Vergil Ortiz Jr. could not have asked for a better scenario to send a message that he wants to challenge the very best.

The unbeaten welterweight contender registered his first win of 2021, stopping former WBO junior welterweight titlist Maurice Hooker in the 7th round of their all-Dallas battle Saturday evening at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. Hooker is a stablemate of unbeaten WBO welterweight titlist and pound-for-pound entrant Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (37-0, 28KOs), who was situated ringside in support of his close friend.

Ortiz—who hails from nearby Grand Prairie—eventually overpowered Hooker in a fan-friendly shootout, scoring two knockdowns en route to racking up his 17th straight knockout in as many fights. The hope on his side is that it was enough to get Crawford to look his way, although a much tougher fight is expected by his own admission.

“I don’t think I could take out Terence Crawford like that if we fought,” Ortiz confessed to after Saturday’s win, which aired live on DAZN. “If we do end up fighting, it will probably go the distance in a great, competitive fight.”

Crawford has held the WBO welterweight title since June 2018, though remains without peer as the combined result of his unquestioned talent and an inability to secure a fight with most of the rest of the best in the division. Ortiz is seemingly the only consensus Top 10 welterweight who is both ready to challenge the three-division titlist and also not price himself out of a such a fight should it ever get to the negotiating table.

The challenge was directly issued in a respectable manner when they were in the presence of one another, seemingly at a perfect time as Crawford does not have an upcoming fight scheduled.

“Let’s make the fight happen,” insists Ortiz, who turns just 23 this week. “I’m more than ready. There’s no one really willing to fight [Crawford]. I’m ready.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox