Vergil Ortiz Jr. 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole interviews rising welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz Jr. ahead of his main event matchup Saturday against Michael McKinson inside Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. Ortiz previews the fight and talks about his rhabdomyolysis diagnosis that kept him out of the ring earlier this year.

Video transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody, I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports, love talking to all these great young fighters. And I got another one with me today, Vergil Ortiz Jr., finally back in the ring. We are going to see him August 6 on DAZN, taking on Michael McKinson. Virgil, welcome. My first question for you is, what took you so long?

VERGIL ORTIZ: I know, right? It's been far too long. It's been almost a year. But hey, we're ready. We're ready.

KEVIN IOLE: It's been kind of a crazy time. It looked like for a while you were going to fight David Avanesyan. And now you're back. McKinson was in the picture before. Can you fill me in on sort of what's been going on and how that's impacted you as you've gotten ready for this fight?

VERGIL ORTIZ: Yeah, so I was going to fight McKinson back in March, and I came down with the illness called rhabdomyolysis, and I couldn't fight. So McKinson got to fight. He fought another Golden Boy fighter. And then I was supposed to fight Avanesyan, and I believe the contract was agreed on, and when Golden Boy, or my manager, or whoever sent it to them, they never sent it back.

And we waited for more than a couple of weeks for them to send it back, and we didn't hear anything. So we had to move on from that. And then we went to McKinson again. He said, send the same contract. It was really easy. So here we are now.

KEVIN IOLE: I don't want to take away from the McKinson fight, but just one more question about Avanesyan. I mean, that seemed like it would have been a fun fight, like two guys that can punch, two guys who like to trade, whereas Michael, I think he's 22-0 with two knockouts, right? So he's a guy that's not necessarily looking to hurt you. Any disappointment that you don't get that kind of slugfest that you might have gotten with Avanesyan?

VERGIL ORTIZ: There is a little bit because fights like that genuinely excite me. But I'm not taking McKinson lightly either. This is going to be-- it's going to be a test fight. It's going to be very tactical. So I'm I look forward to those two. I like playing chess too.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. You know, I want to talk to you about your diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis. I know that essentially that comes from working too hard sometimes, right? And did you have any sense of, hey, I have to change up what I'm doing based on this diagnosis that I got?

VERGIL ORTIZ: I mean, so after-- the doctor told me to rest for two weeks. He said I couldn't do anything. And I was like, all right, I'll just stay home in my room as it is. So that was kind of easy. So after I rested-- I usually do strength conditioning for maybe a month or two before I actually go into camp, and I really go at it. I go at 100%.

So this time, I didn't go just because I really wanted to see how my body was going to feel during camp. And it felt great. I'm probably going to start conditioning again, maybe a little not so heavy, but I'm still going to do it, just to keep my body in shape. And yeah, we're going to go from there.

KEVIN IOLE: Do you feel like the time away has hurt you at all? Like, the welterweight division has a lot of really good young fighters. And you're right up near the top, of course. You know, you've got Spence and Crawford and then a bunch of young, really hungry guys, like yourself, Jaron Ennis, Conor Benn, some other fighters there. Do you feel like out of sight, out of mind? Does that concern you at all, that you may have lost a little bit of your standing, your place, by being away for a year?

VERGIL ORTIZ: I would say I lost time. I definitely lost a year. That's a year that I can't get back. And it really sucks that I lost that time. The only thing I can do is keep a positive mindset. Everything happens for a reason, and just do the best with what I got.

KEVIN IOLE: The late trainer Emanuel Steward used to always say, sometimes people would say this fight is a mismatch or that fight's a mismatch. But he would point out the fact that, hey, this guy has fought a lot of undefeated fighters. Well, you're fighting a guy who's undefeated, right? He doesn't know what it is to lose. And even if the odds are favoring you and everything, do you feel like that makes him more dangerous because he's used to winning and he kind of knows what it takes to win? Do you feel like that makes Michael more dangerous to you?

VERGIL ORTIZ: Yeah, I believe so because there's like a sense of pride. 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 in a way, it does, mentally, and it's just a-- even in the business side of boxing, the 0 just looks better than any other number. It really does help you. So he's not going to want to lose that. And I don't want to lose it, so just saying that, it's going to get competitive.

KEVIN IOLE: There's not a lot of fighters that have the record that you have, 100% knockout ratio. I think of the world champions, only Artur Beterbiev has that. You've got Ennis, Jaron Ennis that has that. You have that. Do you think-- is that something that in this modern generation you guys are going for? It's kind of like in baseball, guys are going for home runs. Are you guys going for a knockout? Or is that something you consciously are aware of and try to do?

VERGIL ORTIZ: I don't necessarily go for the knockout, but I do like to be in entertaining fights. And if I see the opportunity, I'm going to take it. That's what the people want to see.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. Plus you got the hometown crowd there. They know you better than anybody. And they know, hey, Vergil can crack. They want to see you do something. Does that give you a little bit-- make you juiced up a little bit more when you get in there fighting in front of--

VERGIL ORTIZ: It does sometimes. I try not to let the crowd influence me, but they always do. They really do. So I just try to keep it at a minimum, keep my emotions in check.

KEVIN IOLE: Let's wrap it up, Vergil, with this. How do you expect the fight to go? I know he's a southpaw. Sometimes southpaws can be tricky, especially if you don't have a lot of experience against them. How do you see it going? And how do you win this fight?

VERGIL ORTIZ: I think it's going to be slow at times. I really do think it's going to be slow. But eventually you're just going to have to fight. And I think when those times come, that's when things are going to start going downhill.

KEVIN IOLE: Downhill for him, not for you.


KEVIN IOLE: OK, good enough. You think you keep the streak alive? Is it going to be 19-0 with 19?

VERGIL ORTIZ: I mean, that's always the goal. Like I said, I'm not going to look for it. I'm just going to take the fight as it goes. And if I see an opportunity, I'm going to take it.

KEVIN IOLE: Awesome. That's Vergil Ortiz. You can see him fight on DAZN August 6 against Michael McKinson in Fort Worth, Texas. Vergil, all the best to you. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

VERGIL ORTIZ: Thank you so much.