Welterweight Vergil Ortiz Jr. of Grand Prairie, Texas (18-0, 18 KOs) loves a good guitar lick. Fitting then how the 23-year-old rocked and rolled his way to an impressive 18th straight knockout win in 18 fights, stopping Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas, a California-based Lithuanian (22-2-1, 18 KOs) in the last second of the eighth round.
Kavaliauskas suffered his second loss after being stopped by Terence Crawford in nine rounds. The Crawford performance stood as the comparison by which Ortiz Jr.’s performance Saturday would ultimately be judged. Ortiz Jr. scored three knockdowns in the eighth round on top of a second-round knockdown for the win.
“My dad (father/co-trainer Vergil Sr.) told me the body shots would be the key to the fight. In that second round that’s when I caught him with the first body shot. That’s exactly what happened.” Later, Ortiz Jr. said the shot wasn’t terribly hard – but it was perfectly placed.
Asked about stopping Kavaliauskas more quickly than Crawford, Ortiz Jr. claimed he wasn’t aware of it. “Was it eight rounds? It felt like it was four,” he smiled. “It doesn’t really mean anything to me, Crawford and I are different fighters, with different skillsets.”
Although it was the left hooks to the body and head around the guard rendering the knockdowns, Ortiz Jr. used his power jab to perfection to set up his money punches. It looked like vintage Gennadiy Golovkin work, with a smaller man’s speed. Ortiz Jr. landed 79 total jabs in the fight, against just 37 for Kavaliauskas.
Kavaliauskas tagged Ortiz Jr. with several hard shots of his own in the second and third rounds, but once Ortiz Jr. settled in and let the jab go, he was in control of the fight.
“I faced a little adversity in the second round,” admitted Ortiz Jr. “There’s a reason there’s not a whole lot of people who want to fight me. I’m glad we fought a tough guy like Egis, he took the best of me.”
Oritz Jr. stayed patient when he needed to, not punching just for activity’s sake. He knows how to make his effort count, the definition of a key to successful boxing: effective aggression. Trainer Robert Garcia reinforced this in the corner early in the fight: “That’s your fight, Vergil! Don’t try to go inside too much.”
Garcia told Ortiz Jr. to release the body attack and in the eighth round, Ortiz Jr. scored his knockdowns digging to the body. Kavaliauskas is a tough customer, so Ortiz Jr. added a smart uppercut, and it all added up as referee Laurance Cole waved it off.
“I think I did all right. I got the win. I could have looked a little prettier doing it. I’m happy with my performance,” said Ortiz Jr., giving himself a B-plus. “I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t tell he was hurt until I had to chase him down. He does a really good job masking it.”
Total punches landed per CompuBox: 148 of 389 for Ortiz Jr. (38%) against 75 of 391 for Kavaliauskas (195). Ortiz Jr. landed 54% of his power punches to just 14R% for the Lithuanian.
Bring on Bud Crawford
It had to be asked, and Chris Mannix of DAZN did the honors: Is Ortiz Jr. ready to fight Terence Crawford? The polite young man’s response? A firm “Yes, sir.”
But Ortiz Jr. understands the circumstances aren’t in his favor, “There’s so much shit going on in boxing, I don’t even know what I have to do anymore. I’m ready to fight whenever. I don’t care if it’s Crawford, Spence, Pacquiao.”
Crawford had his eyes on the fight, tweeting his response.
They love throwing my name around. I love y’all too.😊 congratulations on the win @VergilOrtiz
— Terence Crawford (@terencecrawford) August 15, 2021
To date, Ortiz Jr. has passed every test set in front of him in short order: Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, Maurice Hooker. Now Kavaliauskas. If he gets a stay busy fight waiting for the champions to use the Welterweight Sorting Hat, Ortiz Jr. can be forgiven. What he shouldn’t do it sit around his house playing guitar licks waiting. Stay in front of the fans and let’s all enjoy ourselves in the meantime. Over to you, Golden Boy matchmaker Roberto Diaz.
Undercard results: Gutierrez wins trilogy bout; Felix Alvarado impresses
Roger Gutierrez of Venezuela (36-3-1, 20 KOs) successfully defended his WBA Super Featherweight title in a trilogy tiebreaker against Rene Alvarado of Nicaragua (32-10-1, 21 KOs) by unanimous decision. Scorecards were 116-112 X 2 and 115-113. It wasn’t the action fight fans hoped for. Gutierrez was content to let Alvarado come at him, offering selective power punches to push Alvarado back and keep him at distance. It was a disciplined approach and effective, if not the thrilling brawl fans hoped for after the pair scored three knockdowns between them in their previous fight in January. Both corners felt a greater sense of urgency through the fight than the men in the ring. Given it was a WBA title in play, you’d think the fighters would do anything to avoid letting the judges have a say. Credit “The Kid” Gutierrez credit for sticking to the game plan and seeing it through to the win.
Late replacement Israel Vasquez of Puerto Rico (10-4-2, 7 KOs) showed plenty of bravery but not much else against IBF World Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado of Nicaragua (37-2, 32 KOs). Referee Luis Pabon wisely waved off the fight at 2:50 of the first round. Although Vasquez was on his feet, he’d already taken serious punishment to the body, leading to a knockdown from a right hook. Alvarado promised to take care of business so he could tidy up and come back out to watch brother Rene’s fight. Mission accomplished.