By: Robert Aaron Contreras
It is never easy to decipher what Golden Boy Promotions is up to.
This weekend, on Dec. 13, De la Hoya and Co. put their premier prospect Vergil Ortiz Jr. (14-0, 14 KO) up against a tricky veteran in Brad Solomon (28-1, 9 KO), to be aired by DAZN. It is either a case of inexplicable matchmaking, setting up their young puncher to meet his stylistic foil, or perhaps the case of an aging welterweight in perfect position to finally be stopped inside the distance which would do wonders for a surging tyro like Ortiz.
Ortiz is is one of Golden Boy’s remaining commodities. Still just 21, the Texas-born welterweight could be helping bolster shows headlined by more established company men like Canelo or Jaime Munguia. But considering the tension brewing between Oscar de la Hoya and Canelo Alvarez, and given Ryan Garcia’s mixed reception, talent is being spread thin to fill the schedule, leaving no choice but to again push Ortiz to the top of the bill. This weekend represents his second headliner in a row.
In August, Ortiz destroyed former world champion Antonio Orozco, scoring three knockdowns, and punched in a vicious sixth-round knockout. The KO bought one name to mind, that of Jose Ramirez, who went 12 strenuous rounds with Orozco and was unable to close the show. In fact Orozco had never been stopped until he met Ortiz, who barely old enough to drink conceivably one up’d a unified beltholder. In all it was Ortiz’s third win of the year.
Earlier in 2019, Ortiz backed up both Canelo and Munguia, competing on their undercards. He was successful in orchestrating knockouts each time. The knockouts have been rolling in for Ortiz ever since turning professional. Yet to go to the cards since his amateur days. He sparked Jesus Vargas in February. Valdez, of Mexico, had only been stopped once before in almost 30 fights. Months later, Ortiz’s opponent was better known, one Mauricio Herrera, who had previously never come unstuck in his lauded career. Ortiz changed that with a right cross from hell that ended Herrera’s night in the third round. This one of the division’s most avoided boxers for having outboxed Danny Garcia, Jose Benavidez Jr. and others, slumped in under nine minutes by a kid.
Technically Ortiz was an adult, just 18, when Golden Boy Promotions picked him up—opting for De la Hoya over Top Rank who also had immense interest. His talent would soon match the hype surrounding his remarkable ammy record of 140-20. Ortiz linked up with Robert Garcia by 2018. And his first fight training out of Oxnard was on national TV, where he took apart former titlist Jose Carlos Salgado.
For Ortiz’s prodigious ways, a fight with Solomon may seem like a step backwards from a tested warrior like Orozco. After all the American Solomon is unranked and relatively inactive, fighting just twice since the Spring of 2016. However a close examination of his record reveals the fruits to bear for Ortiz if he can impose real punishment onto his older opponent.
Solomon, 36, is probably best known for his appearance on the star-studded undercard in support of Manny Pacquiao’s third engagement with Tim Bradley, battling the touted Konstantin Ponomarev. The welterweight out of Georgia had climbed his way out of the regional ranks, defeating a handful of names that do not look so bad in hindsight: divisional spoiler Ray Robinson, network drudge Freddy Hernandez, former title contender Demetrius Hopkins, and PBC’s resident brawler Adrian Granados.
Never knocked out, the only loss to Solomon’s name came that night to Ponomarev, by split-decision. He racked up a few rounds early on. And while he was severely outworked down the stretch, he utilized a brand of awkward positioning to stick his man with some hard shots.
Most recently, Solomon took part in the Sulaiman World Invitational welterweight tournament. In the opening round he got off the canvas against Belfast popularizer Paddy Gallagher to win on points. Too bad that was 19 months ago because while Solomon waited for the tourney to continue, the operation ultimately collapsed. Closer to 40 than 30 now, Solomon’s time has passed. His duty to the sport is of a stern test to its hottest up-and-comer.
Championship castaways and championship hopefuls fill undercard
Squash matches are nothing strange for boxers and Alberto Machado (21-2, 17 KO) is taking advantage of the concept. Coming off two disastrous losses, dropping his championship belt in the process, the Puerto Rican sharpshooter is taking on former Olympian Luis Porozo (14-1, 7 KO) in desperate need of a win.
Machado could use a pick-me-up after two beatings from Andrew Cancio. He entered their first fight having twice defended his super featherweight strap and was a huge favorite to spin a third. Listed as high as -2000 to retain his title, Machado found out Cancio had his own plans and punched holes into the defending champion’s midsection en route to a fourth-round knockout. The two did it again and the results only got worse for Machado, this time losing in the third period. He’s wise not to waste anymore time on the sidelines, embarking on his third fight of the year.
The weekend also represents Porozo’s third bout of 2019. First, in May, he picked up a routine win over a palooka with a record of 8-3. Those were the kind of nobodies he ran up his perfect record against. So when Porozo next found himself fighting against a live body on ShoBox in American Giovanni Mioletti, he was seen outworked, visibly gassed, and despite his Olympic background, refused to employ a jab. Mioletti earned a clear decision victory.
Further down the card, undefeated Canadian-transplant Erik Bazinyan (18-0, 7 KO) is back in action. His name was in the news a few months ago when the WBO positioned him to fight in a title eliminator for a shot at super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. But it never materialized as a shoulder injury kept him from the ring. So to shake the ring rust off, Bazinyan as a tuneup with Mexican veteran Saul Roman (45-13, 37 KO).
Younger by over a decade, the 24-year-old Bazinyan entered the pro ranks off a remarkable amateur record, supposedly losing just once in 109 fights in headgear. He is a proud Armenian by birth before migrating to Canada and fighting through Montreal’s regional circuit. In May, Bazinyan got his first opportunity under the Golden Boy Promotions banner, when he faced another Mexican boxer, Alan Campa, and while he took a major welt on his head for his trouble he was ultimately awarded a wide unanimous decision victory.
Roman took this fight on days notice. He picked up two knockouts this year against the lowest reaches of the talent pool—for example his last opponent had a record of 1-12. He is a serviceman of nearly 60 fights, plying his trade since the turn of the millennia—turning pro at welterweight, too boot. All told it is not likely Roman hears the final bell.