British welterweight Michael McKinson suffered the first professional defeat of his career in the early hours of Sunday morning when he was stopped early in the ninth-round against the unbeaten Vergil Ortiz Jr.
The Portsmouth man showed courage and, unlike many who have previously shared a ring with the twenty-four-year-old Texan, McKinson displayed a clear desire for victory as opposed to merely looking for a means of survival. The Brit started sharp and landed clean regularly against Ortiz, but the home man remained undeterred and persisted with constant pressure as he looked to pin the slippery McKinson down. As the fight approached the halfway point, McKinson looked to be slowing down, the result of the constant bombardment of Ortiz Jr’s heavy blows. The American looked as fresh as he had at the sounding of the opening bell, determined to upkeep his one-hundred-per-cent knockout record in his nineteenth professional contest. McKinson continued to throw shots of his own, often opting to stand and trade with Ortiz Jr, a tactic bemoaned by his father in the corner between rounds.
It was clear before a punch had been thrown that if the Brit was to score an upset on away soil then he would have to get the young prospect’s respect to maintain distance between the pair, but Ortiz Jr. continued to plough forward in search of a breakthrough. McKinson was gutsy throughout despite the notorious punching power of Ortiz Jr, but the final thirty seconds of the eighth saw a big moment in the fight when a whipping left to the body left the Brit doubled over, clearly badly hurt. McKinson climbed back to his feet and evaded the heavy puncher for the remainder of the round but the effects of the knockdown would be felt in the opening seconds of the ninth when another hard left to the body sent the Brit to the canvas again. The courageous McKinson regained his footing again but the incoming onslaught from Ortiz Jr. left the Brit’s corner with little choice but to wave the towel and save their man for another day. McKinson limped back to his corner, suggesting a possible injury to his lower body, but the predatory nature of Ortiz Jr. meant the end was surely nye either way.
While he will no doubt be disappointed after suffering his first loss, McKinson can be incredibly proud of the showing he put on in the backyard of one of if not the biggest puncher in the division. No man had lasted that long with Ortiz Jr., and few will opt to walk into the fire and trade punches with a devastating puncher with a perfect knockout record. The Brit will come again and will benefit greatly from the exposure of fighting at such a high level, both in a boxing and commercial sense.
The Golden Boy Promotions undercard saw a comfortable victory for unified flyweight champion Marlen Esparza over ten rounds against Eva Guzman, while former Ortiz Jr. opponent Maurice Hooker suffered a unanimous decision defeat to Blair Cobbs at welterweight which saw the former world champion Hooker down three times in the opening two rounds. Bektemir Melikuziev stopped Sladan Janjanin inside three rounds at light-heavyweight.