Vergil Ortiz Jr. isn’t consumed with having to silence the naysayers over claims of his struggling to remain at welterweight.
How long he will have to wait for his first major title, however, could ultimately dictate how long—or soon—the time will come to move on to junior middleweight and beyond.
“I guess it depends on the opportunities I get once I win that belt,” Ortiz told BoxingScene.com. “If I have to wait for that second belt as long as I did to get the first belt, then I’ll probably be like, ‘Fuck this, I’m moving up.’ If I get another crack at another title soon after I win my first belt, then I’ll stick around for that.
“But I’m staying at welterweight until I get that first title. I want to be clear about that. Hopefully I don’t have to wait too long."
For now, the unbeaten knockout artist is content with further honing his craft as the welterweight title picture continues to take shape. The next step for Ortiz (18-0, 18KOs) is a return home to the greater Dallas area, as he next faces England’s Michael McKinson (22-0, 2KOs). The bout takes place August 6 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, mere miles from Ortiz’s hometown of Grand Prairie, Texas.
It comes at a time when rumors continue to swirl of a potential undisputed championship later this year. WBC/WBA/IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence (28-0, 22KOs)—also from the greater Dallas area—and WBO titlist Terence Crawford (38-0, 29KOs) are heavily rumored to collide later this November in Las Vegas, which will crown a true king but will also tie up all the belts for the time being.
That leaves fighters such as Ortiz to fend for themselves in the interim. With that waiting period came the opportunity to reschedule his fight with McKinson after having to withdraw from their March 19 clash after being hospitalized just ahead of fight week.
Original plans called for Ortiz to meet David Avanesyan (29-3-1, 17KOs) in a WBC final eliminator on August 6. It never made its way to a finalized contract, as Avanesyan’s side—manager Neil Marsh and Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren—and Golden Boy Promotions couldn’t come to an agreement in time to move forward.
It prompted Golden Boy to revisit the fight with McKinson, which gives Ortiz a fresh look at a southpaw foe—which of course he or any other welterweight contender will face regardless of who wins a Spence-Crawford fight. The challenge comes after back-to-back appearances in the greater Dallas area against local friendly rival and former WBO 140-pound titlist Maurice Hooker last March and former title challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas last August. It also gives Ortiz a chance to apply his teachings from new head trainer Manny Robles following his amicable split from previous and longtime trainer Robert Garcia.
“The more experience the better,” noted Ortiz. “Time will definitely be on my side, regardless. Spence and Crawford are in their 30s and I’m only 24 right now. We’ll get there when it’s time.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox