Boxing's biggest name makes his comeback on September 17th against the younger Victor Ortiz. We spoke to both fighters and found them both in serious fighting spirit.
“You know what, Floyd is a good fighter. But, I've never thought he was great.” - Victor Ortiz.
When Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his return to the ring after a 16-month layoff, the public reacted with a sigh of relief. Here was a former five-division champion returning to a sport that relies on big names to stay relevant. That Mayweather, 34, was coming back against a young fighter in Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 knockouts) made his return all the more intriguing.
The two will square off on Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on HBO PPV in a match that is hugely attractive for several reasons: Firstly, there is the Manny Pacquiao factor. Mayweather’s selection of Ortiz, who is a southpaw with speed and pop, as his opponent (Yes, Mayweather is at the point where he gets to choose his opponent) instantly heightens expectations that Mayweather may be paving the way for an eventual showdown with Manny Pacquiao, also a southpaw with incredible speed and power. But Mayweather (41-0, 25 knockouts) first has to get by the younger Ortiz, no easy task.
Once one of the rising stars in the sport, Ortiz’s status dimmed after he gave up and quit in the sixth round against Marcos Maidana in 2009, sparking questions of whether he wanted to continue in boxing. He did, reeling off five straight wins, followed by a dominant victory while pulling himself up from the canvas, against Andre Berto on April 16 to win the WBC welterweight title.
Ortiz, who is backed by his idol - Oscar De La Hoya, of Golden Boy Promotions (the same firm that has also been working with Mayweather) - has a compelling back story (he was abandoned by his parents in Garden City, Kansas, and raised in foster care) that also makes him an easy fighter to cheer for.
Mayweather, with his on-again-off-again relationship with his father, his legal troubles (he is dealing with numerous lawsuits) and his unquestioned talent (he considers himself an all-time great, and he’s probably right), also makes for a captivating figure. It all points to a tasty matchup on Sept. 17 that more and more seems to be for the right to face the king of boxing at the moment - Manny Pacquiao.
All that said, Mayweather hasn’t fought since May of last year and at the age of 34, is reaching the point in his career when slippage is always possible. How will he respond to the long layoff? Have his skills eroded in that span of time? Will a fighter who relies so much on reaction and speed be able to summon those traits against a fighter who is a decade younger?
Ortiz is a hard puncher and fights from the southpaw stance, while Mayweather has historically shown a weakness against left-handed fighters such as Zab Judah and DeMarcus Corley. But Ortiz isn’t a perfect fighter, either, and there are questions that surround him as well. Chief among these is his ability to handle the mental pressure that Mayweather is going to put on him: One of Mayweather’s greatest assets is his mental strength, and against the talented Judah, you could see Mayweather slowly breaking him down, mentally and physically, bit by bit taking away Judah’s strengths until he was a shell of himself in the later rounds. Ortiz, who took a beating and quit against the hard-punching Maidana in 2009, will be forced to call upon the same determination and guts he showed against Andre Berto on April 16 if he’s going to top Mayweather. It will be interesting to see if Ortiz can hold up emotionally if it goes to the later rounds, a likely destination. Over the course of his career, Mayweather has shown a talent for winning long, tough fights (see Jose Luis Castillo and Carlos Hernandez). This fight will surely test Ortiz’s resolve.
(29-2-2, 22 knockouts)
Garden City, KS / Oxnard, CA
What’s your opinion of Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a fighter?
“You know what, Floyd is a good fighter. But, I've never thought he was great; ever since I was a kid. You know when you're a little boy, you sit back and you say, ‘Wow. That guy's good. That guy's great.’ Oscar [De La Hoya] was one of those for me. [Shane] Mosley was definitely one of those for me. Bernard Hopkins was one of those for me. In his prime, Zab Judah was one of those for me. And Floyd, not in his prime, not in his come up, not in his anything, he's never been that to me. So, I'm definitely not impressed for one, and I'm not a person who's going to hold any kind of respect like those 41 other victims.
Do you think Mayweather will be rusty, being that he’s 34 and hasn’t fought since May of last year?
“I really don't know that much, thus far. All I really know and want is for the actual Floyd Mayweather to show up. I don't need a Mayweather that's lost speed or lost power or lost age. He's got that beautiful mouth of his that just never stops; so, in doing so, I want the best Floyd that's out there.”
Can you put into context what you’ve overcome in your life to get to this point?
“It's a beautiful thing. It's one of those things where a guy like me isn't supposed to have beaten the odds like that, not in a million years, according to statistics. I guess that’s why I've decided to make my own statistics. Keep watching. Keep looking. Other than that, I don't really know. I've just been blessed. Right place at the right time, maybe?”
FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR
(41-0, 25 knockouts)
Grand Rapids, MI
What’s your prediction for your fight against Victor Ortiz?
“I can guarantee you that this fight will not go the distance. This has been the longest training camp because we want to be prepared for a guy that’s younger with good speed. We want to be ready. I’m coming straight ahead on September 17th.”
You haven’t fought since May of last year and you are 34 years old. Do you anticipate having to shed any ring rust on Sept. 17?
“I think I’m still very sharp and that I’m still strong. The reason why is because I haven’t been in any toe to toe wars. A lot of wars in the ring [are] wear and tear on the body. I thank God for blessing me with great defense.”
There are some who suggest that you’re preparing for a potential fight with Manny Pacquiao by taking on Victor Ortiz, who is a southpaw like Pacquiao. Is this true, and do you want to face Pacquiao before you retire?
“I prefer to hold court inside the squared circle. I’m all about being fair. If you’re the best, take the test [negotiations for a potential fight have previously broken down because of the apparent issue of drug testing]. He could have had the fight if he wanted it. As long as he’s attached to my name, he’ll make great paydays and as long as he fights my leftovers. They say Shane Mosley looked the best when he beat Margarito. His next fight was against me. After I beat Mosley he was never the same.”