By: Hans Themistode
Things can change immensely in a short time span. COVID-19 has proven that statement to be true as most of the world is still adjusting to life with the infectious disease. In the case of rising welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz, he’s proving that his professional career is also changing in just the blink of an eye.
After winning ESPN’s boxing prospect of the year in 2019, Ortiz now finds himself on the fast track to a world title as he takes on former belt holder Maurice Hooker on March 20th, in his hometown Dallas area. While Ortiz is solely focused on convincing everyone that he is truly a player at 147-pounds, promoter Oscar De La Hoya doesn’t need to be convinced any longer.
Although he might be just 22-years-old, De La Hoya has sat ringside at nearly every single one of the Dallas native’s fights and has witnessed body after body crumple in agony after getting blasted by his young star. Not only is De La Hoya under the impression that Ortiz will get past Hooker in roughly two months but he ultimately believes that no matter who is placed in front of him, the results will be the same.
“When you think about Vergil Ortiz, he has to be the best fighter out there at 147, or any in weight class for that matter,” said De La Hoya during a recent press conference. “I’ve said this all along, Vergil Ortiz will beat anybody at 147 right now.”
In the case of Hooker, he’ll present a much sterner test for Ortiz than what he has grown accustomed to. Not only has the 31-year-old former titlist faced fighters similar to Ortiz and managed to walk right through them but he’ll also have every physical advantage checked on his side of the boxes, including a ridiculous ten-inch reach over his man.
All of those reasons and more, have led De La Hoya to having a few restless nights as he admits it won’t be a walk in the park.
“I think Hooker has the advantage. He’s going to present to Vergil different movements, footwork, speed and mannerisms. They’re all totally different than what Vergil has been used to fighting. He’s fast, explosive and very elusive – it’s going to be different for Vergil. The question is will he pass that test? Will he knock Hooker out? Vergil Ortiz has been knocking everybody out so we want to see Vergil go several rounds.”
With Hooker holding the upper hand in nearly every category other than youth, many have questioned why on earth would De La Hoya place his young and quite possibly brightest star, in harm’s way with only 16 fights under his belt? For the former multiple division champion, however, he views the number of fights that Ortiz has accrued during his career as just that, merely a number.
Once upon a time, De La Hoya was in the same position as Ortiz. Just like the 2014 Hall of Famer managed to pass several tests placed in front of him at a young age, De La Hoya believes both he and Ortiz are cut from the same cloth. Should his young star leave the ring with another explosive victory on the night, then he’ll be well on his way to superstardom.
“I fought for my first world title when I had 11 fights. I believe Vergil Ortiz is on the verge of becoming a superstar. I think skies the limit if he gets past Hooker.”