Vergil Ortiz Jr made his return to boxing tonight with a TKO-1 win over Fredrick Lawson, but it’s referee Tony Weeks who is, unfortunately, the focal point of the post-fight discussion once again.
Weeks was notably criticized last year for his stoppage call in the Rolando Romero vs Ismael Barroso fight, and is perhaps even more deserving of scrutiny for tonight’s decision.
Replays showed the call to be even more questionable than it appeared in real time, and that’s rarely the case. There just didn’t seem to be — from the TV angles — any need for Tony Weeks to call this fight off at 2:33 of round one.
Lawson (30-4, 22 KO) had been hurt a bit, without question, but the follow-up work from Ortiz (20-0, 20 KO) just didn’t seem to be at the level where a referee should step in in the first round.
Judge for yourself:
Lawson and his team were clearly upset by the decision, and DAZN commentator Gabriel Rosado pretty much echoed the thoughts of fight fans that Weeks stepped in far too quickly.
While Weeks did not speak on camera, interviewer Beto Duran did relay that Weeks said he stopped the fight because he saw Lawson’s eyes roll back on a shot. And to be entirely fair to Weeks here, he was the one who could have seen that, not the rest of us.
Ortiz felt the stoppage was fine, basically.
“I think he got saved. I was hurting him with all the jabs. I wasn’t really putting anything behind it,” Ortiz said, before beginning to go in on the crowd for booing. But he was quickly calmed by Duran, promoter Oscar De La Hoya, and trainer Robert Garcia, who assured him nobody was booing him, just the decision from Weeks.
Ortiz did quickly pull back on his train of thought, and continued to address the result.
“You guys know what I’m about, I love to fight. I wish I could have kept going, I need the rounds, but hey, I was hurting him with the jab, I stunned him with the jab and I didn’t even land it that hard. I’m sorry. But I’m ready for anyone out there.”
Ortiz had a clear call-out ready, too, and he didn’t talk any trash with it.
“There’s a lot of fighters that I want to fight. I know people would love to see this fight, so Tim Tszyu, with all respect, I would love to fight you,” he said. “I think you’re a hell of a fighter, and let’s make it happen. It’s all business. I’m a competitive person, I want to fight the best.”
De La Hoya, while not committing to the idea, said that Ortiz will even go to Australia to fight Tszyu.
Undercard highlights and results
- Ismael Barroso TKO-1 Ohara Davies: The 40-year-old Barroso takes the interim WBA title at 140 with this win, which came hard, fast, and clean, as he just flat-out chinned Davies, whose Golden Boy signing was truly a bizarre move from the company. Davies (25-3, 18 KO) just got totally blown away here by the uncle power of Barroso (25-4-2, 23 KO), who dropped Davies twice before the fight was stopped at 1:53. Simple and plain.
- Arnold Barboza Jr RTD-8 Xolisani Ndongeni: Barboza made his Golden Boy debut here. He’s really hoping he’ll be treated as a priority at Golden Boy, which could come in the form of getting him a pretty frankly overdue WBO title shot or, like, headlining a show almost nobody watches. We’ll see what “priority” can mean! Ndongeni (31-4, 18 KO) had no hope to win here, but he did come to fight. Barboza (29-0, 11 KO) just broke him down; he doesn’t have big power or anything close to it, but he was accurate and sharp and did progressive damage until it was stopped in the corner.
- Raul Curiel TKO-8 Elias Diaz: A pretty dominant outing for Curiel, who stays undefeated at 14-0 (12 KO). At 28, he’s old for the level he’s at, but he’s also entertaining to watch and a welcome presence on any Golden Boy card, and he keeps doing the job. You hope by the end of 2024, he gets to step it up after only fighting once in both 2022 and 2023.