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Vergil Ortiz Jr confident he can beat Terence Crawford, but focused on Maurice Hooker

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Vergil Ortiz Jr returns Saturday, but he’s itching to get a world title fight.

Vergil Ortiz Jr is a fast-rising star in the welterweight division, and the 22-year-old Golden Boy fighter is already sort of straddling the line between prospect and contender as he gets set to return on Saturday, March 20, facing former 140-pound titlist Maurice Hooker in a DAZN main event from Texas.

Ortiz (16-0, 16 KO) has his focus on Hooker (27-1-3, 18 KO), but let’s not bury the lede for most people here: Ortiz told Fight Hub TV’s Marcos Villegas that he also has his hopes to fight WBO titleholder Terence “Bud” Crawford, and is confident he can beat the three-division champ.

“Hooker is Crawford’s stablemate, he’s right there training and sparring with him. I think I’m fighting for a WBO international title in this fight, too. Crawford has the WBO belt. It makes sense. I’m piecing everything together. All the pieces fit,” Ortiz said.

“If I beat Hooker and they offer me (Crawford) right after, I’ll take it. is what I’ve been fighting for, this is what I want. And Crawford is about to end his Top Rank thing pretty soon, I think, with his contract. I don’t want to miss that opportunity. This is as easy as it can get to make the fight with Golden Boy and Top Rank. I would want to fight him as soon as possible.”

When it was pointed out that a lot of people would see this as too big a leap for the young fighter to make at this point in his career, Ortiz quickly cited recent history.

“A lot of people thought that about Teofimo Lopez with Lomachenko, and he beat him. Anything is possible,” he said. “And more than that, I think I’m very capable of beating Crawford.”

But the focus, again, is on Hooker. Ortiz is not known for having any ego or being any sort of “diva,” and you can truly believe he’s dialed in for the man in front of him. After all, if he doesn’t beat Hooker, he definitely isn’t fighting Crawford.

Though Ortiz is seen as a clear favorite in the fight, he makes clear that he doesn’t think it will be easy, and says that compared to his recent opponents — solid fighters like Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, Brad Solomon, and Samuel Vargas — Hooker brings something else to the table.

“He just kinda has that hunger and that pedigree of competitiveness to him that I don’t think I’ve seen in other fighters yet,” Ortiz said, and added that despite the 16-fight KO streak to start his career, he won’t go hunting for a stoppage.

“I’m not expecting the knockout, especially since I think he’s gonna move around a lot. I’m not gonna just mindlessly chase him down, because at that point it’s not gonna work out,” he said. “I’m just gonna fight him in the best way possible, and that might not be throwing power shot after power shot. I just have to make sure my punch placement is good. If I hurt him and have an opportunity to take him out, then I’m gonna take it. But I’m gonna be smart about it.”

Bad Left Hook will have live coverage for Ortiz-Hooker streaming live on DAZN, Saturday, March 20, starting at 9 pm ET.