Vergil Ortiz did the expected by dispatching Michael McKinson over nine rounds on Saturday night at the Dickies Arena in Ft. Worth. Now, what he and Jaron 'Boots' Ennis need to do next is very clear.
Pound the table and do whatever it takes to get a title shot next. Don't ask, but demand that they be named as mandatory challengers at welterweight.
Currently, the world is still waiting on Errol Spence(who has the IBF, WBA and WBC belts) and Terence Crawford (the WBO belt-holder) to come to a deal for their long-awaited showdown. There's no guarantee that this fight will come to fruition in 2022. (I have no real sources on this, but if an agreement is not struck by the end of August, well, I wouldn't count on it.)
But in the meantime, both Ortiz and Ennis have worked their way up atop the 147 pound rankings. Ortiz is number one in both the WBA and WBO (the bout with McKinson was billed as an eliminator), while Boots is rated first by the IBF.
There is a logjam as the rest of the division waits for what happens next between Spence and Crawford. Keep this in mind, Crawford's WBO mandatory is not due till 18 months from his bout last November versus Shawn Porter. So it's clear that Golden Boy and the brain trust of Ortiz believe that the quickest path to a title currently is with the WBA.
While you can argue that neither Ortiz or Ennis are truly ready for the upper echelon of the division, the bottom line is that both have engaged in elimination bouts recently (Ennis stopped Custio Clayton in two rounds back in April to earn the number one spot in the IBF).
Also, they are rated third (Ennis) and fifth (Ortiz) respectively by Ring Magazine. So the consensus is that they are not only legitimate contenders, but in the elite class of welterweights. And while they are just entering their physical peaks they are also seemingly bursting at the seams physically, having competed their whole careers (which started as teenagers) at welterweight.
They will both soon be junior middleweights.
Ortiz is now 24, Ennis a year older at age 25. To put this into perspective, when Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns first faced off in 1981, they were basically 25 and 23 years old. When Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya squared off in 1999, they were both 26 years old.
So what are we waiting for?
If Spence and Crawford aren't going to face each other next for whatever reason, it's time for other well-deserving boxers to get their cracks at these belts, and create some free flowing traffic in this division. Right now, we have a SIG alert in this weight class. As Larry Merchant was fond of saying, ''fights, make fights."
In theory, when a promotional company lobbies for an eliminator, that means they are believe they have a boxer who is ready to fight for a world title. Unfortunately, in today's game many are now using it to place fighters atop the ratings, and then hoping and waiting for certain guys to move up and vacate those belts. I'd like to think that Ortiz and Ennis are part of the 'young and the restless', precocious talents who have a belief in themselves and are willing to take a shot.
Ortiz in this latest outing had to overcome some ring rust (not having boxed in almost 12 months) but was able to wear down the British southpaw. By the middle rounds he was digging to the body with various hooks and uppercuts. While McKinson was game, he simply did not have the firepower to hold off the hard-charging Ortiz.
In round eight, McKinson was floored late in the round as he finally started to succumb to the consistent onslaught. Then Ortiz finished him off at the beginning of the ninth.
Cris Esqueda, GBP
“It wasn’t my best performance. The first seven rounds, I didn't really do anything good. I should have listened to my corner in the opening rounds,” said Ortiz. “Once I listened to them, we were able to get the job done."
There's no doubting the offensive arsenal of Ortiz, who has scored knockouts in all 19 of his professional outings. It would be interesting to see how well he catches against a puncher like Spence, or a sharpshooter like Crawford. The same applies to Ennis (who has has stopped 27 of his 29 opponents). Are these guys ready to face the very best this division has to offer?
Wouldn't we all like to find out?
- Super middleweight, Bektemir Melikuziev, improved to 10-1(8 KOs) by hammering Sladin Janjanin over three rounds. For 'Bek the Bully' this was his third consecutive victory since he ran into the perfect punch from Gabe Rosado last year.
Cris Esqueda, GBP
Bek is an incredibly heavy hander puncher, who just bulldozes his opponents with unrelenting pressure. The plan has always been to move the Uzbek very quickly. You wonder how he'll deal with a boxer that can not only take his punches, but throw back hard stuff in return.
Regardless, he'll be one of those guys that many will avoid as he's the very definition of high risk-low reward.
- It looks like the end of the road for former junior welterweight belt-holder Maurice Hooker, as he lost a clear cut 10 round decision to Blair 'the Flair' Cobbs. He was decked three times in the first two rounds, as it was clear he simply didn't have his legs underneath him. Hooker, also came in well over the welterweight limit, and a deal was struck for this fight to take place at a catch-weight of 150 pounds.
But to be frank, Hooker looked like a faded fighter. It seems as though inactivity and corrosion has gotten the better of him. This was his third loss in his last four bouts dating back to 2019.
As for Cobbs, this was a meaningful win coming off his first career loss several months ago to Alexis Rocha (KO9). At the very least, Cobbs earned himself another payday with this victory.
Cris Esqueda, GBP
- Marlen Esparza retained her WBA and WBC flyweight titles by out-pointing the tough Eva Guzman over 10 rounds. A rematch with Seniesa Estrada remains an interesting fight but you wonder given the circumstances involved (with Estrada having just left Golden Boy Promotions for Top Rank) if this will be another fight that will be a victim of boxing politics.
It was announced on the DAZN broadcast on Saturday night that a lightweight bout between Joseph Diaz and William Zepeda has been put on the schedule for November 5. The assumption is that this bout will be staged somewhere in Southern California.
Thumbs up to this pairing. Zepeda is an all-action, frenetic fighter who blitzes his opponents from the opening bell, while Diaz has always been a well-schooled technician. It will be interesting to see if Diaz can slow the tempo down and make Zepeda think twice about just coming in hell bent for leather. Zepeda, who has strung together a series of knockouts recently, will be asked a few questions by Diaz.
For Zepeda, this is an opportunity for him to truly mark himself as a player at 135, while Diaz fights for his status as a world-class contender.
Michael Conlan was victorious in his return against Miguel Marriaga in Belfast...Dalton Smith looks like a guy to keep an eye out on moving forward....I can't wait to see the return of 'Hard Knocks' and 'Industry' on HBO this upcoming week....Nonito Donaire has stated his intentions to keep fighting and moving down to 115 pounds... From this week forward, there will be football of some sort on every weekend up until February... I can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org....