If we are pondering guys who had a good deal of momentum going, and then sputtered, and stalled out, Vergil Ortiz Jr has to be in the mix. In 2019, his profile was on the ascent, the Texas-based welterweight stopped Mauricio Herrera (click here to watch that one), Antonio Orozco (see here, Steve Kim then at ESPN was gushing) and Brad Solomon (click here to watch that fight), no, no Hall of Famers among them. And yes, some brows were raised when Vergil weighed over the welterweight limit and needed to do a quick cut to make 147.
Check out this piece I wrote for Bad Left Hook at the start of 2019. Not gush-y, but interesting to see some of the thinking that was bandied about 3 plus years ago.
So, the Texas prospect was busy, at least as far as this era goes, and it looked like Golden Boy would have a fighter moving into the bigger-stakes bouts pretty soon. Fans contemplated how Vergil might do against Errol Spence, in an all-Texas shootout, and Vergil Ortiz Jr lobbied to face vet Keith Thurman, signaling he wanted to step it up.
Then the activity fell off. His first start in 2020 came in July, and yes, of course, we know that a Covid's presence messed with the sport as a whole. The on-the-come up fighter stopped Samuel Vargas, another tester type.
And chatter bubbled up, Vergil Ortiz Jr and Spence yapped. Vergil had a rep as a soft spoken guy, but he got mileage out of asking for top guns.
“I want to fight Crawford,” Ortiz said before the Vargas bout. “He’s a very skilled fighter, arguably among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world today, and very smart. I’m very open to fighting him. That’s probably the easiest fight to make in boxing right now.
“I’m ready to take any opportunity thrown my way. I understand how hard it is to make big fights these days so if I received an offer to face Crawford, I would take it.”
Near the end of 2020, Vergil Ortiz Jr signed on with manager Rick Mirigian and joined a crowd at MTK…and with Canelo jetting from Golden Boy, that seemed to pave the way for a propulsive move up the ladder at 147.
But VOJ was not seen in the ring until March 2021, when he took his stiffest on paper test, in Maurice Hooker. Vergil, now 22, passed that test, upping his record to 17-0, with 17 KOs.
He got in another bout in September of 2021, another solid opponent, in Egidjius Kavaliauskas, and stayed perfect, at 18-0, his KO streak intact. He managed to claw his way out of a hard second round, when his chin and mental toughness got tested. Our Gayle Falkenthal wrote up the bout.
Then came…issues, maybe you can say. In November 2021, Vergil Ortiz Jr parted ways with trainer Robert Garcia. He'd worked with Joel Diaz, to get to 9-0, and jumped ship to Garcia. Some flak got thrown at Vergil Sr, for maybe being too handsy on the kid's career. GBP matchmaker par excellence Robert Diaz spoke to NYF managing editor Abe Gonzalez about Vergil's place in the game, and he didn't sound an alarm or hint at any obvious impediments.
And maybe it's no big thing that there seems to be an issue with finding that sticky fit with a trainer; Ortiz Jr flirted with Eddy Reynoso, but announced that wouldn't work, because Eddy had too many balls in the air. Vergil Sr would do the chore, assisted by Manny Robles, that's what we heard ahead of the Ortiz match versus Michael McKinson (21-0, just 2 KOs), set for March 19. On March 15, though, word dropped that the fight was off. Vergil had a medical issue, rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that can lead to kidney damage. Seems like his body is all good, though, because the fight against the Brit with the fancy record built off of so-so competition is on again.
Maybe it's just a perfect storm of imperfection, maybe the little lull in the progress of the VOJ train can be chalked up to a mix of Covid, and boxing politics, and excessive focus on maneuvering by management on landing that big-bucks step up fight…Maybe the fight and a win over McKinson will be the right medicine, so Vergil Ortiz Jr and fans of his can get back more of that 2019 energy.
