LAS VEGAS — Vergil Ortiz Jr. continued to show why he is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in boxing on Saturday night.
Ortiz destroyed Mauricio Herrera in the third round of the co-feature of the Canelo Alvarez-Daniel Jacobs middleweight title unification fight at T-Mobile Arena. Herrera had never previously been stopped.
Ortiz Jr. (13-0, 13 KOs), 21, of Dallas, who was No. 4 on ESPN’s top prospects list at the end of 2018, looked impressive taking it to Herrera in the first two rounds and then turned out the lights in the third.
“I’m actually pretty proud of this fight. If you know me and kept up with my fights, I’m usually not satisfied with my performance,” Ortiz said. “I am very satisfied with my performance tonight. Everyone thinks that I don’t have all that experience just because I’m 13-0 now. People don’t realize I work in the gym hard every day. I spar world champions all the time. I’m not the one that goes to the world champions and say, ‘Hey, can we spar?’ They come up to me. And that’s the difference between me and the other prospects.”
Moments before the second round ended, Ortiz blasted Herrera with a right hand that badly hurt him. He followed with a dozen unanswered punches that sent Herrera to the canvas just as the round ended.
Herrera had not recovered when the third round began and Ortiz hurt him with every punch before landing a massive right hand to the head with a window-dressing left behind it that seemed to knock him out cold before he hit the mat. Referee Russell Mora waved off the fight without a count at 29 seconds.
Ortiz had only moved up to welterweight as an accommodation to Herrera (24-9, 7 KOs), 38, a former world title challenger from Riverside, California, and looked very strong at the weight. But Ortiz said he planned to return to the junior welterweight division.
“I want to go back to 140 and get that world title,” Ortiz said. “There’s plenty of champions that I believe I can take on right now, and I hope after this performance everyone believes in that. If they tell me, hey Vergil, fight in a world title fight in two weeks, I’ll take it right now.”
Diaz dominates Fonseca
Junior lightweight Joseph Diaz Jr. (29-1, 15 KOs), 26, of South El Monte, California, pounded Nicaraguan southpaw Freddy Fonseca (26-2-1, 17 KOs), 27, into a seventh-round knockout in their title elimination fight.
Diaz, who lost a decision challenging featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. in 2018, won his third fight in a row and second since moving up to junior lightweight.
He was the aggressor from the outset and landed numerous left hooks to the head and body. He also fired many solid jabs through Fonseca’s lackluster defense and moved his head a lot to avoid clean punches.
Diaz finally dropped Fonseca with about 15 seconds left in the sixth round after landing a right to the head and body followed by two lefts to the head. As Diaz continued to pound Fonseca in the seventh round Fonseca’s corner threw in the towel and referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 7 seconds.
“I felt really good at 130. This is my second fight at this weight, and I felt very comfortable,” Diaz said. “Like I said, 126 was just way too hard for me. I wasn’t able to showcase the power I actually have. Now I’m able to showcase my skills, my defense, my head movement, everything. I feel like I have it all at 130.
According to CompuBox statistics, Diaz landed 163 of 419 punches (39 percent) and Fonseca landed only 44-of-317 (14 percent).
After the fight Diaz called out world titlist Tevin Farmer, with whom he went nose to nose with in a verbal battle following the undercard news conference on Thursday.
“Tevin, where you at,” Diaz said. “At 130, I’m feeling strong, like a beast, and I’m going to become a champion, I promise you guys. I’m ready for a world title my next fight. I wanted to Tevin Farmer on this card. Then he started to talk all this smack. Let’s get it Tevin, let’s get this fight.”
Ryder wins interim title Akkawy
John Ryder demolished Bilal Akkawy in a third-round knockout victory to claim a vacant interim super middleweight world title.
Ryder (21-0-1, 17 KOs), 25, of Australia, was initially supposed to face former middleweight titlist David Lemieux, who was moving up in weight, but Lemieux dropped out three weeks ago because of a right hand injury and Akkawy (20-1-1, 16 KOs), 25, of Australia, took his place and was no match.
In the third round, Ryder nailed Akkawy with a flush right hand to the head and he went down. He was in rough shape when he got to his feet, and Ryder was all over him. He pounded him with numerous clean punches, including a right uppercut that snapped his head back. Akkawy tried to hold and threw a couple of weak punches to keep the fight from being stopped, but he could not hold Ryder off.
