left hook to the body and then fighting off the ropes as Ortiz unloaded with straight rights and left hooks upstairs.
The ringside doctor was summoned by the referee in between rounds four and five, over concern that Vargas was taking too much punishment. The sequence was met with a smile from Vargas, who insisted he was ready to come out for more.
To his credit, round five was the best of the fight to that point for Vargas, who didn’t quite win it outright but managed to have his say during several exchanges. Ortiz was still in control but forced to work a little harder—and through a small cut atop his left cheekbone—to win the exchanges.
Ortiz returned to basics in round six, sticking his jab in the face of Vargas who sought to counter with poking right hands to the body. Vargas did just enough to make it out of the round, taking Ortiz deeper than he’s ever been in a prize fight.
That wouldn’t last much longer.
Entering round seven for the first time in his career, Ortiz fought as if it were round one. A right hand and left hook had Vargas wobbly, proving to be the beginning of the end. Ortiz unloaded, punishing Vargas at every turn and on his way to scoring the bout’s lone knockdown. Vargas bought some time by literally tackling Ortiz to the canvas, drawing a tongue-lashing from Reiss for the infraction.
Ortiz went right back on the attack, pounding on a near defenseless Vargas for the remainder of the round. Vargas made it to the bell, but not to his corner as Reiss decided the 31-year old was done for the night.
“I hit him the body so many times. I don’t know how he didn’t go down,” notes Ortiz. “I knew it was time to take him out. If they let it go, it would have been worse.”
Ortiz finished the fight landing 154 of 318 punches for a 48% connect rate according to CompuBox statistics. Vargas connected on just 44 of 243 total punches (18%) as he falls to 31-6-2 (14KOs). The loss is the third in his last five starts. The veteran gatekeeper was previously stopped by Errol Spence (2015) and Danny Garcia (2016), while going the distance with former titlists Amir Khan and Luis Collazo in recent years.
Against Ortiz, he just didn’t stand a chance—though his reputation alone prompted the best of one of the sport’s brightest rising contenders.
“Against a guy like that, I would give myself a solid B+,” claims Ortiz, who advances to 16-0 (16KOs). “He brought it out of me, props to him.”
The goal from here is to begin facing the type of competition that brings him closer to the title stage. Vargas was considered on the level of the competition Ortiz had faced in his Prospect of the Year run in 2019. Friday’s contest was his first since a 5th round stoppage of Brad Solomon last December, though the hope is that the next one more resembles a championship-level opponent.
“I would like to fight someone like Danny Garcia or (Keith) Thurman,” insists Ortiz in wanting to face either former welterweight titlist. “I’m not here to take the easy fights. I’m content. I’m in the hardest division in boxing.
“I’m here to take risks, that’s how you become great.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox