LAS VEGAS, Nevada, May 2, 2019 – Long before the main event takes place at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, May 4 between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs, younger fighters with ambitious dreams of their own step into the ring for their undercard fights. Smart fans know to be in their seats early to see the stars of the future. One of the sport’s underrated pleasures comes from watching skills develop and ring IQ improve from fight to fight.
We’ve told you before to keep an eye on Vergil Oritz Jr. of Dallas, Texas. The 21-year-old super lightweight is among the most promising talents in boxing. Now, many more fans will know about Ortiz Jr. after Saturday. Undefeated with a perfect knockout record (12-0, 12 KOs), Ortiz Jr. steps into the co-main event of Saturday’s card on DAZN against the veteran Mauricio “EL Maestro” Herrera (24-8, 7 KOs) of Riverside, California. Ortiz Jr. will move up to welterweight for this test.
Ortiz Jr. and Herrera weren’t originally scheduled to be the co-main event, but got the opportunity when super middleweight David Lemieux had to withdraw due to injury. Neither intends to let the opportunity go to waste.
Ortiz Jr. called ‘Top prospect in boxing’
Ortiz Jr. already possesses freakish power. He has only fought past three rounds once in his young career. In his last fight, he needed five rounds to stop durable welterweight Jesus Valdez Barrayan, who retired due to cuts. Now, Ortiz faces the veteran Herrera who has never been stopped. Herrera has tested top names including Danny Garcia, a fight many observers believe he won.
“Vergil Ortiz Jr. is the top prospect in boxing. I said it,” says Eric Gomez, Golden Boy Boxing president. “There are other really good prospects out there, but the skills this kid has, I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve been promoting boxing 20 years.
“This is a real test for him. I was a little worried when (matchmaker) Roberto Diaz came to my office and said, ‘Mauricio will fight him.’ Everyone has to graduate. To beat Mauricio Herrera and to prove he’s a top prospect and moving into contender status, he has to be victorious. Robert’s matched him tough. He’s passed every test, but this is the bigger test of his career,” said Gomez.
“This is a great opportunity for fans all over the world to get to know me,” said Ortiz Jr.” Everyone will be watching this event, so I look forward to showing boxing fans what I’m made of. It’s very hard to look good against Mauricio Herrera. World champions have fought him and have looked bad. If I can look good and be the first to ever stop him, then I’ll be making a big statement.”
Ortiz Jr. says he’s been training hard in Dallas. “I trained hard before I knew I was fighting Mauricio,” said Ortiz Jr. “I was sparring 10 rounders in February. I’m more than ready for this fight.
“Mauricio has never been stopped. I’ve stopped everybody. Mauricio has been in there with Danny Garcia and Jose Ramirez. I know he beat them. In my eyes he’s a world champion. We all know who won. But those guys aren’t me. He didn’t fight me, he didn’t fight Vergil Ortiz.”
Ortiz Jr. says his father and early trainer, Vergil Sr. based his style in part on Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto, who attended the fighters’ news conference in Las Vegas Thursday. “I want to thank Cotto for coming, he’s one of my favorite fighters growing up,” said Ortiz Jr. “My dad based my style off of Cotto, I don’t know if you know that. Now he knows.”
Speaking about the role his father has played, Ortiz Jr. said, “He didn’t have the best childhood growing up. He did everything in his power, I don’t think his dad was there for him where he grew up. and he was there for me. My mom wasn’t there, he played both parts. That’s something you don’t see all the time. My dad stayed with me the entire way.”
Herrera: ‘I’m a hungry lion’
Herrera’s performance in the past few years have been erratic, which he acknowledged. “You know my career has gone through ups and down. I remember in 2014 when I fought Danny (Garcia) and felt robbed, then had a chance to win an interim title, then got robbed again. It left me in a bad place. A lot of the fights you see that are close, or I look I’m really bad in, it’s because I’m unmotivated in those fights. That year hit me hard. I’m slowly getting my motivation back.
“This kid has 12 wins and 12 knockouts. The 12 guys he’s fought have been stopped by other guys as well. Saturday, I’m really motivated and I do want to bring my career back. I’m not no old lion. if I am, I’m a hungry lion. You’re going to see an entertaining show.
“You name it, he’s fought the who’s who in boxing,” said Gomez. “He’s here to prove he can still compete at a very high level. He’s fighting a tough prospect coming up. But look, Mauricio’s fought every type of style. Prospects, contenders. He’s ready to do it again.”
Ortiz Jr. aiming for title fight against fellow Dallas native
Ortiz Jr. thanked DAZN and Matchroom Boxing, addressing promoter Eddie Hearn directly with a request. “You’re really making, paving the way for the future of boxing and media. Will you make the fight with (WBO World Super Lightweight champion) Maurice Hooker and me happen, please? We’re both from Dallas, we’re both on DAZN … Pretty soon, in five years, I’ll take on Errol Spence too. I don’t mean that like. ‘oh I’m going to go through everybody.’ I believe in my ability. I have it.”
Ortiz Jr. has more immediate plans after his fight on Saturday. “On a more serious note, I can’t wait to eat tacos after this fight. I’m hungry,” laughed Ortiz Jr. “Hopefully after this fight, I get a world title shot soon. There’s a couple fights out there.”
Undercard lineup also includes Joseph Diaz Jr., Lamont Roach Jr., and Sadam Ali
In addition to the Ortiz Jr. vs Herrera co-main event, the undercard features Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. of Los Angeles (28-1, 14 KOs) against Freddy Fonseca of Nicaragua (26-1-1, 17 KOs); Lamont Roach Jr. of the greater Washington DC area (18-0-1, 7 KOs), against Jonathan “Polvo” Oquendo of Puerto Rico (30-5, 19 KOs); and former welterweight champion Sadam Ali of Brooklyn (27-2-14 KOs) trying rebuild his career against Anthony Young of Atlantic City, New Jersey (20-2, 7 KOs).
The Canelo vs. Jacobs event will take place Saturday, May 4, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and will be streamed live exclusively on DAZN.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2019 by Falcon Valley Group