SAN ANTONIO – The silver lining to the ten-week delay for one of the year’s most anticipated fights is that it now helps create an unofficial welterweight season.
The five top welterweights in the world will all be in action this July, anchored by the Errol Spence-Terence Crawford undisputed championship later this month in Las Vegas. The rescheduled Eimantas Stanionis-Vergil Ortiz clash for Stanionis’ WBA ‘Regular’ title airs this Saturday on DAZN from AT&T Center, three weeks before the aforementioned pound-for-pound showdown and which raises the stakes for this weekend’s battle of unbeaten welterweights.
“I believe all eyes are on the welterweight division, more now than if we just fought on our own a few months ago,” Ortiz told BoxingScene.com. “There are several important fights going on in the welterweight division. We’re going to be in the spotlight.”
He and his opponent are in agreement with that line of thinking and the nature of their fight this Saturday on DAZN from AT&T Center, home of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.
“I love to fight but maybe this is why we had to wait,” Stanionis theorized to Boxing Scene. “When we were supposed to fight, [Spence-Crawford] wasn’t done yet. Now that Vergil and I are ready, so are Spence and Crawford. Maybe it was all for a reason.”
This weekend will also see unbeaten Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis (30-0, 27KOs; 1ND) in action. The top-rated boxer from Philadelphia will defend his interim IBF title versus Venezuela’s Roiman Villa, the only fighter among this group who does not appear in the top five of any independent boxing rankings.
Stanionis-Ortiz has been on everyone’s radar from the moment Ortiz knocked out Michael McKinson last August to become the mandatory challenger.
An inability between their teams to reach a deal forced a purse bid hearing last December. Separate medical issues for both fighters—emergency appendectomy for Stanionis (14-0, 9KOs; 1ND) and a return bout with rhabdomyolysis for Ortiz (19-0, 19KOs)—resulted in two postponements that pushed the fight from its own springtime weekend to the middle of a healthy summertime schedule.
In a perfect world, the winner of Stanionis-Ortiz would next challenge for the undisputed welterweight championship. Few believe that scenario—or one which has the Ennis-Villa winner advancing to the front of the line—will come into play. Rather, this weekend’s winner in San Antonio will likely gain near-universal recognition as the top welterweight in the world not named Errol Spence or Terence Crawford.
They also get to send a hell of a message to both participants of the July 29 superfight—and even to Ennis and Villa as they compete this Saturday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I believe so,” Ortiz said of that assessment. “I don’t there’s really any argument.”
Stanionis is generally rated just below Ortiz and Ennis, with all three ranked below Spence and Crawford who’ve long served as the division’s top fighters. Everyone now has the chance to make their own statement all in a span of three weeks.
“My focus is on Vergil Ortiz, of course,” noted Stanionis, who attempts the first defense of the secondary WBA title he earned in a twelve-round win over Radzhab Butaev last April 16 in Arlington, Texas. “But I would love to face any of those guys (Spence, Crawford, Ennis). I just want to fight. It’s the only way to prove you’re the best.
“Now, we get to fight at the same time. It will be easier that way to tell who’s the best.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox