Vergil Ortiz Jr. is prepared to go the distance vs. Salgado in first headliner
Vergil Ortiz Jr., one of the brightest prospects fighting under the Golden Boy banner, headlines his first fight card on Saturday in an ESPN2/ESPN Deportes-televised show from the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles.
The 20-year-old junior welterweight faces former two-time 130-pound titleholder Juan Carlos Salgado in a scheduled 10-round bout. Salgado loses more than he wins these days, but the Mexican veteran was once a top-rated junior lightweight who owns victories over Jorge Linares (who he knocked out in one round to earn his first world title) and Argenis Mendez (who he outpointed for his second world title). The matchup is a big step up in opposition for the still-developing Ortiz (9-0, 9 knockouts), a soft-spoken self-taught musician who plays everything from modern rock to classical piano.
Following a decorated amateur career which included more than 140 wins, the hard-punching Dallas native has proven to be one of the hardest-punching up-and-comer in boxing. None of his professional opponents have made it out of the third round.
“I am very excited to be fighting on my first main event and on ESPN,” Ortiz told THE RING via phone while training in Riverside, California with new trainer Robert Garcia. “I am preparing very hard for this fight and everyone will see an exciting performance.”
Ortiz has appeared on some large stages, such as the undercard of the first Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin fight last September and a co-featured spot to an ESPN-televised show earlier this year when he stopped Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, but being in the spotlight does not appear to phase him.
“I don’t really feel a lot pressure,” Ortiz added. “It’s just another fight only with a more experienced fighter but in the end its all the same to me.”
Heading into Saturday’s bout Ortiz and his family also made the decision to move on from trainer Joel Diaz and begin working with the equally respected Garcia.
“Joel Diaz has done a great job and he is a legendary trainer. We had no problems with him,” Ortiz said. “He has taught me so much, but we just decided to move to Robert Garcia now.”
While training with Diaz, Ortiz sparred with Lucas Matthysse and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakhram Giyasov.
“I wish we would have recorded the sparring with Giyasov,” Ortiz recalls. “It was intelligent sparring with a lot of thinking and precision. It was a chess match between us.”
Although Salgado will be the most notable name on Ortiz’ resume, it should be noted that the battle-tested globe trotter is coming into this bout having lost seven of his last eight bouts. Salgado’s most memorable moment was a shocking first-round KO of the then-undefeated Linares in 2010 to capture the WBA belt. Salgado ended up losing the title in his very next bout against Takashi Uchiyama (via 12th-round TKO) in Tokyo, Japan.
“I checked out some of Salgado’s fights,” Ortiz said. “He’s very crafty so I need to use my head and be smart. He definitely has experience, but I have experience too. I had 170 amateur fights and I am pretty sure l’ll show him something he’s never seen before.”
Although Ortiz has put together a streak of nine knockouts he won’t mind if this bout goes the distance as long as he gets the win.
“It actually won’t be letdown for me,” Ortiz explains. “I will be satisfied not only with the win but with the experience. If we go the distance in this fight I would have fought more rounds then in all my past nine fights combined.”
Ortiz believes his newfound passion for music has helped him settle down and not get overly excited in the ring. He credits his father for purchasing the popular Guitar Hero III video game that sparked his love for music.
“I wasn’t into music that much before,” Ortiz said. “Then I got into rock and my friend gave me his guitar and I started teaching myself how to play. This helped me change my tempo in boxing so my opponents can’t catch me.
Ortiz has also taught himself how to play the piano by moving independently from his left hand to his right, not too different from when he throws lethal combinations inside the ring. Ortiz said music will remain a hobby for now as he continues the journey of moving from prospect to contender.