Over the past few months, the Worcester, MA native had been campaigning for a high-profile bout against the top names of the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.  From Shakur Stevenson to Devin Haney, Ortiz looked to match his skills against the best fighters in the world.  It was an old rival, however, who finally accepted the challenge. “To be honest, I don’t know how this fight came to be,” admitted Ortiz on The Final Bell podcast only 9 days from fight night.  “I saw Teofimo at the Benavidez vs. Andrade fight, and a few weeks later, I got the call.”
The fight has all the makings of a classic at a time when the sporting world’s attention is on Las Vegas. Only 3 days before Super Bowl LVIII and just down the strip from where the game will be played, 2 Latin-American fighters from the Northeast will face off for junior welterweight supremacy. “It’s a rivalry in the sense that we fought in the past,” says the 27-year-old, referencing their 2015 encounter when Lopez decisioned him to win the National Golden Gloves. “It was a very competitive fight, and we gotta get even on that”. Both fighters subsequently turned pro at lightweight, with Lopez fighting under the Top Rank banner while Ortiz signed with CES Boxing. Lopez’s ascent to championship gold came quicker, with the Brooklyn native knocking out then IBF champion Richard Commey in 2019 and following that up with a decision win over Vasyl Lomachenko to add the WBA and WBO straps to his ledger. ‘The Takeover’ lost his lightweight belts in his next outing to Aussie upstart George Kambosos.  It was his last fight at lightweight, as the 26-year-old moved up to junior welterweight for 2 bouts before dominating Ring and WBO junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden last year. Ortiz took a similar route.  ‘The Technician’ burst onto the national scene with a dominant victory over former WBO Super Featherweight champion Jamel Herring in 2022.  He followed up that impressive victory with a close decision loss to Lomachenko later that year. Despite the loss, Ortiz was given high praise from the media and Lomachenko, who recognized Jamaine as his toughest opponent to date.
Now co-promoted by Top Rank in addition to CES Boxing, Ortiz moved up to junior welterweight last year, outboxing Mexican veteran Antonio Moran over 10 rounds.  This set the stage for a showdown against Lopez, one of the biggest showmen of the sport. “He’s a great fighter,” admits Ortiz of Teofimo.  “I think he’s the best at 140 right now. I feel like it’s a harder challenge [than Stevenson and Haney], but I can’t take anything away from the guys at the top. They’re world champions for a reason.  It takes a lot to get there, but I feel like once I beat Teofimo, I’ll be the top guy”. The Technician sees a lot of similarities between himself and Lopez.  In fact, he believes {that a} key difference in the fight will be how Teofimo will react when faced with an opponent with similar qualities and strengths. “There’s a lot more similarities,” says Ortiz, “but the key difference is gonna be who stays under control, and I feel like I’m always under control”. Indeed, while Lopez can be as unpredictable outside of the ring as he is dynamic in the ring, the Worcester native of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent has a calm, cool demeanor that is more reminiscent of Miguel Cotto than of Feliz Trinidad.
However, that laid back nature does not mean that he is not as fast, tenacious, and technical as any fighter in the world, as Vasyl Lomachenko found out in their encounter. “I don’t think Teofimo really faced another fighter who’s explosive,” agrees Ortiz.  “A fighter who likes to jump off their feet to punch like he does.  He’s gonna have challenges with my speed and my movement.  I think it’s gonna be a surprise for him when what he’s used to doing to others is being done to him”. When asked if he believes that Lopez is fully focused on him, Ortiz dispels any notion that ‘The Takeover’ is looking ahead to fights against Terrence Crawford or Shakur Stevenson. “I’m preparing like he’s focused 100% on me,” says Ortiz. “I don’t care what he says on social media. I know my focus is on him, and my preparation is for the best version of him. My eyes are locked in on him like as if his eyes are locked in on me, even if that’s not the case.  That’s how I’m coming.” If his words are any indication, Lopez is sure to encounter an inspired Ortiz who is fully determined to bring the world championship back to Worcester, where his city will celebrate their newest champion.
“All the hard work has been done, and now we’re just putting everything together,” says Ortiz.  “I’m excited to fight for my first world title and ready to put on a show. You’re gonna see fireworks.  My whole city is behind me and they’re gonna have a nice celebration for me when I come back as champion. You’re not going to want to miss this fight.”