“I felt great all week ,and it showed in there,” Ryder said. “I’m delighted with the stoppage, but even more so that I didn’t panic or rush when I had him hurt. I picked my shots and put him away. To fight in Las Vegas was amazing, and to put on a performance like that, possibly the best of my career, makes it all the more sweeter.”
Ryder, fighting outside of the United Kingdom for the first time, was punishing Akkawy, who shares trainer Eddy Reynoso with Alvarez, with abandon when referee Jay Nady stepped in and stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 12 seconds. The win was Ryder’s fourth in a row by knockout since suffering a split-decision loss to Rocky Fielding for the vacant British super middleweight title in April 2017.
The win puts Ryder in line to challenge full titlist Callum Smith, his countryman, in a fight he wants.
“The message is clear — I want Callum Smith next,” Ryder said. “He’s got a fight on June 1 on the [Anthony Joshua] card, and if he wins that, I want to fight him next. I’ve paid my dues and got into position for it. Callum is a brilliant fighter, and I know it’s a tough fight, but it’s one that I want and I’d love. It would be a big fight in the U.K. and it would be a great fight too.”
Roach tops Oquendo
Junior lightweight Lamont Roach Jr. (19-0-1, 7 KOs), 23, of Washington, D.C., won a unanimous decision over Jonathan Oquendo (30-6, 19 KOs), 35, of Puerto Rico, in a rough, competitive fight. The judges scored it 97-92, 97-92 and 96-93 in a call unpopular with the crowd.
It was mostly an inside fight with the more powerful Oquendo getting the better of the action in the first half of the bout. He was warned for holding in the third round and continued to take it to Roach and had him in trouble briefly in the fifth round. In the eighth round, referee Mora, who had warned Oquendo previously for head-butting, docked him one point when he butted Roach again.
“From Round 1 to Round 10, I was feeling all of the head butts,” Roach said.
Roach had his best moment of the fight late in the ninth round when he connected a combination that clearly buzzed Oquendo and closed strong in the 10th.
“The fight played out good,” Roach said. “I think it could have gone better of course, but I’m glad we got this experience, to go up to the championship level. The only guys that beat him became champions, and I’m [going to be] one of them. He’s as tough as they come.”
Young stops Ali
Welterweight Anthony Young (21-2, 8 KOs), 31, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, scored the biggest win of his career as he knocked out former junior middleweight world titleholder Sadam Ali (27-3, 14 KOs), 30, of Brooklyn, New York, in the third round of a dominating performance. They slugged it out from the opening bell, but Young was clearly getting the better of the action.
In the third round, he laid even more punishment on Ali, who slumped over in a corner due to an onslaught of body punches. Young continued to batter Ali around the ring until referee Robert Byrd stopped it at 2 minutes, 38 seconds.
Ali outpointed Miguel Cotto in Cotto’s final fight in December 2017 to take his junior middleweight belt, but after losing it by one-sided fourth-round knockout in his first defense last May, he returned to welterweight to win a fight in December before being derailed by Young.
“New Jersey is in the building. I had a tremendous camp,” Young said. “He had a great win against Miguel Cotto, but after that he fought Munguia. I thought he lost a lot of confidence with Munguia. I saw his fight against [Mauricio] Herrera [in December], and he couldn’t pull the trigger. So when they offered the fight, I jumped on it. We’ll enjoy this victory now, and figure out what’s next later.”
Featherweight Aram Avagyan (8-0-1, 4 KOs), 28, of Russia, making his United States debut, got off the deck from a second-round knockdown to otherwise win a convincing unanimous decision over Francisco Esparza (9-1-1, 3 KOs), 24, of Las Vegas. It was not a hard knockdown, and Avagyan quickly collected himself and went on to win by scores of 97-92, 96-93 and 96-93.
Middleweight Alexis Espino (2-0, 1 KO), 19, of Las Vegas, who turned pro in February with a second-round knockout win, went the distance in a one-sided battering of Billy Wagner (1-1, 0 KOs), 26, of Great Falls, Montana. Espino beat him pillar to post for the entire fight in a shutout decision scored 39-34, 39-34 and 39-35. In the second round, referee Jay Nady penalized Espino one point for hitting Wagner with a right hand when he was down on the canvas. He did not count the knockdown either and gave Wagner time to recover.