2024 boxing begins at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas this Saturday evening, and the highly regarded Vergil Ortiz Jr returns to the ring and moves up to super welterweight for a scheduled twelve rounder against Ghana’s Fredrick Lawson.
Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy promote Ortiz Jr vs Lawson, whilst DAZN televise the bill worldwide.
Ortiz Jr (19-0, 19 KOs) has seen his career turn stop-start of late, as he has battled a liver condition named rhabdomyolysis, but it’s a fight that he seems to be coming to terms with, and he looks to make an assault on the world title scene in 2024.
The Texan has yet to hear the final bell in a 19-fight career, and after a run as WBA Gold champion at welterweight, the 25-year-old blasted out former world champion Maurice Hooker in seven rounds to win the vacant WBO International strap.
A dominant defence followed with an eighth round win against Egidijus Kavaliauskas in August 2021, and he was slated to face Michael McKinson in March 2022, only for his liver condition to stop him in his tracks at the final minute.
Ortiz Jr would face McKinson in August 2022, and secured a one-sided ninth round stoppage win. He now returns at his new weight, with Lawson (30-3, 22 KOs) a carefully selected opponent.
The 34-year-old Ghanian has been a pro since 2011, but is yet to really make his mark, with all three of his defeats coming inside schedule.
After being halted in the tenth and final round against Charles Hatley in 2021, Lawson returned in January last year, taking a knockout win in his homeland before outscoring Esteban Villalobos over ten in Texas last April.
Ortiz Jr represents by far his toughest assignment to date.
Prediction: Ortiz Jr may need to shake off some rust in this one, but once he negotiates the early rounds, I expect him to take Lawson out around the halfway mark.
Davies battles Barroso
On the undercard, Hackney’s Ohara Davies still awaits his shot at world honours, as he is mandatory challenger for WBA super lightweight champion Rolando ‘Rolly’ Romero, but he vies for the interim version of the belt first against Ismael Barroso.
Davies (25-2, 18 KOs) has won seven fights on the spin since losing a 2018 stinker on the cards against Jack Catterall, and his last outing was in March 2022, halting Lewis Ritson in the ninth.
Barroso (24-4-2, 22 KOs) briefly reigned as WBA lightweight champion in 2016, but was knocked out in seven by Anthony Crolla, and he is coming off a controversial ninth-round stoppage loss to the aforementioned Romero in May.
The pair were due to meet last November, but Davies encountered Visa issues.
Prediction: Davies can get the job done on the cards here.
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The unbeaten Arnold Barboza Jr only saw action once in 2023, but it was a breakout points win against Jose Pedraza, and the Californian super lightweight can back that up against Xolisani Ndongeni (31-3, 18 KOs), who took Devin Haney all ten rounds in 2019, albeit in defeat.
Prediction: Barboza (28-0, 10 KOs) can win clearly over ten rounds here.
At welterweight, Mexican prospect Raul Curiel (13-0, 11 KOs) went ten rounds for the first time in his last contest, and he can bank another ten in a points win against Elias Diaz (12-1, 7 KOs).
Lightweight prospect, Jonathan Canas (2-0, 1 KO) can secure a third professional victory on points against Jose Valenzuela Alvarado (2-11, 1 KO).
Debutant Emiliano Gandara can start professional life with a points win over four at super welterweight against Isaac Matamoros (1-1).