LAS VEGAS, Nevada, May 4, 2019 – A mixed menu of undercard fights delivered several upsets, a handful of early stoppages, and one lights out knockout from an emerging boxing star.
We have told readers many times to keep an eye on super lightweight Vergil Ortiz Jr. of Grand Prairie, Texas. Fighting Saturday for the first time at welterweight, Ortiz Jr. (13-0, 13 KOs) made quick work of veteran Mauricio Herrera of Riverside, California (2409, 7 KOs). The knockout came at 29 seconds of the third round; not a surprise, since Ortiz Jr. has only had to fight more than three rounds once in 13 fights. Prior to Saturday, Herrera had never been stopped.
After a deliberate, sizing up first round, Ortiz Jr. came guns ablazing in the second round, blasting Herrera with a right hook, quickly following up with multiple shots including a solid left to the body as Herrera was off balance. The shots drove him to the canvas at the bell. Referee Russell Mora administered the count and Herrera practically crawled back to his corner.
It must have been a rough 60 seconds as Herrera contemplated going back out to accept his fate. Ortiz Jr. went right back to work with his best weapon. He landed two powerhouse snapping right hooks in a row, and as referee Russell Mora moved in to stop it, Ortiz Jr. landed one more to do the honors himself, dropping Herrera cold.
“Like I said, everyone thinks I don’t have much experience because I’m 12 and 0, 13 and 0 now,” said Ortiz Jr. “People don’t realize I work in the gym hard every day. I spar world champions all the time. I’m not the one that goes to the world champions and says ‘hey can we spar?’ They come up to me, and that’s the difference between me and other prospects.”
Believe it now if you didn’t before. Ortiz Jr. possesses freaky power at age 21. He is a powerhouse, crowd pleasing knockout artist who is only going to grow stronger.
“I’m actually pretty proud of this fight. If you know me and kept up with my fights, I’m usually not satisfied with my performance. I just want to tell you all and I hope you are too, I am very satisfied with my performance tonight,” said Ortiz Jr.
“(Herrara) was keeping his left hand down the whole time, and I knew I was fast enough to catch him. I knew it after the first round.”
Welterweights can only hope he’s going back down to 140 after his destruction of Herrera, Thankfully for them, Ortiz Jr. confirmed this after the win. “I want to go back to 140 and get that world title,” said Ortiz Jr. “I hope after this performance, everyone believes now.” Ortiz Jr. said he’d fight any of the title holders. Prior to the fight, he suggested a match with Maurice Hooker, a fellow Texan. But no matter who or when, “If they tell me, ‘Hey Virgil,’ fight a world title fight in two weeks, I’m ready.”
Joseph Diaz Jr. deals seventh round stoppage to Freddy Fonseca
Repeatedly ripping to the body, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. of Los Angeles (30-1, 14 KOs) got off to a good start against replacement opponent Freddy Fonseca of Nicaragua (26-2-1, 17 KOs). Diaz Jr. didn’t have a lot to fear from Fonseca, allowing him to concentrate on offense. But after a few solid rounds, Diaz Jr. seemed to let off the gas, or lose focus. In the sixth round, Diaz Jr. connected with a good left hook, and it woke him up. He moved in on Fonseca and scored a knockdown at the end of the round, with Fonseca making it up and safely to the bell.
Fonseca told his corner he was having trouble breathing. He came out for the seventh, but it didn’t take much more punishment from Diaz Jr. before Fonseca’s corner wisely and literally threw in the towel at 2:07 of round seven. Diaz wins the vacant WBA Gold Super Featherweight title.
Diaz says he felt good in his second fight at the 130 pound limit. “I felt very comfortable. 126 was just way too hard for me. I couldn’t showcase the power I have. I feel like I’ve got it all at 130 … I feel a lot stronger. I’m able to take more chances and take more risks. At 126, I couldn’t pick up the pace in the later rounds because of the fatigue from making weight.” Diaz Jr. has his sights set on a title fight with IBF Super Featherweight champion and fellow southpaw, Tevin Farmer calling him out from the ring.
Diaz Jr. has bounced back from a tough loss one year ago to Gary Russell, Jr. Diaz admitted, ““I was dealing with depression and I was almost at the end of the road, I was at rock bottom last year. I was going through a lot, a lot of people don’t realize this. I was really going through some tough, tough times. I want to thank my mom, my sisters, my family, God almighty, for not doing anything stupid. Anyone suffering from depression, trust me, everything is going to be okay.”
Lamont Roach Jr. wins in decision over Jonathan Oquendo
Lamont Roach Jr. of Maryland (19-0-1, 7 KOs) remained undefeated, holding off the more aggressive Jonathan “Polvo” Oquendo of Puerto Rico (30-6, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision. Scores were 97-93 X2 and 96-93, drawing boos from the crowd finding their seats in the TMobile Arena.
Roach was a standout amateur, but age 24 after five years his professional career seems to be treading water. With a decade more experience and many more significant names on his resume, Oquendo was Roach’s biggest test so far. He was the more aggressive fighter, especially in the first half of the fight. He walked down and hurt Roach Jr., bloodying his nose and scoring with body shots in the fourth round. Roach Jr. gathered himself and kept plugging away.
