VERGIL ORTIZ JR says he is one hundred per cent ready to fight having suffered from serious health issues.
The 25-year-old will finally face Eimantas Stanionis in a battle of unbeaten welterweights on July 8 at the AT&T Centre in San Antonio.
Both men have had to battle back from conditions which hospitalised both and postponed the fight dates of March 18 and April 29. Ortiz fought off the blood disorder condition rhabdomyolysis as well as long Covid while Stanionis was forced to undergo appendectomy surgery.
Speaking to the Big Fight Weekend podcast Ortiz Jr says he has a clean bill of health.
“My health is great. It’s honestly one hundred percent.”
Ortiz detailed his health troubles which he revealed go back three years. The highly touted 147lbs fighter has fought four times in that period and believes his performance levels have only been at sixty per cent since overcoming Covid to fight Samuel Vargas.
“I tell you how it felt after Covid,” Ortiz began explaining.
“First fight after Covid was Samuel Vargas and if you pay attention to the post-fight interview, the interview probably happened five minutes after the fight, I literally could not talk, I could not breathe. Ever since that happened I noticed it in my training. I was getting tired in the first, second round, it was a struggle and leading up to the [Maurice] Hooker fight I got Covid again a month before, maybe two three weeks before. I had to train like that, I thought I was gonna die, I’m not exaggerating.”
Remarkably Ortiz maintained his perfect knockout rate stopping Vargas, Hooker, Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Michael McKinson all before the 10th round.
“To be honest I didn’t feel that strong in the fight,” Ortiz said of facing Hooker.
“Even in my last sparring they didn’t really want me to fight. I went through all this s***. I just had Covid, I sparred through Covid. I didn’t look horrible in sparring. I’m always gonna keep some technical ability because I do what I do but I wasn’t one hundred per cent I was probably a good sixty I would say but I knew I still had it in me to win.”
“I don’t think I looked too bad in the Mean Machine (Egidijus Kavaliauskas) fight,” he continued. “It was just a long time coming. My body was just not recovering after that. I wasn’t giving it time to recover.”
Ortiz admitted he was thankful that McKinson was not a “power puncher or relentless fighter”, in his words. The underdog delivered a typically admirable British performance but wasn’t good enough on the night eventually being stopped in the ninth.
“I definitely didn’t feel strong in that fight,” Ortiz recalled.
“I feel like I was the worst I had ever went into a fight. That was the first fight where I was hitting the mitts in the locker room and there was no explosion. I was like ah damn. I talked to McKinson, he was a good fighter and I feel like I’m lucky it was against him because he’s not a power puncher, a relentless fighter. I feel like I got lucky it was not someone else.”
Ortiz and Stanionis both need to at their absolute best to beat one another on Saturday. Each possess the aggression, punches, and heart to create a fight of the year contender which won’t be possible if health conditions still exist.
With the welterweight super-fight between Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford taking place three weeks later the July 8 winner will be in a good spot to lead the new generation at 147lbs.
“We’re like the new class coming up. We’re gonna be ruling for a while, too,” Ortiz commented.
His perfect knockout rate will face its biggest challenge against Stanionis. The Lithuanian isn’t one to be easily pushed around and proved in his last fight against Radzhab Butaev 14 months ago that he is willing to push through the toughest moments in a fight to get his hand raised. Ortiz was asked if he believes he can stop Stanionis.
“He’s a tough fighter so I’m not gonna say that I am gonna knock him out because I truly don’t know,” he answered.
“Will I take the opportunity if I see it? Of course, as everyone else will. This is even me trying to be humble. This is a tough fight. I truly don’t know.”