WBC welterweight champion ‘Vicious’ Victor Ortiz has lit the touch paper ahead of his eagerly-awaited clash with Floyd Mayweather Jr in Las Vegas on 17 September, claiming that the five-weight world champion is “done” as a fighter.
The 24-year-old southpaw (29-2-2, 22KOs) claimed a portion of the welterweight title after overcoming the previously unbeaten Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) on points in an all-action slugfest in April.
And Ortiz is confident he can spoil another unblemished record and upset the odds by being the first man to have his hand raised against Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs).
“He’s way overdue a defeat,” said Ortiz, who is a decade younger than his decorated opponent.
“Floyd who? On 17 September, one man’s career ends and another man’s career begins – he’s done.
“Floyd is a good fighter, but I’ve always thought he wasn’t great. I’m not impressed and I’m not going to hold any respect for him like those other 41 he’s fought.”
After 16 months out of the ring since his lopsided win over an aging Shane Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs), there has probably never been a better time to face “Money” than now.
Bogged down with legal cases and financial woes, it’s fair to say that Mayweather’s self-imposed exile from the sport has been anything but tranquil.
Even so, the 34-year-old is a heavy betting favourite going into the fight, with his vast experience and ring smarts expected to prevail over Ortiz’s combination of power and youthful energy.
Indeed, many seasoned boxing scribes have dismissed the young pretender as a mere appetiser before the main course – a lucrative showdown with Filipino idol and current pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao next year.
Of course, a potential superfight between the two best fighters on the planet has been put on ice numerous times due to an ongoing row over drug testing.
So Mayweather saw the relatively green Ortiz as the perfect opponent to end his hiatus from the sport which he has dominated for over a decade and claim yet another belt for his glittering collection.
Before his decision win over Berto, in which he survived two knockdowns before rallying to claim a unanimous points victory, Ortiz was perhaps best known for his TKO loss to Argentine slugger Marcos Maidana in June 2009, which was screened on American network HBO.
After an enthralling toe-to-toe battle over six rounds in which both fighters were sent to canvas on multiple occasions, Ortiz inexplicably “quit” in his corner during the sixth round after taking some relentless punishment from the heavy-handed Maidana that left a nasty gash above his right eye.
To a chorus of boos in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the then 22-year-old Ortiz gave a rambling speech after the fight in which he said he wasn’t going to “lay down for nobody” and that he didn’t think he deserved to “get beat up like this”.
He admitted he had “a lot of thinking to do”, and while the more generous boxing writers admired his candour, most savaged the young Golden Boy prospect for showing a lack of courage and questioned whether he had the will to make it to the top of the fight game.
After six months out of the ring, Ortiz set about rebuilding his damaged reputation and proving the doubters wrong, reeling of a series of wins against limited opposition before stepping up in competition once more and chalking up wins over seasoned veterans Nate Campbell and the badly-faded Vivian Harris.
After a highly debatable majority draw with Lamont Peterson that most felt he had won, Ortiz finally moved up to welterweight, where his size and increased power allowed him to outpoint Berto in an early Fight of the Year candidate.
There is no doubt that Ortiz is a much different proposition at 147-pounds than he was at light-welterweight, where he struggled to make the 140-pound limit. Esteemed trainer Freddie Roach has recalled how Ortiz was knocked down by “mediocre guys” in his gym as he weakened himself trying to make the weight.
Roach claimed he had advised Ortiz “for years” to move up a division.
“He walks around at 165 (pounds) and he was fighting at 140. He was killing himself,” he told BoxingScene.
And Ortiz is confident that his strength at the weight will enable him to spring a surprise against Mayweather, who has been criticised of late for not taking on fully-fledged welterweights.
He said: “He [Mayweather] can’t adjust to me. He’s not supposed to be here, he’s definitely not supposed to be a 147-pounder and I’m going to see to it he knows that.”
Mayweather’s most recent foes, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez, were seen by many as pumped up lightweights handpicked by his team for an easy pay day. The athletic Ortiz stands an inch taller (5ft 9ins) than Floyd and is certainly a more imposing prospect for “Money” to contend with than either Mosley or Marquez.
And Ortiz can take heart from the fact that Mayweather has shown signs of his advancing years in his last few fights – his movement is not as smooth as it used to be, and he was caught flat-footed and badly hurt by Mosley in the second round of their otherwise one-sided bout last May. The trouble was that the aging Mosley didn’t have enough in the tank to close the show once he had Floyd rocked. Perhaps a younger, more aggressive fighter like Ortiz won’t let Mayweather off the hook.
That’s not to say that Mayweather is no longer a formidable opponent – he’s still arguably the best defensive fighter in the sport, and at 34 years old, is hardly over-the-hill by boxing standards. And as he likes to remind people, “there’s no gameplan how to beat me.”
Mayweather’s uncle and trainer Roger recently claimed on HBO’s “24/7” series that he had never really seen Ortiz fight and had no idea what he does or does not do well.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know ‘cause I’ve never seen him, I’ve seen him on TV, but I’ve never actually seen him fight. I don’t really know what he do often or what he don’t do often. I don’t know. I haven’t seen him enough to figure him out,” he said.
Beneath all the pre-fight bluster, it’s unlikely that a fighter who takes so much pride in his unblemished record would allow his team to take a dangerous young opponent like Ortiz lightly.
I expect “Money” to be on top of his game on 17 September and remind all the doubters why he is considered one of the all-time greats of the sport by coasting to a unanimous decision over a willing but frustrated Ortiz. For all his youthful aggression and speed, Ortiz just doesn’t have the boxing IQ to outsmart the slippery Mayweather and turn the fight into a brawl.
Knockoutpunch prediction: Mayweather by decision