June 16, 2021

Vergil Ortiz makes statement to welterweight division with TKO win over Maurice Hooker

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If there was any question whether Vergil Ortiz Jr. was the future of the welterweight division, the 22-year-old unbeaten prospect made an important statement on Saturday. 

Ortiz (17-0, 17 KOs) took the best shots former 140-pound champion Maurice Hooker (27-2-3, 18 KOs) had to offer over seven exciting rounds before Hooker, who was down in Round 6, succumbed to an injured hand in a seventh-round TKO inside Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Hooker, 31, appeared to be hurt to the body before taking a voluntary knee and grimacing while holding his right hand. Referee Laurence Cole counted Hooker out at 36 seconds of Round 7 as Ortiz, a fellow Dallas native, passed the biggest test of his young career in spectacular fashion. 

“I wanted to thank [Hooker] for giving me this opportunity,” Ortiz said. “I felt like I could beat him and he didn’t have to take this fight. I feel like I’m a problem at 147 and he didn’t have to take this fight for his first at 147 but I give him props.

“I felt like I did pretty good. There is always room for improvement. There are things I could have done differently. Overall, I think I did OK.”

Ortiz overcame a 4-to-5-inch reach disadvantage by getting inside Hooker’s jab and targeting the body. He also showed tremendous defensive responsibility throughout despite being the aggressor as he went to outland Hooker by a margin of 143 to 100, according to CompuBox. 

But the fight was anything but easy for Ortiz, who had visible swelling and blotches around his eye thanks to Hooker’s long jab. Ortiz succeeded in luring Hooker into a firefight and ultimately found the same success his stablemate had, unified junior welterweight champion Jose Ramirez, in handing Hooker his only previous loss via TKO in their 2019 slugfest. 

“[Hooker] was showing me he was durable early,” Ortiz said. “He could definitely take a punch and he was smart, trying to get around my guard. The game plan was to slow him down. He wanted to box but I neutralized that. The head shots weren’t hurting him at all. He could take a punch. That’s when I started investing to the body.”

Hooker, who was coming off a 15-month layoff, had his moments throughout, including hard right hands to close Rounds 3 and 4 that forced Ortiz to respect the danger coming back at him. 

Ortiz’s youth and aggression, however, caught up with Hooker in Round 6 when he floored him with a right hand. The two fighters brawled until the final bell with a weary Hooker appearing lucky the round had come to a close. 

With welterweight champions Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. watching from ringside, Ortiz pleaded his case for a title shot next. Although he chose not to specifically call anyone out, saying he did his talking inside the ring, Ortiz shared his interest to tangle with Crawford, the unbeaten WBO champion, when asked about it.

“This win gives me more confidence. I believe in myself more that I’m ready for a title shot,” Ortiz said. “I’m very respectful and I’m not going to call anyone a bum. I respect everyone who comes into this ring. [But] I would love that opportunity [against Crawford]. If I get any opportunity from anyone, Crawford is possibly the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world and definitely top two. I’m looking at you Bud, I’m more than happy to do this. I don’t care if I’m ready or not, I want that fight.”

Hooker, who shares the same trainer as Crawford in Brian “BoMac” McIntyre, gave Ortiz his respect after the fight but didn’t believe the young fighter is ready for the champion.

“It was a good fight. I have been out for a year but Vergil is a good fighter and I take my hat off,” Hooker said. “I had to get through the storm of the first three rounds and I started getting my rhythm. But he is a good fighter. 

“[Ortiz] is young and up and coming but there is levels to this. I have been in with the best. He good but he not ready for a Terence Crawford. Just being honest. He is just not ready. He just needs to take fights and build himself up. He is going to be a world champion one day.” 



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