Vergil Ortiz insists he has finally put the effects of long Covid behind him as he prepares to fight Eimantas Stanionis.
Lithuania’s Stanionis, at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, represents his toughest opponent to date, and comes after it was postponed from April 29 as a consequence of Ortiz’s struggles with his health.
The 25 year old suffered a recurrence of rhabdomyolysis, which can damage the heart and kidneys and cause permanent disability or even death, and it was diagnosed in Ortiz as a symptom of long Covid.
He first struggled with it in 2022, when his victory over Michael McKinson was postponed from March to August to allow him to recover from the same condition.
“I’ve never felt better,” Ortiz said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’m just ready to rock and roll.
“I hope [it’s not going to recur]. Of course, we don’t know everything about it, but as far as we know now, and how I feel, about my health right now, this is the best I’ve felt for a long time. So we’re going off of what I feel, and I feel great.
“The last time [I struggled with it] is pretty much when the fight got cancelled, ‘cause that’s when I started my whole recovery process, and we’ve been sticking to it.
“When I was struggling with it, the only thing I was worried about was getting better. I didn’t care about any outside noise or anything, it was just, ‘How was I going to get better? How are we going to make this work?’ That’s all I was worried about.
“It got to the point where I was just going up a flight of stairs – we’re talking seven, eight steps – and I was getting tired, and my body would hurt. I had a lot of brain fog. It wasn’t just physical; it was mental, too.
“I had brain fog; my reflexes were gone; reactions not there. I would just say, overall, my physical abilities – not just strength – but reflexes and even technique were just going downhill. It’s definitely not a good thing. We’ve had to work our way around it. I don’t want to say this in a bad way but we definitely did the best we could to make it better, and I’m happy at how well we’ve done.”
Ortiz fights Stanionis, 28, on the same evening Jaron “Boots” Ennis fights Roiman Villa. He and Ennis are not only expected to win but to succeed Terence Crawford and Errol Spence at the top of the welterweight division – after a period in which Ortiz feared his career was at risk.
“I’m not going to lie and say that I wasn’t worried about it,” he said. “I was definitely worried about it.
“But, to me, it was another obstacle. ‘How are we going to get over this? How are we going to deal with it, and solve it?’ And I feel like we did.”