By David Robinett at ringside
Photos: Emily Harney
In a dazzling performance, 21-year old welterweight prospect Vergil Ortiz, Jr. (13-0, 13 KOs), took a big step towards graduating to contender status, nearly decapitating the normally durable gatekeeper Mauricio Herrera (24-9, 7 KOs) and earning a stoppage 29 seconds into round three of a scheduled ten round bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The bout actually started very slowly, with both fighters feeling each other out over the first five minutes, Herrera understandably very cautious, throwing a few hesitant jabs while Ortiz did even less, taking his time to assess his opponent. The fight turned suddenly in the final minute of round two, when a big right hand by Ortiz rocked Herrera and started a flurry that ended with Herrera on the canvas moments before the end of the round.
Herrera, a former interim WBA super lightweight champion who had never previously been knocked out, appeared to recover for round three but having dropped his opponent, Ortiz appeared to realize Herrera was no match for him and proceeded to brutalize Herrera for the remaining few seconds of the fight. Ortiz stalked Herrera, landing some big punches before the finisher, a big right hook to the jaw that separated Herrera from his senses, not quite knocking him unconscious, but dropping Herrera instantly to the canvas in a crumpled heap. Referee Russell Mora didn’t bother with a count as Herrera’s corner rushed to their fighter to provide attention. The violent end, coupled with Herrera’s solid reputation as a tough out, likely vaults Ortiz into the conversation as one of the best young prospects in the sport.