Nick Peet: Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs Michael McKinson preview

August 4, 2022

MICHAEL McKinson believes he can deliver the performance of his career out in Fort Worth, Texas this weekend and take the spotlight from Mexican-American welterweight prodigy Vergil Ortiz Jr.

The Portsmouth southpaw puts his unbeaten 22-fight record up against Ortiz’s 18-0 card drawing confidence from the fact he stepped through the ropes for this fight back in March, albeit to face a last-minute alternate.

Whilst the 28-year-old Brit was dominating stand-in foe Alex Martin over 10 rounds in California, Ortiz was in a hospital bed suffering from rhabdomyolysis – a syndrome largely associated with muscle trauma that can lead to kidney failure.

Ortiz, 24, insists he’s made a complete recovery. But this week will be tougher than ever for the Texas native, who notoriously struggles to get down to the welterweight limit of 147lb.

His first fight will be with Friday’s scales.

“I lost a year. That’s a year I can’t get back. And it really sucks,” Ortiz said. “But I’m ready to step back in the ring again. I’m ready to show the world why I am ready for a world title.”

Ortiz also returns for the first time with new head coach Manny Robles after parting ways with Robert Garcia and Team Canelo. Robles, of course, guided Andy Ruiz to heavyweight glory over Anthony Joshua.

The betting odds are reversed this weekend, however. It’s McKinson with the underdog tag, not only fighting away from home but with a considerable disparity in power between the two men.

McKinson’s perfect record shows just two stoppages in those 22 victories. Ortiz has knocked out all 18 opponents to date.

“He’s a young lion,” McKinson said. “I’m here just trying to tame the lion. A win over Ortiz changes my life, it changes my city of Portsmouth, my team, my daughter and everyone around me.”

To have any hope of success, he has take a leaf out of the Greatest’s playbook and; ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ Footwork and jab are key.

McKinson must stay off the ropes, not allow Ortiz to set his feet, and utilise plenty of lateral movement.

The Brit doesn’t have the detonation in his punches to gain Ortiz’s respect when they both exchange. But he can fire out the jab and a left-hand lead to frustrate Ortiz and his home fans.

The Brit has been written off before, his lack of power seen as a ceiling on his career trajectory. But he’s yet to lose in 22 fights and crucially knows how to win on the back foot.

World class Ortiz, of course, is many levels above any man McKinson has stirred down before. And after 12 months of frustration out of the ropes, the Texan is fired up to remind boxing of his superstar potential.

Let’s face it, 12 rounds in the hot, sticky summer of the American south-west will be incredibly taxing on a gameplan based on movement. And Ortiz is used to stalking his prey.

He’ll sacrifice rounds if he has too to focus on going to the body early and slow McKinson down. After the midway point, he’ll up the tempo and start gunning for the chin.

TIP: Ortiz Jr by KO 7-9