Here is the release Golden Boy sent out to spread word on Vergil's ring return:
VERGIL ORTIZ, JR. VS. MICHAEL MCKINSON IS SET FOR SATURDAY, AUGUST 6 AT DICKIES ARENA IN FORT WORTH, TX
STREAMING LIVE WORLDWIDE ON DAZN
Tickets Go On Sale Tuesday, June 21st @ 8:00 a.m. PT / 10:00 a.m. CT / 11:00 a.m. ET
LOS ANGELES, CA (June 16, 2022): Knockout sensation and the pride of Grand Prairie, Texas, Vergil Ortiz Jr. (18-0, 18 KOs), will make his grand return to the ring on Saturday, August 6, taking on top 10 ranked, undefeated welterweight contender Michael “The Problem” McKinson (22-0, 2 KOs) of Portsmouth, Great Britain. The 12-round welterweight fight will take place at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, and will stream live worldwide, exclusively on DAZN.
Tickets for Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs. McKinson go on sale Tuesday, June 21st at 8:00 a.m. PT / 10:00 a.m CT / 11:00 a.m. ET and are priced at $275, $137.50, $82.50 and $44 not including applicable service charges. Tickets will be available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, DickiesArena.com and GoldenBoyPromotions.com.
“I am very happy to be stepping back into the ring again,” said Vergil Ortiz, Jr. “I’m ready to show the world once again why I’m ready for a world title.”
“I’m getting what I deserve,” said Michael McKinson. “I was prepared to fight Vergil Ortiz, Jr. before; now, I have been given the opportunity again to prove I am the best in this division.”
“Vergil Ortiz, Jr. is the most exciting welterweight in the world,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO. “We are happy that he is back, healthy, and feels 100%. Fighting in his home state, I can’t think of a better way for him to make his comeback and put on another great performance for his fans. He is one step away from challenging any world champion and he will prove it on August 6.”
“I am delighted that this fight has come back around for Mikey,” said Eddie Hearn, Chairman of Matchroom Boxing. “He suffered disappointment in March when Vergil Ortiz Jr was forced out of the fight, but thanks to a lot of hard work all round, he was able to fight in LA and gathered valuable experience by making his US debut and all that comes with it – so there will be no surprises for him in Fort Worth. Vergil is an exceptional fighter, one of the best rising stars in the sport, but we believe Mikey has the style to cause him a lot of problems, and this could be his break-out night.”
“First of all we are just happy that Vergil Ortiz Jr is fit, healthy and ready to get back in the ring,” said Ed Breeze, EVP Rights at DAZN. “Vergil is one of the most exciting fighters in boxing and in Mckinson he will be fighting a serious contender in the division. Expect fireworks August 6th, live worldwide on DAZN.”
“Dickies Arena is thrilled to host the 12-round welterweight fight in what will be one of the most exciting and gripping fights between hometown sensation Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Great Britain’s undefeated Michael McKinson. Fort Worth is in for an action-filled fight night and Dickies Arena is ready,“ said Matt Homan, President and General Manager of Dickies Arena.
Vergil Ortiz Jr. boasts a perfect knockout undefeated record and is considered one of the most exciting fighters in the welterweight division. Originally scheduled to return to the ring on March 19 in Los Angeles against Michael “The Problem” McKinson, Ortiz, Jr. suffered a medical emergency that forced him to pull out of that fight. Fortunately, the fighter is now 100% healthy to return and is looking to make an impressive comeback in front of his hometown when he faces McKinson at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX. Ortiz, Jr. was last seen in the ring in a fantastic TKO victory against world title contender Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas in August 2021. In addition, he has faced and won against some of the toughest fighters in the division, knocking out contenders like Antonio “Relentless” Orozco, Brad “King” Solomon, and Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker.
Ranked as one of the top 10 best welterweights in the world, Michael McKinson is an undefeated fighter ready to face any contender in the division. Hailing from Portsmouth, Great Britain, the 27-year-old made his US debut on March 19, defeating Alex “Chi-Town Heat” Martin after a last minute change due to the cancellation of Ortiz, Jr. vs. McKinson. Now a notable name in the boxing scene, McKinson has enjoyed an accomplished career capturing titles including the WBC International Silver Welter Title and the WBO European and Global Welter titles. Now, the UK fighter will be looking to show that he has what it takes to defeat Ortiz, Jr. in his home turf and prove he belongs among the division's elite.
Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs. McKinson is a 12-round welterweight fight presented by Golden Boy in association with Matchroom Boxing. The event is sponsored by Hennessy “Never Stop. Never Settle”. The fight will take place on Saturday, August 6 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX, and will be streamed live worldwide on DAZN.