Vergil Ortiz is one of those guys that if you know him even a little, you can’t help but root for him.

His ego is practically non-existent. He’s had considerable success as a professional boxer – you can’t get much better than 18 wins in 18 fights with 18 knockouts – but he’d be the last person to tell you that.

It would have helped him a lot if he had a bit of an edge, instead of smiling and threatening instead of complimenting his opponents. People love a train wreck, and he might have a higher profile at this point in his career if he vowed to knock out his opponent by the middle of next week.

Ortiz ends his 51-week ring streak Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, when he takes on Michael McKinson in a fight broadcast by DAZN. In March, Ortiz was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, where muscle fibers die and leak into the bloodstream, forcing him to cancel his planned fight with McKinson. Rhabdomyolysis can lead to serious consequences, including kidney failure.

When he was healthy enough to resume training, his team tried to play a very interesting game with David Avenasyan, but the efforts failed. Ortiz’s camp has finally returned to McKinson, and so Ortiz will now, finally, return on Saturday.

Such a long time away from the game is never great, especially for a rising star like Ortiz. He is 24 years old and in a deep and talented division headlined by IBF-WBA-WBC champion Errol Spence Jr and WBO champion Terence Crawford.

On top of them, another potential young welterweight superstar, Jeron “Boots” Ennis, has competed twice since last time, scoring KOs in the first and second rounds to improve to 29-0 with 27 KOs. In this case, the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is true.

FRISCO, TX - AUGUST 14: Virgil Ortiz Jr. celebrates after defeating Egidijus Kavaliauskas at The Ford Center at The Star on August 14, 2021 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin Estrada/Getty Images)

Virgil Ortiz Jr. celebrates after defeating Egidijus Kavaliauskas at The Ford Center at The Star on August 14, 2021 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Kevin Estrada/Getty Images)

Ortiz is not one to get angry or upset. He wasn’t excited about the long time he was away, but he was trying to make the most of it.

“I can say I’ve lost time,” Ortiz told Yahoo Sports. “I definitely missed a year. It’s a year I can’t get back. And it’s really scary that I missed that time. All I can do is keep a positive mindset. Everything happens for a reason and so I try to do the best I can with what I have.”

Ortiz is not expecting an easy night, although he is a 10-1 favorite at BetMGM. McKinson, who is +650, is 22-0 with two knockouts. He’s far from the strongest opponent Ortiz could have faced, but he’s still undefeated in his eight-year professional career.

The late legendary trainer Emanuel Steward always cautioned his fighters when facing undefeated opponents, even if those opponents were not well known. There’s something special about them, says Steward, if they don’t lose for a long time.

After a year off, Ortiz insists the last thing he wants to do is ignore McKinson. He knows he has to be patient because McKinson is likely to slow things down and make it an ugly fight to neutralize Ortiz’s power.

“I believe [undefeated fighters can be more dangerous] because there’s a sense of pride,” Ortiz said. “They don’t want to lose. They don’t want to lose their undefeated record. And they have everything on the line with that. Some people say it doesn’t really matter, but to a That’s the point. Mentally and even on the business side of boxing, the ‘O’ just looks better than any other number. It really helps you. So he doesn’t want to lose that. And I I don’t want to miss it, so just saying it, it’s going to be competitive.”

So the secret will be to not stick to your game plan and not fall for what McKinson is trying to do. But Ortiz believes he will be a great boxer for the rest of his life.

He has that one punch that can change the course of a fight at any moment and has done so since his hobby days. Therefore, it is important for him not to move towards the walls and let it come naturally.

The hometown people are setting him on fire, he admits, and he has to fight that urge and take what’s given to him.

“I don’t necessarily go for knockouts, but I like to be in fun fights,” Ortiz said. “And if I see an opportunity, I will use it. This is what people want to see. [The crowd’s cheering] does [impact me] sometimes. I try not to let the crowd affect me, but they always do. They really are. So I try to keep it to a minimum, control my emotions. “



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