Fresh off his big win over former Olympian and world champion Jamel Herring on ESPN, the Worcester native Jamaine Ortiz is now ranked No. 9 in the WBC among lightweights – the highest ranking of his career – positioning himself for a major opportunity to showcase his talent on the right platform in 2022.
"It feels great. It makes you step back and think, ‘Wow, time has really gone by,’" Ortiz sad. "It’s definitely an accomplishment, but even more of a motivator.
"The people around me feel happy because I’ve been with the same team since Day 1. I’m taking everyone with me. I feel people around me are proud and it gives them hope that, ‘Yes, you can make it out of here this way.’ The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere. I’ve proven that by consistency, hard work, pushing yourself, and taking hard fights, you’ll get there as well.
"I’m not shocked that I’m here because I envisioned myself being here," Ortiz continued. "I’ve been a world champion before having the belt around my waist. I know it’ll happen. There’s no question about it."
Ortiz, 16-0-1 with eight knockouts, is promoted by Jimmy Burchfield’s CES Boxing. With his decisive win over Herring on May 21 in Nevada, the 5-foot-8 right-hander has captivated boxing audiences with his diverse skill set and humble, soft-spoken demeanor.
Ortiz rose through the amateur ranks, compiling a record of 100-14 and competing in in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials before making his pro debut later that year. A former apprentice carpenter, Ortiz has won three major titles in just under six years, first capturing the WBC World Youth Championship in 2019 followed by a victory over Nahir Albright on Showtime to add the NABF title. And on a night in which he says he was inexplicably calm from the ring walk to the opening bell, he captured the USBA title with the win over Herring, ensuring a top-10 world ranking and a seat at the table among the sport’s elite lightweights.
Now is a great time to compete as a 135-pounder. The lightweight division has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years with stars Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, Teofimo Lopez, and George Kambosos Jr., among others, ushering in a new era of under-30 lightweights competing in the some of the sport’s most celebrated rivalries. With his new No. 9 ranking, Ortiz is just five spots behind Kambosos, the former WBA, IBF, and WBO world champion; seven spots behind Garcia; and eight spots behind No. 1 challenger Vasyl Lomachenko, who has competed at lightweight for the past three years after dominating the 126- and 130-pound divisions.
Haney currently rules the roost as the undisputed lightweight champion – the first in this division in the four-belt era – boasting all four major belts after upending Kambosos earlier this month, but title reigns have been fleeting in this current era of parity at 135 pounds; the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles have changed hands three times since October of 2020 with only the WBC belt, which has been held by Haney since 2019, having had any semblance of a permanent home in recent years.
What does it all mean for Ortiz? The unification of the belts by Haney gives the division more of a dynasty with one fighter sitting comfortably atop the throne, but the race to be next line is a tight one, with perhaps only Haney and Garcia as the logical choices to challenge Haney for lightweight supremacy. There’s also the issue of the rematch clause included in the original Haney-Kambosos contract, which Kambosos reportedly plans to exercise. Regardless, Ortiz is in the conversation and knows another impressive showing in his next fight – and beyond – will continue to position him the opportunity of a lifetime.
"The trend now is everyone wants to be undisputed," Ortiz said. "A lot of people think there are too many champions in boxing anyway, so it’s great in the sense that whoever wins gets all the titles and you’re truly the champion."
Until the next opportunity comes, Ortiz will stay sharp to ensure he’s ready when he gets the call. This week, he travels to Puerto Rico to work with one of his trainers, Alex Caraballo, and take advantage of a few marketing opportunities – podcasts, public appearances, etc. – as he continues to build his brand outside of Worcester and the United States. At No. 9 in the rankings, "The Technician" Ortiz is on the cusp of becoming a household name.
"I’m constantly trying to market myself and just improve each day," Ortiz said. "Puerto Rico doesn’t have a top lightweight right now and I feel I can be that lightweight champion. I hope they welcome me with open arms."