Maybe Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is smarter than most people think he is, a reality he made obvious this week.
Mayweather not only scooped the world by announcing on his Twitter account his return to the ring after what will have been by fight time a 16-month hiatus but he figures to earn millions on September 17 for something that will be little more than a gym fight.
Certainly newly crowned WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz is younger, bigger and perhaps hungrier. He is a southpaw as well, one who packs considerable punching power and has in recent fights shown a resilience that earlier in his career didn’t seem to be present. But despite all of those attributes the simple fact is he’s a 24-year-old kid who two fights ago fought a draw with Lamont Peterson so how is he going to handle the speed, ring savvy, defensive wizardry and speed of someone who may well be the best fighter in the world?
He isn’t… and Mayweather knows it, yet will prepare for him as if he might, which is one of the things that has made Mayweather a five division world champion and one of the best fighters of his time.
Mayweather has not fought since he dismantled Shane Mosley on May 1, 2010, winning 11 of 12 rounds in ever more lopsided fashion until he had not only beaten Mosley but embarrassed him. Eight months earlier he inflicted even worse damage on one of the best fighters in the world, undersized but formidable Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez has twice taken Manny Pacquiao to the brink of defeat (and many would argue over it) yet looked like he didn’t belong in the same business with Mayweather.
What that all means is that Mayweather has fought only 24 rounds since stopping Ricky Hatton in December, 2007 with two lengthy layoffs. For a fighter whose trade centers on perfect timing, speed and precision that could mean problems but not against someone as raw and wide open to be hit as Ortiz.
Yet Ortiz will be sold as an opponent who is naturally bigger and a dangerous puncher and the world will buy it because underneath all the hype they know what this really is. It’s a showcase for Mayweather, a tune-up against someone who outwardly resembles Pacquiao but will offer none of his skill and only a fraction of his danger.
What he will offer though, is a chance for Mayweather to prepare himself against an aggressive southpaw who punches hard and likes to come forward. Sound like anybody you can think of?
“At this stage of my career these are the challenges I look for,’’ Mayweather tweeted. “Young, strong, rising stars looking to make his mark in boxing by beating me.’’
Mayweather went on to say Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KO) is destined to become “just another casualty, the 42nd one who tried and failed.’’ That’s about as honest an assessment of what is likely to happen as you’re going to get between now and Sept. 17.
To his credit, Ortiz twice got off the deck to dethrone Andre Berto on April 16, answering back both times with knockdowns of his own. By the end he seemed the fresher and more willing participant in what was his breakthrough moment. That’s the good news but if Berto could find the openings to twice drop him what will happen when Mayweather, who is an underrated puncher, unleashes his fast hands on those openings?
What is going to happen is that Ortiz is going to begin being hit by waves of punches, a volume the likes of which he has never seen. If that were all it might be more than enough but Mayweather (41-0, 25 KO) also comes armed with a defense that is all but impregnable. His defense is, in some ways, his offense, frustrating opponents into taking unwise chances and paying dearly for them.
Fighters like Mosley and Marquez, who were vastly more experienced and skilled than young Ortiz, were baffled by that defense and ultimately battered by what comes with it. Will a 24-year-old who struggled with Lamont Peterson have answers they did not?
Do we have to answer that question?
The point of this fight is that it is a master stroke of fistic and financial genius by Mayweather. By taking on Ortiz two months before Pacquiao fights his rubber match with Marquez (draw and split decision for Pac-Man in the first two, both hotly disputed by Marquez and many at ringside), Mayweather will have the opportunity to again showcase his rare combination of skills while picking off another potential Pacquiao opponent.
With the recent détente reached between Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, and Mayweather’s chief negotiator (but not quite promoter), Richard Schaefer and Golden Boy Promotions, this fight seems to finally set the stage for one next May that the world has been craving for – Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
By then, Mayweather will have given himself a chance to fine tune his skills against an aggressive young southpaw with less skill and speed than Pacquiao but with enough similarities to make it a high paid gym session well worth taking.
Two months later, if history means anything, Pacquiao will square off with a far more complicated opponent in Marquez. Though at a size disadvantage and not quite what he once was, the 37-year-old Marquez has always seemed to be someone who had Pacquiao’s number. If he does again, Pacquiao is still the favorite to win but will he look as good against someone Mayweather destroyed as Mayweather will look against an inexperienced but willingly aggressive Ortiz?
Victor Ortiz will look at this all as an opportunity. At 24, it will be his biggest payday and his biggest fight. What it will also be though is a public sacrifice designed not to advance his career but the cause of making the biggest fight in boxing – Floyd Maywather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.