Touted up-and-comer Vergil Ortiz Jr. has a fight against Brad Soloman on Friday as a headlining attraction in Indio, Calif. on DAZN, but one of boxing most touted young stars is looking forward to biting off at a bigger opponent in the stacked welterweight division sometime next year.
“There’s a few fighters I’d like to face in 2020, like Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, but I don’t think that’ll happen next year, with politics and all of that,” Ortiz Jr. told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “Realistically, those fights probably won’t happen next year even though if it was an opportunity that came up, I would take it in a heartbeat. I want to be able to keep taking harder challenges. I don’t like filler fights. Every fight has a meaning. I want to make sure it does.”
Ortiz Jr. (14-0, 14 KOs), already a top-10 ranked contender by the WBO (No. 5) and WBC (No. 10), is coming off a dominant knockout performance over Antonio Orozco, stopping the fellow Mexican counterpart via KO for the first time in his career — a feat even unified champion Jose Ramirez couldn’t accomplish. Next on the to-do list for Ortiz Jr., who’s knocked out every opponent he’s ever faced in a total of 33 rounds, will be Soloman (28-1, 9 KOs).
If Ortiz Jr. passes his test with flying colors, he’d even consider competing against Terence Crawford, who of late has had a hard time finding credible counterparts in the 147 division.
“I’m definitely open to anything,” said Ortiz Jr. “If there’s a world title shot — if they offered me Crawford, even though I may not have an even shot against him, I would do everything in my power to try and beat him. It doesn't matter who it is — if it’s for a world title, I will fight anyone if they give me an opportunity … I’m not ready yet for Terence Crawford, I’ll be honest. He’s a pound-for-pound top five. He’s very skillful. At this moment, I don’t think I would be ready, but I would be, in no more than two years.
“When we face higher-level opponents, we’ll know what to add. Experienced fighters have what I don’t have, and that’s more rounds in the ring.”
Ortiz Jr. could perhaps have the same opportunity the 23-year-old Canelo Alvarez once had when he was still raw and in the ring against Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
In a day and age where fighters are over cautious in protecting the vaunted zero on their records, and timid in taking risks, Ortiz Jr.’s desires in facing current and former world champions at such an early stage in his career is a welcome sight to see.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com and currently does TV commentary for combat sports programming that airs on Fox Sports and hosts his own radio show in Los Angeles. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at [email protected].