Avila Perspective, Chap. 267: Vergil Ortiz Jr. and More


By David A. Avila

Vergil Ortiz Jr.

They say his name in whispers. Others search their memory to recall why the name stands out. And still others vaguely remember the name meant “danger.”

After more than 17 months the hard-slugging Ortiz (19-0, 19 KOs) returns to the prize ring on Saturday Jan. 6, to face Ghana’s Frederick Lawson (30-3, 22 KOs) in a super welterweight match at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.

DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

The last time anyone saw Ortiz in the prize ring was in August 2022 when he met England’s Michael McKinson in a welterweight clash in Fort Worth, Texas. They had been scheduled to fight earlier that year in Los Angeles when the lean, mean Texan was felled by an ailment that sapped his energy. He was forced out of the fight.

It happened three times to Ortiz, who had formerly caught ill during the massive coronavirus epidemic. No one knows for sure if that was the cause but how could it not affect the athlete. More than 3 million have died from the dreaded disease. A great number of survivors are still suffering the after-effects.

But he is back and at a heavier weight class.

“This is honestly the best I’ve ever felt,” said Ortiz at the press conference on Thursday.

That’s bad news for opponents.

But Lawson, who also packs power and agreed to move up in weight to face Ortiz, believes he can topple the Texan.

“We have a plan that will surprise everyone,” Lawson said.

Hard core boxing fans are always looking for the next great hope. The next great Salvador Sanchez. The next Sugar Ray Leonard.

At one time Ortiz was a lock.

Back in 2019, while Golden Boy prospects such as Ryan Garcia, Joshua Franco and others were still getting their feet wet, it was Ortiz who rampaged past two talented contenders in Antonio Orozco and Mauricio Herrera by knockout. Both retired after facing Ortiz.

It looked like the lean Texas fighting machine was about to force a showdown with fellow Texan Errol Spence Jr. or Terence Crawford for their welterweight world title belts. And just as the clamors got loud, his own body failed him three times within days of performing in the boxing ring.

But those days seem gone now that Ortiz is fighting at a heavier weight at 157 for this fight. Even Lawson is moving up.

“Boxing fans will really like this fight because both Ortiz and I are action fighters,” Lawson said.

For Ortiz, its an opportunity to remind folks the danger he presents.

“I am very motivated to put on a great show like I always do, and to show everyone that I’m still here.”

Promoter Oscar De La Hoya seemed more exuberant than usual.

“We’re proud to have Vergil launch our action-packed boxing schedule for the year.”


Also, El Monte’s Arnold Barboza Jr. makes his debut for Golden Boy. For years the ranked super lightweight contender was promoted by Top Rank and wanted a crack at Teofimo Lopez. He still has a Jones for “The Takeover.”

Undefeated welterweight Raul Curiel is also on the card.

R.I.P. Cameron Dunkin

Cameron Dunkin was always worth calling or sharing a conversation.

Sadly, it was pre-Covid that I last spoke to the manager of dozens of great fighters of the past like Mikey Garcia, Tim Bradley and Diego Corrales.

I remember it was at Corrales’s fight with Robert Garcia in 1999 that I truly got to know Dunkin. At the time Garcia was the super featherweight world titlist and Corrales was gunning for him. It was on the same card as Mike Tyson and Orlin Norris. Fans were disappointed in the quick ending of the heavyweight fight and some fans departed.

Big mistake.

Those that stayed watched Garcia and Corrales slam each other with punches from all angles in a battle that pre-dated Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. It was beautiful warfare and a fight Dunkin talked about for weeks.

Dunkin always could spot talent and he managed both Garcia and Corrales. The last time I saw Dunkin was at Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy in Riverside just before Covid hit. We spoke about some of his guys coming up and some of the guys of the past. He was a good guy and never seemed to hold a grudge against those who let him down.

Boxing can be a dirty business, but Dunkin was one of the good guys.