Is Vergil Ortiz Jr ready for Terence Crawford?
By Max Schramm: Vergil Ortiz Jr (18-0, 18 KOs) took a major step forward to ready himself for a world title shot against 147-lb champion Terence Crawford last weekend when he defeated the always tough veteran Egidijus ‘Mean Machine’ Kavaliauskas by an eighth round knockout.
While Ortiz Jr might not necessarily be ready to beat Crawford at this point, he’s got the ingredients to give him problems and potentially win.
The 33-year-old Crawford, with his 13 years of professional experience, he’ll be the favorite over Ortiz, but there’s a real chance he could lose. Ultimately, the Crawford – Ortiz fight could come down to which of the two is tougher and able to handle shots better.
Vergil Jr showed toughness against Kavaliauskas
Ortiz, 23, had to overcome some adversity in getting badly hurt in round two and seemingly coming close to being stopped by Kavaliauskas (22-2-1, 18 KOs) in their fight at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
The Golden Boy promoted Vergil Jr. expertly tied ‘Mean Machine’ Kavaliauskas up to keep him from finishing the job in the round.
For a fighter only 23, Ortiz Jr. showed the ring IQ of an older, more experienced pro by keeping it under control, not panicking, and making sure that Kavaliauskas couldn’t continue to land his shots.
Is Vergil Ortiz Jr. ready for Crawford?
“We saw a pretty impressive performance on Saturday night, stopping Egidijus Kavaliauskas in the eighth round, one round earlier than Terence Crawford did it a couple of years ago,” said Chris Mannix to DAZN on JABS. “This begs the question. Is Vergil Ortiz ready for Terence Crawford?
“Listen, there’s going to be debate whether you say yes or no, but if the kid himself, this killer, this young stud that’s knocking out everyone believes he can beat one of the best pound-for-pound boxers [Crawford] on the planet, hey, that’s all we need to know,” said Sergio Mora.
“Yes, I think he’s [Vergil Ortiz Jr] ready for him because he’s passed getting hurt with flying colors.
“He came back with discipline, fighting behind the jab, not going out there with a barrage of punishment that he normally goes looking for.
“That showed maturity, that showed that he evolved, and we know how he’s going to react now.
“We know how Bud is going to land his shots. We know that Crawford is going to hurt Ortiz, but now he knows what to expect. Yes, I think Vergil Ortiz is ready for Bud Crawford,” said Mora.
The jab that Vergil possesses will be a big problem for Crawford because he’s not had to fight anyone with that kind of weapon.
If Crawford chooses to stay on the outside against Vergil, it could be a difficult fight. Really, the only Crawford can win against Ortz Jr. is taking the match to medium range and unloading with combinations.
If Crawford does that, he’s going to be in the firing line of Vergil’s dangerous shots. Thus far, we haven’t seen Crawford fight anyone outstanding since he moved up to 147 in 2018.
The best guy Crawford has faced at welterweight is probably Jose Benavidez Jr., who isn’t a major talent compared to his brother David.
Is Vergil Ortiz Jr. ready for Crawford?
“I’m going to say no, but I’m going to say, I don’t care, because at some point, it’s sink or swim,” said Mannix on whether Vergil Ortiz Jr is ready for Crawford or not.
“Vergil Ortiz, at 23-years-old, does he gain anything from fighting journeymen-X and journeymen-Y in 2022? No, he really doesn’t.
“I think he’s reached the point where it’s time to face A-level competition. Golden Boy has done a phenomenal job of building him up to this point.
“He’s fought the likes of Samuel Vargas, a usually durable guy. He fought Maurice Hooker, a former [WBO light welterweight] champion, who has only lost at the highest level.
“Now, he has a win over Egidijus Kavaliauskas, a two-time Olympian, a decorated amateur, and a guy whose only loss came against Terence Crawford.
“So, I would probably favor Crawford rather significantly in that fight, but I don’t care. Even if he [Vergil Jr.] loses, he takes something away from it,” said Mannix.
“Even if he [Ortiz Jr] loses, look what happened to Canelo Alvarez after he lost to Floyd Mayweather. You fight the best; you take something positive away from it,” said Mannix.
Canelo Alvarez learned from his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013 to improve and become a much better fighter. However, Canelo had the size and power advantage against Mayweather.
He wasn’t facing a fighter that could potentially knock him out the way Vergil Jr would be in taking on Crawford.
Vergil can get one positive from fighting Crawford: he would become more popular, even in defeat. As long as Vergil makes it an exciting fight, he’ll come out of the contest more famous than before.
It doesn’t help Ortiz Jr to wait until Crawford is 36 to 38 before challenging him for his WBO title, considering that it would be giving the Top Rank promoted fighter a built-in excuse to tell his boxing fans should he lose.
The problem with waiting for Ortiz Jr. to pick up more experience before challenging for a title is that other fighters like Jaron Ennis are going to surpass him by fighting Crawford and perhaps beating him.
All the fame and credit that Vergil Jr. would get for being the first to defeat Crawford will be taken away if Ennis or somebody else gets to him first. Crawford is turning 34 next month, and he could lose to somebody soon.
Top Rank has done a good job of match-making for Crawford to build him up to where he looks invincible, but the fact is, he hasn’t been tested other than his fight with a much smaller Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014.
Crawford didn’t look good in that fight until Gamboa lost his composure in the fifth round when he slipped on the canvas the referee ruled it a knockdown. Up until that time, Gamboa was getting the better of Crawford.
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