The biggest draw in boxing returns to the ring after a 17 month lay-off this Saturday night at the MGM Grand as Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0, 26 KO’s) looks to continue cementing his legacy as one of the sports all time greats. His opponent is the current WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz (29-2, 22 KO’s), who many in boxing believe will be his stiffest test yet.
Back in 2008, ESPN named Ortiz their “boxing prospect of the year” and after beating Mike Arnioutis on HBO, Oscar De La Hoya anointed him the next “Golden Boy”. Then in 2009 Ortiz fired his longtime and well known trainer Roberto Garcia, citing he was done being constantly humiliated through his derogatory speeches. Ortiz went on to hire Garcia’s brother as his new trainer and the two prepared for his first shot at a world title against Marcos Maidana.
From the opening bell, the fight lived up to it’s billing as both Ortiz and Maidana scored knock-downs in the very first round. Ortiz dropped him twice in the second round but Maidana would come back to score a knock-down of his own in the sixth, after cutting Ortiz in the prior round. To the surprise of fans in attendance and those watching at home, Ortiz opted out of the fight when asked by the ring doctor if he was able to continue and Maidana was awarded the WBA light welterweight title.
Ortiz’s road back to the top has not been easy after being labeled a “quitter” by so many. But after winning a unanimous decision in April against Andre Berto to capture the WBC welterweight title, he get’s a chance for more redemption against the pound for pound king.
The odds makers sent the price out on Floyd Mayweather at -800 but we’ve been seeing a steady drop since the opener. At the moment, the odds on the challenger are down to -650 and I have no doubt they’ll continue to fall. My experience with the boxing betting market tells me the majority of late money will be on the dog, especially after the masterful job HBO has done at promoting this fight.
They’ve not only made Mayweather out to be the villain once again, but also painted Ortiz as the younger, bigger, and stronger fighter, with much more than a punchers chance. Ortiz walks around at 165 lbs and no longer has to struggle to make 140 lbs since climbing to welterweight. He’s a southpaw who uses power to impose his will on opponents until they ultimately crumble to his tenacity.
It appears that after looking tentative in a couple of comeback fights, Ortiz has his confidence back. He managed to stay composed after being knocked down twice in the Berto fight and is intent on keeping his new title.
So…after picking all 3 winners in last week’s column and sweeping the one prior, do I believe we’ve now found a dog that’s not only going to bark, but also bite at such generous odds ?
NOT A CHANCE. To those that argue Mayweather has trouble with southpaws, nothing could be further from the truth. Except for Zab Judah who at his peak held his own for a while, no other lefty gave him any problems at all. In fact, some of Money’s most impressive wins came against southpaws like Sharmba Mitchell and Demarcus Corley. Even Judah managed to win only 4 of 12 rounds when all the dust settled. The recipe to beat southpaws is no secret, one only needs a fast and accurate straight right hand…which may be Mayweather’s best weapon.
To those that argue Floyd will suffer from ring rust, I say let’s not forget this is not the first time he’s coming in off a long lay-off having fought just 5 times in the last 5 years. The inactivity and a lack of punishment absorbed has only helped with Mayweather’s longevity. All of the distractions going on outside the ring are nothing new and they’ve never affected him when he steps inside of it.
More importantly, every boxing fan has heard the phrase “Styles Make Fights” and it’s never held truer than it will for this one. Stylistically Ortiz is the perfect opponent for Mayweather to look spectacular against. He has a stiff upper body, lacks head movement, and comes straight forward. He doesn’t have the jab needed to give Mayweather problems and his suspect defense leaves him wide open to counters.
Both Jose Louis Castillo and De La Hoya used their jab to disrupt Mayweather’s brilliant timing, not power shots. Going in with a mindset for the knockout is exactly what’s helped keep Floyd’s record perfect all these years. He has no problem at all with his back against the ropes, baiting brawlers to try and impose their will only to find themselves even more wide open for counters.
In his fight with Berto, Ortiz was in against another brawler who was willing to stand toe to toe and exchange punches. That’s not what he’ll face in Mayweather who will outbox him just like Lamont Peterson did against Ortiz when he got off the canvas twice to get a draw. Ortiz is good at beating guys up and throwing a lot of power shots, but against Mayweather that will only leave him more vulnerable.
Though some may not like Floyd’s apparent arrogance and obvious flash, there’s no question that he’s driven by perfection. He always goes in well prepared and in amazing physical shape. From what I’ve gathered being here in Las Vegas and having the chance to speak to plenty in the know, forget the drama you’ve seen on television because Mayweather’s camp has experienced almost no hiccups.
A few weeks back I got the chance to chat with Roger Mayweather and the trainer said it best when he told me that “We don’t need no game-plan”. He went on to state that it’s Victor Ortiz that needs to come up with a game-plan because there isn’t one out there yet to beat his nephew and pupil. Roger claimed that 41 have tried and 41 have failed and that Victor Ortiz will be nothing more than victim 42.
Finally, I’m not one to ever put a man down for how he makes a living and there is no shame in having a Coca-Cola truck route. But Ortiz’s head trainer Danny Garcia has a day job and when you are about to fight on the biggest stage in boxing, against the game’s best fighter, all of your time and focus needs to be centered on preparing your boxer. I am all for being loyal to those that supported you and helped you get to where you are at the moment, but when the playing field changes you have to change with it and Ortiz should be training and sparring with the very best available to him and Garcia isn’t it.
In the end the talk will be whether at 24 yrs of age, Ortiz just wasn’t ready for this caliber of opponent yet. The truth is that his timing has nothing to do with it. Instead, Mayweather is just too skilled for everyone at 147 lbs and that includes Manny Pacquiao. Yes I said it, Floyd Mayweather deserves to be rated the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world at this time and come Saturday night Ortiz will be just another win on his unblemished record.
I almost want to step up and call for the knock-out by Floyd because even if the fight gets exciting at times, eventually he’ll overwhelm and totally control Ortiz. Plus a wager on Floyd by KO would cost me much less to place and he‘ll surely have his chance. But why even worry about HOW Mayweather gets it done, instead I’m willing to lay the chalk as close to fight time as possible for the best price, knowing that in the end we’ll cash another easy bet when he does. The true odds on this fight reflect a price much greater than the -500 he may go off at and that’s what value is all about.
PREDICTION = FLOYD MAYWEATHER by however he chooses.
2011 BOXING/MMA PREMIUM PLAYS RECORD = 30-13