Vergil Ortiz Jr. remains a knockout every time out, and with his star power steadily on the rise.
The fast-rising welterweight contender made it 18 knockouts in as many fights after breaking down two-time Olympian and former title challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas. The 23-year-old Ortiz scored five knockdowns, four of which came in the fateful round eight in producing the stoppage at 2:59 of that frame in their DAZN main event Saturday evening on DAZN from the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
It was the deepest that Ortiz has been forced to go in his pro career, though had to be reminded of that statistic after earning his best win to date.
"Was it eight rounds? It felt like it was really four,” Ortiz quipped after his latest hit.
More than just a puncher, Ortiz opened the bout firing a left jab and often doubling up on the weapon. Kavaliauskas was always well within range to respond but unable for the most part to penetrate Ortiz’s high, tight guard.
That changed in a big way in round two.
Ortiz opened up his offense, connecting with a half-hook, half-uppercut as Kavaliauskas dropped his guard at close quarters. The partisan crowd rallied behind the local favorite, with Ortiz beginning to press the action. Kavaliauskas would land by far the best punch of the round, an uppercut on the inside that had Ortiz briefly stunned and forced to hold. The two-time Olympian from Lithuania continued on the attack, landing a right hand and nearly coming away with a knockdown, only for referee Laurence Cole to wave off an Ortiz trip to the canvas as a slip.
The fight was just getting warmed up.
“He caught me with a good shot and I took it well,” Ortiz told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after the fight. “Nothing more. It’s boxing. I’ll be honest… I wasn’t as hurt as you think I was. He caught me with a good shot. It’s boxing, everyone’s going to get hit. I’m not even tired.
Ortiz surged ahead late in round three, scoring the bout’s first clean knockdown. It came courtesy of a power jab from Ortiz, landing flush at the tail end of a four-punch combination. Kavaliauskas was having a good round to that point, only to get walked down and sent to the canvas in the closing seconds of the frame.
Despite his perfect knockout-to-win ratio, Ortiz was content to box in the fourth round, sensing that Kavaliauskas had recovered from the damage produced late in the third. A disciplined jab served as the table setter for Ortiz’s offense, with the 23-year-old landing a right hand and left hook at center ring. Kavaliauskas stood directly in the line of fire, in search of landing a right hand around Ortiz’s guard but consistently beaten to the punch.
Action slowed just a touch in round five, though still fought at a supremely high skill level. Ortiz constantly circled to his left, working his jab and trying to create openings for a right hand to follow. Kavaliauskas found success with counter rights later in the round, to which Ortiz adapted and was able to neutralize by doubling up on his left.
Kavaliauskas found his way back in the fight in round six, commanding center ring and finding a home for his right hand. Ortiz maintained the same tight defense he employed at fight’s start, though leaving his left hand out just long enough to get countered by a Kavaliauskas right.
Ortiz doubled up on his left hook midway through round seven, connecting up top and to the body of Kavaliauskas. The round ended with Ortiz landing a flush right hand, snapping back the head of Kavaliauskas who survived the brief storm and made it to the bell—the first to do so against Ortiz through 18 pro fights.
Round eight marked uncharted territory for Ortiz, who clearly wasn’t interested in fighting much longer.
Kavaliauskas remained game but was a sitting target for Ortiz’s increasingly painful jab. It set up the first of four knockdowns in the round, a power jab to the body that forced Kavaliauskas to a knee. It was hardly an isolated moment, as Ortiz had knockout on the mind and in his sights.
The second knockdown of the round came moments later, with Ortiz flooring Kavaliauskas courtesy of a right hand and left uppercut upstairs. Cole once again issued a count and grew concerned for the Lithuania’s safety though allowed the action to continue. Kavaliauskas was down again with less than 0:30 to go in the round, threatening to make it to the bell only for a swarm of power shots upstairs sending him to the canvas for a fourth time. Cole had seen enough by that point, waving off the contest.
Ortiz was the far more effective puncher of the two, landing 148-of-389 total punches (38%), compared to 75-of-391 (19.2%) for Kavaliauskas. Ortiz was 79-of-262 (30%) with the jab and a potent 69-of-127 (54%) in power punches, though many of the jabs he landed could easily land in that category.
Kavaliauskas falls to 22-2-1 (18KOs) with the loss, his second in the span of three fights. His first defeat came in December 2109, suffering a ninth-round stoppage at the hands of Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford after briefly rocking the WBO welterweight titlist earlier in their title fight.
Ortiz soars to 18-0 (18KOs), remaining perfect both as a pro and as a knockout artist. He got the job done one round quicker than Crawford, though is less interested in comparison performances as he is in a head-on collision.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Ortiz dismissed of any claim that he one-upped the unbeaten three-division champ. “We’re two different fighters.”
A shot at Crawford is well within his sights, though with the understanding that it might not come until 2022. The plan while waiting out such an opportunity is to remain active and continue to develop.
Saturday’s win was Ortiz’s second straight over a top-level, well-credentialed opponent. The latest victory comes five months after stopping crosstown friendly rival and former WBO junior welterweight titlist Maurice Hooker inside of seven rounds on March 20 at Dickies Arena in nearby Fort Worth.
After that win, Ortiz called out Crawford who was ringside in support of Hooker as his training stablemate. The unbeaten three-division titlist and pound-for-pound entrant remains very much the target for the young contender’s first title fight.
“Yes,” was Ortiz’s emphatic response when asked if he wants that fight next, though noting the business side. "There's so much shit going on in boxing right now, I don't even know what I have to do anymore.
“I'm here whenever. I'm ready to fight whenever. It doesn't matter if it’s Crawford, if it’s [WBC/IBF welterweight titlist Errol] Spence, or [eight-division titlist Manny] Pacquiao. You name it, I'll fight anyone."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox