It’s always a good time to be in Texas and it’s always a good time to be a fan of the sweet science. However, perhaps at no other time in recent memory has it been such a great time to be a fight fan in Texas. The Lone Star State has been home to multiple mega fights and world title fights this year. Its home to pound for pound elite Errol Spence, Middleweight champ Jermall Charlo his twin brother Jermell and Former WBO champ Mighty MO Maurice Hooker who was likely involved in the fight of the year in front of his hometown crowd in Dallas. Now two new Texans are the two brightest stars in the entire sport. Just this month 21-year-old Vergil Ortiz scored a sensational sixth-round knockout over well-respected contender Anotonio Orozco in front of his lively hometown Dallas Crowd. A few weeks later on the other side of the great state of Texas, Rio Grande Valley native Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figeroa gave his valley fans an absolutely perfectly executed 5th round stoppage over a game and rugged Javier Chacon.
Every time I watch Vergil Ortiz he has me convinced he is the best young fighter, the best prospect in the sport until I watch Brandon Figueroa than it appears that the 22-year old Super Bantameright from Weslaco, Texas is the premier prospect in boxing. Deciding who has the brighter future between the North Texas Welterweight and Soth Texas 122-pounder is a daunting and tedious task as both fighters will certainly be multi-division world champs when its all said and done.
Vergil Ortiz is now a full-time 147-pounder and captured the WBA gold belt is a perfect 14-0 (14) and has knocked out two high-level fighters in Orozco who went the distance with Jose Carlos Ramirez less than 12 months ago. He also scored a brutal knockout over Mauricio Herrera who arguably beat Danny Garcia, and by arguably we mean clearly beat Garcia and was robbed blind, on the Canelo-Jacobs card. He has earned out “Prospect of the Year” award for 2018 and now needs a legitimate 147-pounder on his resume before fighting for a title. Perhaps two more wins and Ortiz, the WBA gold champ, will be ready for WBA World Champ Manny Pacquiao. If we were to play matchmaker we would first look at one of these three names, Jessie Vargas (assuming who agrees to make 147), Kell Brook with the same assumption or Sadam Ali. Get a quality win against one of those former champs, then an all Dallas showdown with Maurice Hooker in the big D, who will likely have a win at 147, would be a mega-fight in their hometown. Its a scrap that’s makeable and lucrative and the winner will be in great position to fight for a world title shot. Pick up a win over two of those fighters and he has earned a mega-fight/title shot against the legendary Manny Pacquiao which will set up a changing of the guard from the former legend to the new king. Ortiz has the style and skills to be the future of the 147-pound division which has been a big money division for the last 30 years or so. He has the power, skills and fan base of both Texans and Mexican Americans to be a major draw and potentially the face of the sport in the near future.
Brandon Figueroa captured the WBA Interim Super Bantamweight strap back in April of this year when he destroyed Yonfrez Parejo on the Danny Garica-Adrian Granados card. The Heartbreaker has put together an incredible resume of names for being just 22 years old. In addition to Parejo, he has stoppage victories over Chacon, Moises Flores, Oscar Escandon and Luis Roy Suarez Cruz who will fight Duke Micah this weekend on the Lara/Alvarez card. A very impressive string of knockouts for the kid brother from Weslaco. He is currently the number 1 ranked 122 pounder by the WBA and may want to wait or take one “get right” fight while waiting to be mandated and have his fight against current champ Daniel Ramon ordered by the WBA. After that, the 5’10 Figueroa, who already said making 122 is getting tough should move up to 126. At featherweight, he can test the waters against Abner Mares before making the mega fights against Leo Santa Cruz, which has “fight of the year” written all over it, and Gary Russell Jr. Figueroa’s path to being a division world champ and a pound for pound top 10 guy can realistically be accomplished in the next 12-18 months if all goes according to plan.
Vergil Ortiz and Brandon Figueroa are from completely opposite parts of Texas, one is from the bright lights of a big city in north Texas, the other is from a hardworking small border town in the valley. The two are however are on very similar paths and in very similar positions in the career, having minor WBA titles and are on the immediate verge of major world titles and mega fights in the very near future. The reaction of both commentators following their knockout victories was exactly the same. On the DAZN telecast, Sergio Mora told us Ortiz’s “performance was an A+” and on the FS1 telecast, Mancini recited the same exact sentiment “It’s an A+ performance” With more A+ performance on their way, both fighters will certainly be multi-division world titleholders, there’s no question about that. The only question is who will get their first and who will accumulate more titles?