By Robert Aaron Contreras
Welterweight sensation Vergil Ortiz Jr. (15-0, 15 KO) added to his perfect KO streak by stopping veteran Brad Solomon (28-2, 9 KO) in the fifth round on Friday night at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
Ortiz’s stellar run this year—now 4-0 in 2019—left him with high expectations heading into the weekend and the 21-year-old Texan surpassed them against Solomon, who was crafty enough to force Ortiz to pull out all the stops to secure the finish and earn himself a belt, one manufactured by the WBA, but nonetheless a major championship strap.
“[Solomon] was difficult to figure out,” Ortiz said, standing next to his trainer Robert Garcia in the ring after the fight. “He really made me use my brain. I took my time in there… I had to utilize my jab. Most importantly, I had to figure out my range.”
At its onset, Ortiz took a handle of the fight, continually walking Solomon into the corner, behind a lead left hand. Shotgun jabs to the head followed by rattling off left hooks to the body—most of them blocked, but the force thrummed through Solomon’s gloves all the same.
Solomon showed initiative in the second round, keen on going to his young opponent’s belly. Ortiz returned more piston jabs upstairs for his trouble. But halfway into the period it was a snapping follow-up right hand that caught Solomon’s attention. It was to that point the best punch of the bout and made Solomon shuffle away from Ortiz, sidestepping along the ropes. Noticing his man’s high guard, Ortiz attempted to swat down Solomon’s defenses—a rendition of that Ukrainian unblock perfected by Vasyl Lomachenko.
The action unfolded along the ropes again in the third frame. Ortiz mined for more openings and opportunities to deliver punishment. Attacking from fine angles, he took a leap to his right, outside of Solomon’s left foot, commanding lead foot dominance, and banged a left uppercut toward the skull of his opponent. It was the old D’amato shift. Solomon leaned into Ortiz and the younger fighter adapted acutely moving backwards before planting his foot down for uppercuts.
Early in the fourth round, Ortiz ducked under a wild left hand that left Solomon stumbling away from the center of the ring. After digging a little to the body, Ortiz mixed up his jab. Having already established it upstairs, he jabbed to the body and chest, then feinting in that direction only to throw a javelin straight right hand to Solomon’s face. The misdirection paid dividends at the 1:03 mark where a fierce jab sat Solomon down (the first official knockdown of the fight, Ortiz in the post-fight interview suggested he accidentally tripped his opponent).
Moments after Solomon made it to his feet, another volley prompted Solomon to gesture for a low blow. Ortiz didn’t buy it and neither did referee Raul Caiz Sr.
Again Solomon was overzealous returning from the break, dealing out overhand rights to start the fifth round. Mirroring arcing blows came back his way from Ortiz. And Solomon was soon being driven from corner to corner. Stagnation setting into, cement hardening in his shoes. More power jabs rushed into his line of sight, and a right cross zipped by his chin. Soon a right cross-counter slanted over Solomon’s lead hand and shook him up again. Three more grazing punches made the veteran take a knee, floored for the second time of the night and his 30-fight career.
Time still remaining in that fateful Round 5, Solomon was out of ammo. Backed into another corner, mouth agape, knees trembling, two more left hooks was all it took. One slammed against his gloves, and before the second could even land, Solomon hunkered down on a knee. Bowing out. It’s important to recognize the difference between that and a “quit job”—that’s something else. When a fighter goes unconscious, for example, it’s the case of the human body unable to sustain anymore damage—physically. No quitting involved. Here, similarly but incorporeally, Solomon’s spirit was sapped.
Another win for Ortiz, there has been a reoccurring theme. His finishing ability, dispatching respectable foes who had never before been put away inside the distance. First, Mauricio Herrera could only handle this virtuoso for three rounds. Then former world champion Antonio Orozco was stamped out in six—this after going a hard 12 with unified beltholder Jose Ramirez last year.
Now, knocking out Solomon, Ortiz has a WBA title. A growing number of men do given the organization’s maniacal proliferation of championships: his “gold” belt being the WBA’s de-facto interim title to regular champion Alexander Besputin… who is in turn second in line to “super” champion Manny Pacquiao. In short, that’s why these trinkets should be ignored.
Judge boxers for who they beat, not what they win for doing it. Ortiz, younger than college seniors around the country, is doing that principle justice.
Machado rebounds with KO victory
Former champion Alberto Machado (22-2, 18 KO) knocked out Luis Porozo (14-2, 7 KO) with a series of crunching body blows, eventually crushing the Olympian from Ecuador in the second round.
Machado, 29, of Puerto Rico, was actually down immediately following the opening bell. It was a trip. But Porozo was dealing out heavy leather, charging in slapping the taller man with winging left hooks. It was chippy action in both directions, some holding and grappling along the way. Porozo separated and would leap in with wide, curled punches. Machado hung back, trying to time his man with piercing straight lefts.
In the second inning, Porozo forced the action: sitting on looping, wild right hands: nearly falling off-balance. Composed, Machado found a lull in his opponent’s offense, systematically walked him into a corner, and planted a left hand to the solar plexus for the first knockdown of the fight.
Machado stalked Porozo when the bout continued. Soon another left hand strayed to the Ecuadorian’s guts for another knockdown. Up again, Porozo was no longer eager to engage: plodding away, taking a second to peek up at the fight clock. Machado stepped into more body shots and then landed a whizzing left hand to Porozo’s dome and he was quickly counted out.
“It’s a shot we’ve been working on in camp,” Machado said through a translator. “We knew he was the kind of fighter who would open up and that’s where found the opportunity to land that shot to the body.”
Machado, who dropped his 130-pound championship to Andrew Cancio in dramatic fashion this year, is back in the win column for the first time since October 2018. Now, having jumped up in weight, the Puerto Rican puncher likes the way 135 pounds suits him.
“It’s this new division I feel stronger than ever before,” Machado said. “I think I did well, he’s a good fighter, he’s an Olympian, but I did good because of the adjustments that I made.”