In round 8, referee Russell Mora took a questionable point away from Oquendo for leading with his head after warning him several times. It didn’t turn out to be the difference in the fight.
In the corner before round 9, Lamont Roach Sr. told his son “we need these rounds.” Roach Jr. finally showed a little spark, connecting with his best, hardest punches of the night. But the effort was limited. In the final round, there was more grappling than boxing. It was a tough fight to score but it appeared Oquendo was the busier, more effective fighter.
Roach admitted he felt the body shots. “I think it could have gone better of course. But I’m glad we got this experience, to go up to the championship level. The only guys that beat him became champions and I’m one of them.”
“I just got myself together toward the end of that round, stuck to the game plan.” Russell said the headbutts were a factor for him “from round one to round ten.”
Roach took heart from the performance against a seasoned veteran. “He’s as tough as they come, he’s a former world champion and he beat a former world champ. He brought the fight to me, and if someone else brings the fight to me, I’m ready. I can go ten, I can go twelve (rounds)”
Roach now believes he’s ready for a world title fight with the WBO International and NABO Super Featherweight titles in hand. It’s hard to imagine Roach Jr. posing any threat to names like Miguel Berchelt, Gervonta Davis, Tevin Farmer, or Andrew Cancio.
Anthony Young scores upset win in three over Sadam Ali
Anthony Young came roaring out toward former world champion Sadam Ali at the opening bell. The Atlantic City based welterweight never let up, swarming and thoroughly mauling Ali for three rounds before referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight at 2:38 of the third round.
Sitting with Young’s team at Friday’s weigh-in, they were utterly confident of the outcome, and they were elated ringside Saturday, embracing Young as he left the arena floor.
“New Jersey is in the building,” proclaimed Young (21-2, 8 KOs). “I had a tremendous camp.” Young said he stuck to the original game plan against Ali (27-3, 14 KOs). “When I hit him with the body shot, he grabbed me. You know when you’re sparring, he made that ‘oof’ sound, and I thought, I got to jump on him. This is my opportunity.” Young’s trainer Chino Rivas deserves mention for getting Young in shape and in position to win.
“I don’t want to say that he was over the hill, but I think a lot of the confidence was taken after he fought Munguia after the Miguel Cotto fight. He was always moving backwards and I knew that if I just applied pressure I was going to break him down. First couple punches, I saw his reaction to it, and I thought, I got it,” said Young.
“I told them before this fight, when the fight was being made, I just wanted the welterweight division to know that I’m a real player and I want to be taken seriously. Stopping a former world champion, a former Olympian, the way that I did. 147 – I’m here … I think I’m the man now.”
Young’s victory earns him the vacant USNBC Silver welterweight title, but the real prize is the opportunity for a more significant title shot in the competitive welterweight division in the near future.
Ryder stops Akkawy, aims his ambitions toward Callum Smith
The fight between middleweight John Ryder of London, England (27-5, 16 KOs) and Bilal Akkawy of Sydney, Australia (10-1-1, 7 KOs) started off so cautiously, fans began booing. They weren’t complaining by the third round. Ryder dropped Akkawy with a sweet textbook right hoo halfway through the round. He scored a second knockdown with a flurry of upper cuts and hooks/ Just as Ryder was about to do it a third time, referee Jay Nady stopped the fight at 2:15 of the round. Akkaway complained, but it’s the right call for a young fighter taking punishment for no good reason.
“I felt great all week and it showed in there,” said Ryder. “I’m delighted with the stoppage but even more so, that I didn’t panic or rush when I had him hurt, I picked my shots and put him away. To fight in Las Vegas was amazing and to put on a performance like that, possibly the best of my career, makes it all the more sweeter.”
Ryder is now ranked as the number one challenger by the WBA. He says the message is clear. “I want Callum Smith next. He’s got a fight on June 1 … if he wins that, I want to fight him next. I’ve paid my dues and got into position for it. It would be a big fight in the UK and it would be a great fight too.”
Las Vegas prospects win one and lose one
Someone’s oh had to go, and it was Francisco Esparza of Las Vegas (9-1-1, 3 KOs) who lost a rough and tumble fight in ten rounds to Aram Avagyan of Russia (9-0-1, 4 KOs). Avagyan wins the WBC International Silver Featherweight title. Judges scores were 97-92 and 96-93 X 2.
Avagyan credited his win on preparation. “It was a good camp. We trained well for the past two months. We had a gameplan, and we went in there and executed.”
The opening bout featured local Las Vegas super middleweight prospect Alexis Espino winning a four round decision over Billy Wagner of Great Falls, Montana (1-1). Scores were 39-35 X 2 and 39-34. Espino scored an early knockdown in round two, but got docked a point for punches after Wagner was down. Wagner stood tough as Espino landed hard hooks from both sides at will, forcing Wagner to stumble back in later rounds.
“I think I give myself a C+ for this event. I could have done better,” said Espino. “I should have pressed the action more. It was a learning experience and I’m happy I got the four rounds in.” Espino is trained by Robert Garcia and off to a good start in his career.
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.
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