Vergil Ortiz Jr. looked across the ring Saturday night and saw one of boxing’s bureaucratic speed bumps.
For Ortiz to get any closer to a crack in a legitimate boxing championship, he first had to defeat Michael McKinson, who was modestly ranked by a few sports sanctioning bodies.
It’ll take more than a speed bump to slow Ortiz down.
Ortiz extended his strong start to the year and won via technical decision with a ninth-round stoppage at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. And with his 19th knockout in as many fights, Ortiz showed why he’s one of the best welterweight contenders in the world – even if he wasn’t feeling his best.
“The first seven rounds, I really didn’t do anything good,” Ortiz said in the post-fight interview with DAZN. “I had to adapt in a big way. I should have listened to my corner from the start. But I listened and we did.”
Ortiz and McKinson were originally scheduled to fight in March. The fight was postponed when Ortiz was hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis.
Saturday’s fight, a few miles from Ortiz’s hometown of Grand Prairie, was considered a WBO eliminator. Ortiz (19-0, 19 KOs) will certainly retain his status as the WBO and WBA’s No. 1 contender in the 147-pound division.
But McKinson (22-1, 2 KOs) proved to be a tricky opponent. He was slippery outside the ring and manhandled Ortiz inside as well.
Eventually, all of Ortiz’s corner of bodywork requested at the start of the fight came through and paid off. In the final 30 seconds of round eight, Ortiz dropped the British fighter with a left hook to the body. McKinson similarly crashed early in the ninth round.
After limping around the ring, his corner jumped off the apron and threw in the towel.
Ortiz said his father, Vergil Ortiz Sr., yelled at him for three rounds for not following the fight’s game plan. The 24-year-old’s stubbornness finally gave way to sound advice.
“You think you know everything, and you don’t,” Ortiz Jr. said.
A path to a title remains tricky due to the landscape within the welterweight division. Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, who were at ringside on Saturday, hold all four major belts and are in talks for a potential undisputed title fight. In his post-fight interview with DAZN, Ortiz acknowledged that it will soon be difficult to get a title shot due to this impending match.
But when it comes to facing someone else, he will fight whoever that opponent is.
“As long as they’re involved in my journey to a world title, I don’t care,” Ortiz Jr said.
In the co-main event, Marlen Esparza successfully defended her WBA and WBC flyweight titles against Eva Guzman. Esparza controlled a high action fight and won a 98-92, 98-92, 99-92 unanimous decision.
Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) won her sixth straight fight since losing to current champion Seniesa Estrada in November 2019. Guzman (19-2-1, 11 KO) was a mandatory challenger.