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Vergil Ortiz: Maurice Hooker fight will be hardest of my career

01
Feb

Vergil Ortiz Jr. has waited nearly two decades for this moment.

It all started when Ortiz was just five years old. His father, Vergil Ortiz Sr., who boxed as an amateur, picked him up from school and took him to a gym in Dallas.

It was love at first sight for Ortiz, who prior to turning pro as a junior welterweight in 2016, collected seven national championships, including a gold medal at the 2013 Junior Olympics and 140 amateur victories in 160 bouts.

Ortiz (16-0, 16 knockouts) moved up to welterweight in 2019 and went 4-0, with three KO victories over opponents who had never been previously knocked out. Mauricio Herrera and Antonio Orozco were former junior welterweight title challengers. But Brad Solomon, while never a genuine title threat, had always proven to be a tough outing. Ortiz blitzed them all inside six rounds.



On March 20, Ortiz will headline his first major card before a hometown crowd when he takes on fellow Dallas native and former 140-pound titleholder Maurice Hooker at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth. 

“I’m definitely excited for this fight,” Ortiz told The Ring. “This is going to be the hardest fight of my career on paper.”

Hooker comes into this fight on a one-bout winning streak after he was stopped in the sixth round of a junior welterweight title unification bout against Jose Ramirez in July 2019. Five months later, he scored a first-round knockout of Uriel Perez.

However, a myriad of complications have kept Hooker (27-1-3, 18 knockouts) out of the ring since. He was initially tabbed to face hard-hitting Regis Prograis last April, but the coronavirus postponed their scheduled 12-round affair.

The bout was set to take place at a catchweight of 143 pounds, but after Hooker and his team decided to move up to welterweight, the fight was nixed for good. 

Ortiz’s 2020 schedule was also impacted by COVID-19. In July, the young phenom knocked out Samuel Vargas in seven one-sided frames.

The thought of an all-Dallas showdown is particularly intriguing for Ortiz, but nothing is changing as far as preparation. 

“We’re fighting in Dallas, and we’re both from Dallas,” he stated. “This is going to be big. 

“We prepare for every fight the same way. We treat them as if they are the hardest fight of my career. In this case, it actually is. We’re training hard.”

Ortiz will have to overcome both a height and reach disadvantage. The 31-year-old Hooker stands at 5’11” to his 5’10”. However, the real disproportionality is in the reach category, as Hooker has an 80″ reach compared to Ortiz’s 70″.

But the 22-year-old explained why he is unbothered by the numbers.

“I spar plenty of bigger guys,” Ortiz said. “I sparred (super middleweight) Alexis Espino yesterday. He has a long reach, and he is pretty tall (6’1”).

“I just like sparring bigger guys. I like to go in there knowing that I don’t have to go back. I have always done this. Nothing is changing.”

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