Orlando, FL – In 2003, Jose Antonio Rivera flew more than 3,000 miles from his backyard in Worcester, MA, to the middle of Berlin and won a narrow majority decision over unbeaten hometown fighter Michael Trabant to capture the vacant WBA world welterweight title, a rare – but not impossible – feat amidst the duplicity and deceit that often overshadows boxing.
Worcester is affectionately known as the “Heart of the Commonwealth,” an industrial city that earned its reputation at the turn of the century through long hours of physical, backbreaking labor by those who worked textile mills and factories, so it’s no surprise Worcester fighters do their best when forced to dig deep and grind when it matters most.
Worcester’s Jamaine “The Technician” Ortiz (14-0, 8 KOs) – the brightest among a city filled with great up-and-coming talent – hopes to carry the torch Saturday, April 24 when he makes his long-awaited network television debut in an eight-round fight against fellow unbeaten lightweight Joseph Adorno (14-0-1, 12 KOs), streaming live on ESPN+ beginning at 6 pm ET from the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, FL.
Facing the greatest challenge of his pro career, the 24-year-old Ortiz must channel the soul of 19th century Worcester and deliver the type of performance one would expect from a hard-working father and union carpenter accustomed to putting his hands to use both in and out of the ring.
“I’m built for this,” Ortiz said. “Whether I have to fight on the road, or travel to fight in someone’s backyard, it’s a risk, but I’m not concerned about that. I’m just going to be the best I can be and never run away from any challenges.”
The card, promoted by Top Rank, features a handful of exciting bouts, including WBO World featherweight champion Emanuel Navarette (32-1, 24 KOs) defending his title against challenger Christopher Diaz (26-2, 16 KOs) and a 10-round super lightweight showdown between Josue “The Prodigy” Vargas (18-1, 9 KOs) and Willie Shaw (13-2, 9 KOs). The main card airs live on at 10 pm ET on ESPN.
To watch Ortiz-Adorno live, sign up for ESPN+ for $5.99 a month or $59.99 for an entire year at ESPN.com, ESPNplus.com, or via the ESPN app for mobile and connected devises. ESPN+ is also available as part of The Disney Bundle, which also includes Disney+ and Hulu. Subscriptions range from $12.99 to $18.99 per month.
Why this fight – and why now – just six months after his scintillating knockout win over Sulamain Segawa in California on the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. fight?
“My time is now,” Ortiz said.
The reigning WBC Youth and USNBC Silver champion turns 25 later this month. He’s in the fifth year of his professional career. Everything is lined up the way he wants it as he begins what he considers a make-or-break 2021.
Ortiz isn’t like those fighters who only talk the talk when it comes to dreaming of championship glory. Since his days as an amateur, trained by the great Carlos Garcia, traveling the world to fight the best in his weight class, Ortiz envisioned everything he’s experiencing now. When he talks about each step leading to something greater, each move as a building block for the future, his words carry weight – he knew at 18 what he’d experience at 21 and beyond.
Just days after his win over Segawa – a fight viewed by an estimated 1.6 million who purchased the card on pay per view – Ortiz achieved instant celebrity status in the boxing world; his followers on social media nearly tripled and his inbox flooded with hundreds of unsolicited messages, all clamoring to find out more about this soft-spoken “technician” from Worcester.
“My vision is just so far ahead, and I’m so far ahead of myself sometimes that none of it was surprising to me,” Ortiz said. “I’ve manifested all of this, day by day, fight by fight. I literally said before I signed my first professional contract that it would happen just like this. I’m just glad it’s finally coming to fruition.”
While some fighters speak with a level of confidence that borders on arrogance, Ortiz’s self-assurance veers in the opposite direction; there’s humility and gratitude in every word, enough to convince you Ortiz is not only two, three, or four, but rather several steps ahead of the competition. He genuinely believes the best is yet to come, not because he expects it to be handed to him, but because he’s worked for every inch and every advantage.
When talking about the opportunity ahead of him this weekend, Ortiz chuckles. He knows what’s at stake. Not everyone gets the chance to fight on this stage, even those with more accomplished amateur backgrounds, or lucrative financial backers. Ortiz earned it the hard way, and there’s zero chance he’s letting it slip through his grasp without leaving it all in the ring on Saturday night.
“I watched a video recently about how not everyone gets that turn in life, and how you have to take advantage of it. That really hit me,” Ortiz said. “This is my turn, and not everybody gets it, so you’ve got to make the most of it. I’m chasing a legacy, in a sense – a story. My story hasn’t been a cakewalk. I’m willing to face whoever I have to face to get to where I want to be.”
In boxing, where the athletes’ shelf lives are much shorter than in other sports, fights like this take on an understandable heightened sense of importance. Ortiz knows this. The plan he’s envisioned – the road he’s mapped out since Day 1 – also includes life after boxing, one in which a lengthy reign of dominance and potential earnings will make every current-day sacrifice worth the struggle. The “technician” who burst into living rooms across the world in November is poised to make an even greater impact Saturday against the dangerous Adorno, who, like Ortiz, built his foundation in the amateurs.
Worcester, no matter the generation, will always be the “Heart of the Commonwealth,” and its fighters don’t back down from a challenge, regardless of where their journey takes them. Ortiz has history – and an entire city – on his side this weekend.
“Boxing is time-limited. You can’t box your entire life,” Ortiz said. “You hit your prime and you have a couple of great years ahead of you, then you start to wind down. I hope to make a couple of bucks and make all of those beginning sacrifices worth it. I’m in this now 100 percent. It’s my time, and time is limited, so I have to get in early, chase those titles, and take over for as long as I can.”
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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