(Floyd Mayweather, getting booed while attending Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto)
Big news today. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will be back Sept. 17, although it won’t be against Manny Pacquiao, which makes it inherently disappointing; it means the Super Bowl of boxing still isn’t happening. But the sport’s reigning pay-per-view king, unlikable though he is in comparison to his good-guy rival, is at least taking on the best welterweight outside of Pacquiao – Victor Ortiz — and for that reason there’s some amount of sizzle to the match-up.
Listen, Mayweather is a lot of bad things. He’s a woman-beater. He’s a racist homophobe. He’s an alleged assaulter of security guards. He’s a semi-retired fighter who rarely faces the best available competition.
And Pacquiao is a lot of good things. He’s a great figurehead for the sport, a boxer-congressman who tries his best to deliver action and excitement inside the ring and comports himself with class and dignity outside it.
But I think that in the ongoing series of chess moves involving the sport’s two best boxers and two biggest stars, Mayweather wins this round by fighting Ortiz. Overall, Mayweather is significantly more to blame in my book for Pacquiao-Mayweather falling through a few times. But Mayweather-Ortiz trumps Pacquiao’s latest goings-on.
It used to be that Mayweather really only got the better of Pacquiao for the most part when it came to pay-per-view buys, at least in the United States. If Pacquiao fought someone Mayweather had also fought or vice-versa, Mayweather’s numbers have always been stronger.
But Pacquiao had gained an edge over Mayweather among some fans – and definitely in the pound-for-pound rankings – by fighting and beating better competition.
That’s changed a little of late. Since their proposed fight first fell apart in late 2009/early 2010, Pacquiao fought Joshua Clottey,a legit top-5 welterweight, while Mayweather fought Shane Mosley, then the #3 fighter in the whole sport. Pacquiao next faced Antonio Margarito, whom Mosley had wrecked in 2009, and most recently fought Mosley, coming off the Mayweather loss and a draw against Sergio Mora.
Pacquiao is fighting lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez Nov. 7, which is a fight some people like in part because it’s a rubber match between two old rivals, but it can’t be ignored that the fight is at 144 pounds, a weight where Mayweather already beat Marquez with tremendous ease in 2009, at least in part because of a major size advantage.
Many – myself included – would have preferred that Pacquiao face Ortiz, who is rightfully ranked #2 at welterweight by Ring Magazine. (Another preferred option for Pacquiao over Marquez, in my book, was the world’s top junior welterweight, Timothy Bradley.)
Ortiz is not without his detractors, but he’s an exciting, young, prime fighter who’s very comfortable at welterweight, as he proved by being stronger than then-#2 welterweight Andre Berto in his Fight of the Year-worthy win back in the spring, a fight Mayweather attended ringside.
Some people make their minds up about what Mayweather and Pacquiao are doing based on their allegiances. Both men have passionate fan bases, and no amount of reasoning with them can convince some of them that they’re being goofy when, for instance, they insist that Pacquiao refuses to take the blood tests Mayweather insists upon (Pacquiao has compromised significantly on this question, only for Mayweather to keep altering the terms) or that it wasn’t OK for Mayweather to drag Marquez up to 144 pounds but it’s just fine if Pacquiao does the same thing (it’s no different in any substantial way).
I’m not a big Mayweather fan; I admire his skills in the ring, but his boorish behavior, refusal to face Pacquiao, frequently unexciting contests and other characteristics make it difficult for me to root for him. I am a big Pacquiao fan; not only do I admire his skills in the ring, but I like his personality, I think he and his team genuinely tried harder to make a fight with Mayweather than Mayweather and his team tried to make a fight with Pacquiao, and he’s very exciting to watch.
But once more I say: Marquez, as sublimely skilled as he is, would struggle with a top-20 welterweight. Ortiz has not yet proven himself to be world-class, but at least he’s a real welter. If Marquez and Ortiz fought at 144 pounds – and I say this remorsefully, as Marquez is one of my couple favorite fighters – I think Ortiz would knock him out, and probably fairly easily, just on size alone.
Ortiz is going to come in as the big underdog in this fight, just because he’s facing Mayweather and Mayweather is that talented. There are other knocks on Ortiz. Summarized, it’s that he did quit in his fight against Marcos Maidana, and beating Berto – viewed as a spoiled, overrated fighter by many – doesn’t prove he’s all that good.
But Ortiz nonetheless has a few things going for him against Mayweather. First and foremost, he’s a southpaw, and Mayweather has occasionally struggled against left-handed fighters, like Zab Judah and even DeMarcus Corley.
Second, he’s a big puncher, and as good as Mayweather is at avoiding getting hit – he’s actually the best defensive fighter in the game, and one of the best ever – he’s shown that if you hit him cleanly, he can be wobbled, since the aforementioned two men and Mosley did just that. Ortiz’ power is a threat to Mayweather’s chin.
Third, Ortiz is very fast, even though he’s not in Mayweather’s class there at all. Still, being slow against Mayweather is a death sentence; Mayweather’s most one-sided drubbings were of slow fighters, a la Marquez and Arturo Gatti, while boxers with a modicum of his speed, like Mosley and Judah, have proven they can get to him.
Fourth, he’s not some old man or some over-the-hill fighter. Mosley, despite his pound-for-pound ranking at the time, proved against Mayweather that his decline from “great boxer” to “merely competent boxer” had begun. Marquez, as great as he remains, also was on a decline when Mayweather fought him. And at age 34 and with his inactivity, Mayweather could prove vulnerable to a hungry youngster.
That Mayweather is facing a welterweight southpaw with speed and power will inevitably lead some to think Mayweather is using Ortiz as target practice for a Pacquiao fight, but I won’t buy into the notion that Mayweather wants anything to do with Pacquiao until Mayweather relents on some of his absurd, ever-expanding list of demands, or until Pacquiao shows indicators of being in severe decline physically.
And I don’t actually know which fight – Pacquiao-Marquez III or Mayweather-Ortiz – will do better business. Marquez is the more popular fighter among the two fighters of Mexican heritage, so I think he brings a bigger fan base, if not more legitimacy as an acceptable opponent. It could be a wash, and we can’t count out how good Mayweather is at marketing fights, either.
But in the short term, if I’m not going to see Mayweather-Pacquiao next, I’d rather see Mayweather-Ortiz than Pacquiao-Marquez III.