Vergil Ortiz is focused (as usual) for his homecoming headliner vs. Antonio Orozco
Vergil Ortiz is just 21 years old but the Texas boxer-puncher already has the boxing world talking about him.
Impressive knockout victories will do that.
Ortiz, who is trained by Robert Garcia, is still maturing physically, but his outlook and mental approach to the sport is off the charts.
Ortiz will face a tough challenge Saturday night when he squares off against former world title challenger Antonio Orozco at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas. The 12-round welterweight bout will stream live on DAZN (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
After 13 knockout victories, Ortiz’s stock in the sport could increase significantly should he be able to stop or impressively dominate Orozco, who, on paper, will be his toughest opponent Ortiz will face.
In his last bout on May 4, his first significant bout as a welterweight, Ortiz (13-0, 13 knockouts) dominated former contender Mauricio Herrera, dropping him multiple times before scoring a chilling knockout in round three. Based on the opposition he has faced and the way he has won fights, Ortiz is considered by several boxing publications as Golden Boy Promotions’ best prospect.
Orozco’s only loss as a pro came last September, when he was dropped twice en route to a unanimous decision loss to WBC and now-WBO junior welterweight titleholder Jose Ramirez. Ortiz is confident in his abilities, but is still wary of the challenge Orozco (28-1, 17 KOs) presents in the ring.
“Antonio Orozco believes that this fight will put him back on the map,” said Ortiz earlier this week. “He feels a win will make people believe in him again. Honestly, he only lost one time. I don’t see why they wouldn’t believe in him. This fight will definitely make his meter go up. People will start looking at him if he gets the win. That’s going to make him very dangerous.”
“(Orozco) is hungry. But I’m coming up too. I want to be a world champion too. I have my dreams that I want to achieve. This fight is going to help me get there a lot faster than these other fights, so I’m very glad he took this fight. It’s a very good opportunity for both of us.”
Ortiz is grateful for the opportunity to fight alongside friends and those he trains alongside at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Riverside, California. Bantamweight contender Joshua Franco will face Oscar Negrete (18-2-1, 7 KOs) in a 10-round bout and unbeaten lightweight Hector Tanajara squares off against Mexico’s Ezequiel Aviles (16-3-3, 6 KOs).
Franco (15-1-1, 7 KOs) and Tanajara (17-0, 5 KOs) were born and grew up in San Antonio, Texas. Ortiz, Franco, and Tanajara, who are trained by Garcia, met during their days in the amateur ranks and have developed strong friendships. It is not uncommon to see each attend a fight card where the other or two is on the card, cheering one another on from ringside.
Saturday night will mark the first time all three fighters will fight on the same card.
“Fighting alongside my childhood friends is really cool,” said Ortiz. “I never thought that we would be on the same card fighting together. We’re all fighting for a (regional) title (Saturday) night. It’s great to see how far we’ve come.”
Ortiz, who resides in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, will be fighting for the second time in front of family and friends. In his second bout as a pro in September of 2016, Ortiz knocked out Ernesto Hernandez at AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith fight.
Having fought several times in Southern California and in Las Vegas, Ortiz is glad he will fight in his hometown, where he has a significant following. On a recent visit home after a fight, Ortiz was overwhelmed by the support from family and friends, along with boxing fans in the area, where he hopes to continue leaving an impact.
“I’m fighting for my hometown. I’m fighting for all the little kids that think they can’t make it because (Grand Prairie) is a small town. Not many people make it out of Grand Prairie. I hope to set a good example for them. I felt all the love when I went home to visit. I felt the atmosphere, and it was electric.
“I’m really excited to be fighting in the main event. I’ve only done that once before (against Juan Carlos Salgado in June of last year). For me being the main event is a test for me to show how many people want to see me and how excited they’re going to be to watch the fight. I have a lot of people telling me they want to go and they already bought tickets.”
Ortiz’s skill-set has improved dramatically over the last several months to compliment his extraordinary punching power. Robert Garcia has him spar several fighters in the gym, including Jose Ramirez and Mikey Garcia, among others.
Ortiz has yet to his ceiling as a pro, which will make every outing until he fights for a world title belt very intriguing. While he continues to improve, Ortiz will maintain the same mindset that has got him to hear as a pro.
“On August 10, you can expect the same Vergil Ortiz you see in every other fight. I’m going to be at my absolute best. I’m not taking Antonio Orozco lightly at all. I’m not going to be looking for the knockout, but I’m not going to count it out either. I’m going to let it come by itself.
“That’s when you look the best.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing