August 2, 2021

Maurice Hooker: I’ve Gotta Be Smart, Can’t Lose Focus Against Young, Hungry Ortiz

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Maurice Hooker recalls a momentary lapse in focus costing him dearly during the sixth round of his fight against Jose Ramirez.

According to Hooker, briefly losing focus enabled Ramirez to hit him with the left hook that led to Hooker getting stopped while still standing in their 140-pound title unification fight in July 2019. The former WBO junior welterweight champion recognizes that he cannot afford to make a similar defensive mistake against an even more dangerous puncher March 20 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Vergil Ortiz has knocked out each of his 16 professional opponents and wants nothing more than to add an ex-world champion to his list of conquests. Hooker thinks he can out-box Ortiz and figures to approach Ortiz accordingly because he knows trading regularly with a younger, powerful welterweight wouldn’t be wise.

“I just gotta get in the ring and be smart, you know, do what I do best,” Hooker stated Friday during a virtual press conference to promote their fight. “And I know Vergil, he young, he hungry, and he coming with everything. And I just gotta be ready, 100-percent ready. You know, I can’t lose focus in this fight. I got my eyes on the prize, you know?”

The 31-year-old Hooker (27-1-3, 18 KOs) is undoubtedly an underdog against Ortiz (16-0, 16 KOs), but he is commonly considered the best opponent Ortiz has agreed to face in his 4½ years as a pro.

Hooker has lost by knockout just once and remains in his physical prime. He has boxed less than one round in the 18 months since he suffered his lone loss to Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs), yet he didn’t hesitate to take this difficult fight against an emerging star promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s company.

“To be the best, you’ve gotta fight the best,” Hooker said. “I mean, look at his record – 16-0, 16 knockouts. I mean, look what he done. He’s a good boxer, good movement, you know, and he up and coming. So, I felt like, for me, I gotta get in there and do what I gotta do.”

DAZN will stream the Dallas-area showdown between Ortiz, of Grand Prairie, Texas, and Hooker, a Dallas native who resides in nearby Forney, Texas.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.