The Star in Frisco, Texas, set the stage for a Welterweight showdown between two fighters yearning for a crack at a championship belt. Hometown favorite and rising talent Vergil Ortiz Jr. (18-0, 18 KOs) took on the sturdy and tough Lithuanian Edidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliasuskas (22-2-1, 18 KOs).
In his last outing back in March, Ortiz defeated fellow Texas native and former champion Maurice Hooker via TKO and quickly called out Terence Crawford. While that fight didn’t come to fruition, Ortiz secured a former opponent of Crawford in Mean Machine.
Kavaliasuskas fought a hard-fought battle against Crawford, and many would argue that he successfully dropped the champion despite it not being ruled a knockdown by the referee. Ultimately, Mean Machine fell short and was finished by Crawford in the ninth round. Since then, Mean Machine has found himself back into the winner’s circle with hopes of securing another shot at the title.
The bout opened with a battle of the jabs between Ortiz and Kavaliasuskas. Neither man was keen to give up the center of the ring, and neither was too willing to take any unnecessary risk early on. Ortiz maintained a very guarded defense but popped piston-like jabs to try and set the tone.
Chants of “Vergil!” began to fill the venue early on in the fight but Mean Machine did not back down and, in the second, rocked Vergil and with an uppercut combination that stunned the Dallas crowd. Ortiz was visibly stunned and wabbled but pressed forward in round despite being hurt.
Ortiz came back firing his piston jab in the third and went back to his game plan. With only a few seconds remaining in the round, Ortiz landed a combination that would end with a stiff left hand and with Mean Machine hitting the canvas. Kavaliasuskas was able to rise up quickly and finish the round.
Kavaliasuskas was able to gather his bearings and recover into the following rounds. Still, Ortiz began to show confidence in himself stalked Mean Machine behind various jabs and right hands.
Kavaliasuskas found himself in a world of trouble in the eighth round as he found the canvas multiple times before the referee Laurence Cole put a halt to the action and awarded Ortiz the TKO victory and his 18th straight knockout win.
Ortiz did not shy away from questions regarding his rocky second round but brushed off any notion of being seriously hurt. “This is boxing; everyone is going to get hit,” said Ortiz.
“He caught me with a good shot, but I took it well. I recovered from it, and here I am.”
For Ortiz, this was mission accomplished. Now the pundits and analysts will look to compare Ortiz’s performance against Kavaliasuskas to that of P4P great Terence Crawford’s and see if the ball can begin to start to move in that direction.
“I don’t care who it is,” said Ortiz. “Crawford, Spence, or Pacquiao. I’ll fight anyone.”
After a performance like those, it is nearly impossible for the big names to avoid this guy much longer.