Next Saturday night, Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN host a live card from the Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles. Undefeated welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz Jr. (18-0) takes on Michael McKinson (21-0) from the U.K. Not only is this a battle of the undefeated, but the winner could potentially fight for a world title by the end of the year.
This article focuses on Vergil Ortiz Jr. as he continues to put in the work which can lead to a world title fight in the near future. In 2021, Ortiz Jr. only fought twice, but it was against a tough Maurice Hooker (27-1-3) and an even tougher Egidijus Kavaliauskas (22-1-1). The question going into both fights was whether Vergil was ready for the next step towards a world title shot. Well, we know what the answer was as he passed both tests, but it wasn't easy.
I asked Vergil about what he learned after facing those two guys in 2021. Ortiz Jr. told NYF, “I wouldn't say I learned anything, but more so, it served as a reminder. The Maurice Hooker fight was the worst camp of my life. I had caught covid a month into it, and I hardly trained for that fight and told myself I had to dog it out to win. Before the fight, I was nervous, but when I got in that ring, I told myself that I am that guy and this is my ring. The same thing with Kavaliauskas, as I was pretty good for that one. He is a great fighter and probably one of the hardest-hitting guys I have been in the ring with.”
After the Kavaliauskas, one that saw Robert Garcia's son in the corner rather than Robert himself due to schedule conflicts, rumors started to swirl that Ortiz Jr. was looking for a new trainer. The story behind him switching trainers is well documented but what wasn't mentioned, especially from Vergil, was why the team decided to go with Manny Robles more than anyone else. Ortiz Jr. said, “We know Manny (Robles), and he is a good trainer who has led multiple fighters to championship fights. I like his gym, which has a great bag selection and variety. That's what I like. All around, I just felt like it was a really good choice. It just felt right.” Interesting answer as Ortiz Jr. went with what fit his training regimen and someone he knows rather than starting from scratch.
After glossing over the watered-down subject of his trainer situation, we got right into his opponent (McKinson), who is looking to make a name for himself by beating Ortiz Jr. Unlike some of the other fighters, Vergil doesn't get into the business of picking his opponents. He is more of a guy that is given the task and executes it when it's time to do so.
Ortiz Jr. told NYF, “I really don't know as the people who choose my opponents are my manager, my dad, Golden Boy, and I think DAZN has a say as well. We tried to stick some guys in there with me, and DAZN said no. They put guys in front of me, and I just take them out. I don't know the details on why he was chosen, but I would imagine it's because he is a southpaw. I wouldn't say it is a stay-busy fight because it's a dangerous fight. He is a tricky guy who will try to make me look bad. Even if I win, he is still going to try to make me look bad.”
Moving on to training camp, even when he was with Robert Garcia, Ortiz Jr. would do a lot of the conditioning in Texas while spending the last few weeks with Garcia for sparring and game planning. With a new trainer, would there be a change in preparation? Ortiz Jr. said, “I have been here for about a month. I've been training since Sept/Oct. It's pretty much the same as before; If I'm not training here, then I'm training in Texas.” This sounds like business as usual for the twenty-three-year-old from Dallas, TX.
During his training camp, he had the opportunity to spar current WBO Super Welterweight Champion Brian Castano. When asked about the sparring session, Ortiz Jr. grinned a little and said, “It was a really good sparring session. I was genuinely excited, knowing I was going to spar him that day. It was a really good experience, and that's all I can really say about it.” I enjoyed that answer from Ortiz because, like some of these other fighters who only put videos up of them getting the best of their sparring partner, he keeps it close to the chest as he should.
Noticing that he wanted to discuss something other than boxing, I asked him about his new white guitar and Mach 1 Mustang that he recently posted on Instagram. Ortiz Jr. said, “I love playing the guitar and listening to rock and pop. The car isn't a hobby, but I love my cars. I just like driving them. The guitar is a John Mayer edition PRS silver sky.” When discussing the guitar especially, Ortiz Jr. smiled as if it's one of the few things that really brings him joy outside of the ring.
Getting back to his fight on March 19th, I asked him what the fans should expect? Vergil told NYF, “Expect an interesting fight, and I'm really looking forward to it.” As you can tell, Vergil isn't one to feed headlines with shit talking but rather with impressive performances. I tried getting him to riff a little on the current champs if they were in the room, and he simply said, “I'm not a talking shit person, so I would probably just say, what's up.”
My Three Cents
Vergil Ortiz Jr. has the mind and attitude of a seasoned veteran, which is why the boxing world sees him as a future champion. A few years ago, I first saw him at The Belasco Theater in downtown L.A where I had a feeling, he was going to be a problem.
He had a nasty snarl when he threw his punches and carried on the demeanor of a fighter who is all business in the ring. Ortiz Jr. reminded me of a young Roberto Duran, and even today, he hardly smiles and seems to have a serious look on his face even when he is not. He is a throwback, and that type of attitude may get him to the mountain top sooner than later. And what does today's Vergil Ortiz Jr. say to the one from the Belasco Theater a few years ago? Ortiz Jr. said, “Keep training your ass off as it's going to pay off soon. It's nothing that he doesn't know either. I haven't made it yet, so I still have that mindset.”
Will this be a statement victory for Vergil Ortiz Jr, or will Michael McKinson ruin the plans of Golden Boy? Tune into DAZN next Saturday night and catch this exciting welterweight clash.