After the fight: Building a future champ in Vergil Ortiz Jr.

Vergil Ortiz Jr. is a major star for Golden Boy Promotions and likely a future world champion, but give him time to realize his potential and dreams. 

Vergil Ortiz Jr. is only 22 years old and in a position to challenge for a world title soon, but what should be his next move?

After defeating former WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker by TKO in round 7, Ortiz expressed his desire to fight WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

“Let’s make the fight happen,” said Ortiz about Crawford while talking to Boxingscene.com. “I’m more than ready. There’s no one really willing to fight. I’m ready.”

That got DAZN commentators and boxing Twitter buzzing. Some thought that challenge makes sense regardless if the young pugilist is ready for Crawford. Ortiz’s words and desire are encouraging, but he might want to take a more measured approach to his career.

Ortiz is so young and already five years into his professional career. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya has praised Ortiz’s potential for years. It’s easy to see why.

As an amateur, Ortiz won seven national titles. He has knocked out all of his 17 opponents as a professional and looked fantastic against Hooker. Ortiz has all the physical tools you want to see in a boxer.

He has solid size for a welterweight at 5-foot-10. Ortiz has proven power, elite footwork, quick hands, and quick feet. Against Hooker, he also proved to possess a strong ring I.Q. as well. Hooker tried to box Ortiz on the outside and succeeded for about a round and a half.

Then, Ortiz targeted Hooker’s body with left hooks that made it difficult for Hooker to breathe. Hooker stated he had trouble breathing to trainer Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre before round 6. Ortiz’s body punches rendered Hooker immobile. Without movement, Hooker became a skilled punching bag for Ortiz.

Vergil Ortiz Jr. is now a top welterweight, but that doesn’t mean he should be thrown in the ring against Terence Crawford just yet.

Crawford is a pound-for-pound talent and a magician in the ring. His ability to switch between orthodox and southpaw stances, combined with his athleticism and overall ability, make him a daunting task for any fighter in the welterweight division and above.

Could Ortiz beat Crawford? Yes, he could. Ortiz has a better chance than most, but the odds wouldn’t be in his favor.

Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) is a young 33 with worlds of wisdom, but he’s aging. He might be in his prime now, but he won’t be in another year or two. Crawford is struggling to find notable welterweights to fight and is losing time to add to his legacy.

Ortiz has time on his side. He’s well ahead of where a 22-year-old should be in terms of title contention. He would be better served fighting challenging opponents slightly below Crawford’s or Errol Spence Jr.’s level.

The welterweight division is deep, and Ortiz is still learning. He should ignore the pressure from outside and keep clipping off top welterweights before challenging Crawford or Spence.

If Ortiz did fight Crawford and lose, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. A young Canelo Alvarez fought and lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and learned from that experience. The same could happen to Ortiz against Crawford, but there’s no guarantee.

Every boxer handles a loss differently. What made Alvarez a better fighter might break the psyche of another person. You never know how a fighter will react to a loss until it happens. Some never come back the same way or are done mentally and emotionally.

For example, we haven’t seen Deontay Wilder in the ring since being stopped by Tyson Fury. All of his eccentric accusations accentuate the toll that loss took on him. He’s 35 years old and spent more than a year inactive. His belief in his mythic power may be shattered forever.

Ortiz has everything going for him. Commend him for wanting to fight the best, but allow him to grow and learn. He’s got time and should use it. Young champions make a great story sometimes, but they can also turn to tragedy too.

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