In less than a month undefeated welterweight and at worst the third best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, Floyd Mayweather 41-0 (25), will meet hard punching southpaw Victor Ortiz 29-2-2 (22). And as par for the course Mayweather will be lauded and excoriated for agreeing to fight Ortiz while Manny Pacquiao is out there and willing to meet him under the normal contractual obligations that have stipulated major fights for years. And regardless of whose side you come down on as to why Mayweather and Pacquiao have yet to meet in the ring, the fight is probably a year overdue and many boxing observers are starting to care less and less if it ever happens as time goes by. Not that that will hurt the interest in it once they do agree to fight if that ever happens.
Give Mayweather credit, he's achieved his goal of wanting to be relevant, and he his. Floyd's navigated his career to the point that almost anything he says or does is news in the boxing community. As most know this column has been highly critical of Mayweather the fighter, but never the manager. As a fighter I have almost as many questions about him as I do answers pertaining to his greatness. Although he's certainly one of the greatest of his era, it's just that I'm not sure how much weight that carries historically being that he's never really fought the best of his generation when they were at or near the top of their skills.
However, I can't be critical of Mayweather for fighting Ortiz. No, I don't expect Victor to score the upset some would love for him to do. And most likely after the third round Mayweather will have relieved Ortiz's guns of their bullets and Floyd will coast to a comfortable decision victory controlling the action most of the way. That being said, if Mayweather isn't going to fight Pacquiao, then who? Compared to Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley, Mayweather's last two opponents, Ortiz, although not as accomplished or skilled as either, is more formidable and dangerous. Marquez was too old and small for Mayweather and Mosley was too rusty and old. Marquez didn't have the power or confidence to hurt Mayweather even if Floyd stood directly in front of him with his hands down and dared him to. Mosley landed a lottery punch in the second round and looked to age by the minute as the fight progressed after landing his big right hand. On the other hand Ortiz is young being he's just 24 years old. He's also an aggressive southpaw who can really punch and knows his only prayer to beat Mayweather is to let his hands go and throw punches in waves.
Ortiz is 5-1-1 in his last seven bouts and some may look at that as a negative. But he scored the most impressive win of his career in his last fight over the then undefeated WBC welterweight title holder Andre Berto. And when is the last time Mayweather faced a strong aggressive welterweight in his prime who could really punch? It wasn't Carlos Baldomir, Oscar De La Hoya or Shane Mosley. That's for sure. Ortiz has had six of his last seven opponents on the canvas win, lose or draw. That's not accidental power, especially since those knockdowns were against upper-tier fighters in all but one fight. Granted, it'll all come down to whether or not Ortiz can deliver his power against Mayweather. If history is any indicator, that doesn't bode well for Ortiz. Maywether is a truly great defensive fighter and Ortiz has grown frustrated during some bouts when things weren't going his way. And Floyd's the last fighter in the world Ortiz could show even the slightest bit of doubt or trepidation against.
Again, it's hard to build a case that sees Ortiz really getting to Mayweather, let alone beating him. But at least he has something in his arsenal that gives him a prayer. Maybe not a wing and a prayer, but at least a prayer. And that is it's very easy to assume that if an ancient Mosley who couldn't get out of his own way the night he fought Mayweather, could come within a punch from putting him down, then it's plausible that Ortiz could really hurt Mayweather and get him out. Of course that's not likely, but it's possible. And that's something that couldn't be said of either Marquez or Mosley heading into their bout with Mayweather.
During the past few years Mayweather hasn't been overwhelming and his success has been in part due to the fact that he was fighting guys who couldn't exploit his somewhat eroding skills. Remember, he only throws one or two punches at a time and really hasn't had to use his legs much in his last few fights. If Ortiz comes at him, which in reality is the only way he can fight Mayweather, then Floyd will have to open up and probably even have to use his legs. Who knows what they have left? Maybe he hasn't lost much, or perhaps he's only capable of fighting in spurts and will be in peril if he has to use his legs in trying to move away and set Ortiz up. Most forget that neither Marquez nor Mosley pressed Mayweather in his last two fights, nor did they force him to move or break off the exchanges. On paper before the fight Victor Ortiz is more likely to make Floyd do both. And that's why Mayweather's choice of Ortiz to fight before or instead of Pacquiao isn't as bad as him fighting Marquez and Mosley when he did. Not to mention if Mayweather decisively beats Ortiz, he'll be back on top of the boxing world in the eyes of many fans and observers.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com