Just the sight of the word “orthodox” next to Ricardo Mayorga’s name brings a smile. The word orthodox is used to describe the Nicaraguan bomber’s stance. But it is probably the only thing orthodox about him. Laughing in the mug of convention, beer drinking, cigarette smoking … basically all the things you do not associate with a fighter, well, those are the things that describe Mayorga.

On August 13th at Chicago’s United Center, Mayorga will take an important step in his most unorthodox boxing career. He will be taking on Italy’s Michele Piccirillo for the vacant WBC super welterweight title. Really, unless Piccirillo offers some surprises, this fight is more about Mayorga than about his opponent.

Yet there are these huge questions looming.

Did Mayorga simply go up too much in weight when he dropped that fight to Felix Trinidad last October? Was the jump from welterweight to 160 just a little too much? Or did his life-on-the-wild-side training take him out of the fight before the open bell even clanged? Or, at age 31, has his lifestyle simply made him a half-step over the hill at too young an age?

The battlefields of boxing are littered with the lost hopes and broken dreams of men who have squandered their talent by living the fast lane life.

Mayorga, training in Miami with Zab Judah’s father Yoel, was his usual confident self in a conference call telephone session Tuesday. And, again as usual, he was fun and colorful and … well, anything but orthodox.

In fairness, Piccirillo could offer some serious leather that might contradict any and everything Mayorga has to offer. Doubtful. But possible. He will bring a 44-2 (28 knockouts) record to the United Center on a steamy August evening. Granted, he has fought all but two of his fights in Italy, but he does have a decision over Rafael Pineda in Madison Square Garden back in 2001. Piccirillo, though, is probably best known for his two tangos with Cory Spinks — each on friendly Italian soil. He won a unanimous decision in 2002 and dropped a unanimous decision in 2003.

Mayorga, of course, scoffed at that record — especially the most recent names on the ledger.

“In my opinion, just look at his record. In his last five fights he was basically fighting guys who are stepping on grapes to make wine,” Mayorga said. “I have seen video. I have seen about six tapes. I don’t have a high opinion of him. I don’t think he can stand up to my power. I think I will be able to run right over him.”

And so the questions float through the air, begging an answer. There is even another question: Will Piccirillo just be in there to block Mayorga’s punches with his face? Certainly, Mayorga thinks so. But remember what he thought before the tussle with Tito last October?

“I’m preparing to knock him (Trinidad) out,” was one of Mayorga’s predictions. When asked what would happen if the fight went 12 rounds, he said, “In order for Tito Trinidad to be with me for 12 rounds he’s going to have to be born again and born again with a new jaw because there is no way he’s going to withstand my pressure.”

And, when asked how fit he was, ranking between a one and a 10, he bounced back with “I find myself at 20 because I’m a great fighter.”

Trinidad, of course, did withstand the pressure (and a third round flash knockdown) to score an eighth round TKO.

But who can fault a fighter for being confident? He needs it every bit as much as he needs his hand wraps and cup. And why fault a fighter for being colorful? It simply adds to the fun.

On Tuesday, Mayorga said he had no excuses for the Trinidad loss, but …

“I lost. I had a bad night. I take nothing from Trinidad, but better training and better conditioning and I would have had a better showing. I had the car accident, the charges brought against me. My head wasn’t into the fight. But I have no excuses.”

Mayorga said his out-of-ring problems were swirling to a finish, leaving him free to focus on pounding heads (and bodies) again.

“Thank God that my problems I have outside the ring have been pretty much solved. I leave all matters outside the ring to my attorney.”

Mayorga’s attorney, Tony Gonzalez, said, “Luckily, we’ve been able to resolve the issues — primarily the rape charges. He has been vindicated of all charges.”

Mayorga’s new trainer believes his fighter is ready to step back into the glare of center ring and do some damage again, too.

“If he does what we tell him to do, I think it will be [easy],” Judah said. “He’s a strong, strong fighter. We’re just working on things like head moves, angles, pivot … basically working with his defense. Everything else, he’s got. His offense is great. He’s getting his defense pretty well down. I don’t think Piccirillo will be a problem for him.”

Tune in on a summer night in Chicago to find out all the answers.

One thing, though, is for certain. Whatever happens, the only thing orthodox about Ricardo Mayorga will be his stance.