Vergil Ortiz Jr. KOs Maurice Hooker, proves he belongs among elite welterweights

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·2 min read

Vergil Ortiz Jr. had racked up an impressive record, reeling off 16 knockouts in his first 16 fights as he built a reputation as one of boxing’s best prospects.

But Ortiz had been handled carefully and hadn’t faced the kind of opposition that would prove he could hang with the welterweight division’s best.

On Saturday, he did and he proved he was up to the challenge at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ortiz outboxed former world champion Maurice Hooker most of the way and then picked it up when he needed to, dropping Hooker at the end of the sixth and stopping him 36 seconds into the seventh. Ortiz landed a right hand and Hooker took a knee, indicating he’d injured his right arm.

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But the way that Ortiz was fighting, it was going to be a matter of time before Ortiz ended it one way or another. Hooker was rejuvenated and used his reach to give Ortiz a good test. He made Ortiz break him down and didn’t simply fall prey to Ortiz’s bombs.

As they were fighting on the inside, Ortiz ripped Hooker with a short but powerful left uppercut that badly hurt him. He followed with a right that sent Hooker down in his corner in a heap with slightly less than 30 seconds left in the sixth round.

Hooker beat the count, but Ortiz only had about 14 seconds to go for the finish when the fight resumed and Hooker survived.

Ortiz showed the poise of a veteran in going for the finish when the seventh began. He knew Hooker was hurt, but didn’t swarm him and get caught by a big counter.

He caught Hooker with a right to the temple and Hooker immediately took a knee. That caused referee Laurence Cole to stop the fight and give Ortiz his 17th knockout in as many fights.

He proved without doubt that he belongs among the elite welterweights. But the division includes two of the best pound-for-pound champions in the world, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., both of whom were watching at ringside.

Whether he’s ready for the best of the best of the best remains to be seen, Ortiz proved without question he’s a world-class welterweight.

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