Making his way to the ring for this fight has always been the priority for Eimantas Stanionis.
Where that ring is located and whose fans arrive for the event were—and never are—a concern.
The three-month delay to proceed with his mandatory title defense versus Vergil Ortiz Jr. resulted in a change of hosting city but Stanionis still travels to his opponent’s home state. The pair of all-action and unbeaten welterweights will meet this Saturday on DAZN from AT&T Center in San Antonio—roughly four hours from the greater Dallas area where Ortiz is based but still a lot closer from anywhere that Stanionis can claim a fan base of his own.
“I am the champion but I go into the fight as the big underdog in everyone’s eyes,” Stanionis told BoxingScene.com. “It’s nothing new to me. It’s not in his hometown anymore but really it might as well be. It’s still his home state. I am the fighter from Lithuania as far as everyone is concerned. He is the guy from Texas. Everyone thinks he is going to win. Everybody is going to cheer him and they are going to boo me.
“I’m prepared. I like the underdog role, that mentality. I don’t even know any other feeling. In the U.S., I am always the underdog but I love it. Nobody knows me. I’m from a small country. It’s normal for me. It’s nothing new.”
Stanionis (14-0, 9KOs; 1ND) has fought his entire seven-year pro career in the U.S. but has always felt like the outsider.
The 2016 Lithuania Olympian—who turns just 29 in August—will actually make his fifth appearance in Texas and third specifically in San Antonio. It will also serve as his second straight fight in the Lone Star State, fifteen months after he won the WBA ‘Regular’ title in a twelve-round, split decision victory over Radzhab Butaev last April 16 at AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Injuries and illness on both sides delayed his ordered fight versus Ortiz (19-0, 19KOs). The two were previously due to meet this past April 29 in Arlington—minutes from Ortiz’s Grand Prairie hometown—but had to change locations due to venue availability for the new date.
Ortiz has stopped all nineteen career opponents to date, none extending the 25-year-old Texan beyond the ninth round. That came in his last night, when Michael McKinson lasted eight full rounds but was stopped 27 seconds into the ninth round of their August 6 DAZN headliner from Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
Saturday’s main event will mark the fourth straight in-state appearance for Ortiz, who enters his first title fight (though a secondary belt at stake) as a -500 favorite according to bet365. Stanionis is currently listed at +333 by the same sportsbook and is fine with the odds and crowd in his opponent’s favor.
“It doesn’t bother me,” insisted the happy-go-lucky Stanionis. “If my friend is fighting where all his fans are, we will all go and support my friend. It’s no different when I fight these guys. Vergil will have all his fans, all his friends, his family there the same way I would go to support one of my friends.
“Of course, I don’t boo the other guy. But I can’t control that. When I win, maybe they don’t boo me anymore. But we’ll see.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox