Saturday was a statement day in the world of boxing. Vergil Ortiz has proven that he can keep up with an established veteran and former world title in Maurice Hooker and continue to demonstrate the skills and strength that have made him one of boxing’s brightest young stars.
With a TKO in Round 7, Ortiz got into a serious title fight and spoke the name Terence Crawford in his post-fight media interviews.
“This win gives me more confidence,” said Ortiz after the fight. “I believe in myself now more than ever that I am ready for a world title. I would love the opportunity to fight Terence Crawford. If I got an opportunity, I would take it. I don’t care if I am ready am or not; I want this fight. “
Whether or not Ortiz is ready for ESPN’s # 1 pound-for-pound fighter is controversial, but Ortiz’s career results so far have been staggering. With 17 KOs in 17 fights that have never fought in the seventh round, his ambitions are clear.
But Ortiz wasn’t the only big winner on Saturday. Lawrence Okolie won a world cruiserweight title in his 16th professional fight and dispatched a former champion in Krzystof Glowacki. And after more than 500 days out of the ring, Artur Beterbiev continued his victories in order to successfully defend his WBC and IBF world championship titles and increase his record with 16 KOs to 16: 0.
What do these three victories mean? Ben Baby and Nick Parkinson break everything down.
Baby: Vergil Ortiz isn’t quite ready for Terence Crawford – but he might be close
“Virgil is young and up and coming,” said Maurice Hooker shortly after his loss to Ortiz on Saturday. “But it has levels. He’s good. But he’s not ready for Terence Crawford. To be ready, he just has to keep building up. He’ll be world champion one day.”
I have to agree with Hooker: Ortiz is good and he’ll be world champion one day, but maybe he’s not ready for Crawford just yet. Hooker touched Ortiz often enough to leave a mark and was able to put the 22-year-old to the test as he showed he continues to be a very solid and entertaining welterweight even after losing. Give Ortiz the honor of making the adjustment in the battle for the body, but to beat someone of Crawford’s caliber takes a very special feat.
While this fight may not be a very good idea in the short term, there is a way for Ortiz to reach Crawford in early 2022. When boxing politics can be ironed out, Ortiz is ready for some of the world weights on the roof of the Premier Boxing Champions. Ortiz wants a title shot in 2021, and who says he’s not ready for the current WBA world title list Yordenis Ugas, who has won three times after losing to Shawn Porter in March 2019. If Ortiz can win this fight and maybe take someone down like Danny Garcia or even a Josesito Lopez, he should be more than ready (and economical enough) for Crawford to seriously entertain the thought of a fight.
Also, let’s not forget that at some point Crawford will have to face bigger names. The boxing world can speak as loudly as they like about the elusive Errol Spence Jr. fight, but in the here and now, Crawford desperately needs a match with Shawn Porter if he is to maximize his career earnings. Ortiz is in a hurry to build credibility, and if there’s a boxer with a name who is actually ready to fight Crawford, he’s in no position to say no to a meaningful fight. Crawford is also too good and too talented not to retire with some marquee wins against some big names that bring him some nice paydays.
If the chance is too great for both fighters to miss, there is no reason why it doesn’t happen.
Parkinson: Beterbiev dominated and got some required rounds. What’s next?
Artur Beterbiev stops Adam Deines in round 10 to keep his IBF and WBC light heavyweight titles.
With 36 years and such a fan-friendly style, Beterbiev needs the big fights and the limelight without any further delays. After 519 days between the fights, Beterbiev showed that he had not lost any of his punishing target power in a stop win in the 10th round against Adam Deines on Saturday. It holds Beterbiev, who holds the WBC and IBF world titles, as the number 1 light heavyweight division, and an unification fight seems likely for later this year.
Perhaps Beterbiev against compatriot Russian Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs) will be the one to defend his WBA version of the world title against British light – heavyweight Craig Richards on May 1st.
Another unification bout that is easier to fight is Beterbiev against the winner of the vacant WBO title bout between New Yorker Joe Smith Jr. (26-3, 21 KOs) and Russian Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs) on April 10th Top Rank promotes both Smith and Beterbiev, which makes this fight more likely given that Smith – highlighted by Bivol two years ago – overcomes Vlasov.
Another Russian, Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29 KOs), 37, once feared world champion and number 1 in the division, is not the force he was, has problems outside of sport and has failed a drug test synthetic Testosterone in January. This fight seems unlikely for Beterbiev, but former master Jean Pascal (35-6-1) (38) is another great possibility as both are based in Canada. The chances of this final fight happening in the next 12 months are also pretty high – Pascal is the number 1 contender at the WBC.
Parkinson: What is Lawrence Okolie’s blanket after winning his first world title?
After winning his first world title in his 16th fight, Okolie’s cruiserweight time is likely to be limited. He will most likely fight as a heavyweight when he is eliminated for his 20th professional fight. How Okolie fares as a heavyweight is a different matter, but after Saturday’s impressive knockout win against former cruiserweight world title Krzystof Glowacki for the WBO belt, the Londoner expects to quickly unify the world cruiserweight titles becomes.
Okolie has grown into a much more polished boxer over the past few years, and he’s always had knockout power in one fell swoop, as evidenced by Glowacki’s right hand on jaw knockout in Saturday’s sixth round. Tougher tests await the IBF world title list Mairis Briedis (27-1, 19 KOs) from Latvia and the defending champion Ilunga Makabu (28-2, 25 KOs) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Cruiserweight isn’t as competitive as the divisions above or below, and Okolie has the potential to become the No. 1 world cruiserweight in his next fight if he makes the Breidis fight a reality. With Oleksandr Usyk in the heavyweight division, Okolie can become the next united world champion of the division after his own successful unification of all four major world titles.
“He’s so hard to prepare, he’s so tall, he’s so impressive,” said Tony Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs), WBC cruiserweight champion from 2016-2018, of Okolie.