Vergil Ortiz Jr. hopes to figure out his next move soon, even as there remains a logjam at the top of the welterweight division.
All of the major hardware is currently occupied by Errol Spence (28-0, 22KOs; WBA/WBC/IBF) and Terence Crawford (38-0, 29KOs; WBO), who for months have been working out terms for a potential showdown later this year. The top contenders in the division are forced to play the waiting game, though with fighters like Ortiz already making moves to secure their place in line for when a title shot becomes available.
Ortiz established himself as the WBA mandatory challenger following a ninth-round knockout of England’s Michael McKinson last Saturday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, near his hometown of Grand Prairie, Texas. Their DAZN main event served as a final eliminator, with the 24-year-old Texan going past eight rounds for the first time in his career while ending a career-long 51-week layoff.
A night of firsts ended with his perfect knockout-to-win ratio still intact and with plans to remain active against elevated—or simply willing—competition.
“I obviously want to fight everybody,” insisted Ortiz after his win. “As long as there is a path to a world title, I want to fight anyone that's in my way.”
Ortiz and Golden Boy are going to work on a potential return before year’s end, to make up for lost time in the first half of 2022. The likely scenario is a fight in December, though it is doubtful that any plans are announced until Spence-Crawford is resolved one way or another. Ortiz is the mandatory to the secondary WBA title held by Eimantas Stanionis (14-0, 9KOs)—who is also waiting out the process—and the number-one contender (though not yet named mandatory challenger) to Crawford’s WBO crown.
In the event that a Spence-Crawford fight doesn’t materialize, both can expect to wade through a sea of aspiring challengers. Stanionis is owed a title consolidation fight with Spence, while Ortiz could potentially pursue a fight with Crawford. The unbeaten three-division champ and pound-for-pound entrant was in the house on Saturday, in support of training stablemate and former WBO 140-pound titlist Maurice Hooker, a past Ortiz victim.
Any plans involving Crawford outside of a superfight with Spence remain a non-starter for the moment, though a potential failsafe for Ortiz if both find themselves in need of an opponent later this year.
"He’s a little tied up right now. But if the opportunity comes up, I’ll be more than happy to fight him,” promised Ortiz.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox