Mayweather’s challenge is old age not Ortiz

Sat, 17 Sep 12:29:00 2011

Our boxing expert James Garner believes Floyd Mayweather should be more concerned about his advancing years than upcoming opponent Victor Ortiz.

2011 BOXING Undefeated welterweight boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr grabs the throat of WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz - 0

“Mayweather is on a different level…he’s the real deal. I firmly believe that Mayweather is the best we have.”

Oscar De La Hoya, May 2010, after Mayweather-Mosley.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Victor will win this fight.”

Oscar De La Hoya, September 2011, before Mayweather-Ortiz.

In May 2007, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya contested the richest prizefight in the history of the sport. Ever since winning that bout Mayweather has declared himself to be “the face of boxing,” an unofficial title long held by De La Hoya.

De La Hoya was 34 when he lost to Mayweather and that is the age that Mayweather will be when he fights Victor Ortiz, 24, in the early hours of Sunday.

De La Hoya promotes Ortiz and perhaps sees a little of himself in the young Mexican-American crowd-pleaser. He is certainly talking up the upset like never before, predicting that age, and Ortiz, will catch up with “Money” Mayweather.

Whilst De La Hoya was always “the Golden Boy,” Mayweather’s brash persona and defensive style have never endeared him to fans, making him “the man you love to hate.”

Mayweather doesn’t seem too concerned. Only last week Mayweather explained his somewhat unusual concept of fandom – “You’ve got people that pay to see you win and people that see to see you lose. They’re both fans because they both pay.”

Ortiz is a likeable young man who has overcome being abandoned by both of his parents by the age of 10 but even if he has won over the fans there is little to suggest that he is ready to beat Floyd Mayweather.

It was only two years ago when Ortiz had many questioning his commitment to the fight game when he lost to Marcos Maidana and remarked, “I don't deserve to get hit like this.”

Ortiz has since moved up to welterweight and five months ago he showed the resolve he lacked against Maidana to beat Andre Berto in a back-and-forth minor classic.

Berto is a fighter who rose without a trace to the upper echelons of the welterweight rankings but whilst it was an impressive win for Ortiz, there is a huge gulf between Berto and Mayweather.

Mayweather has his sceptics, people who believe that his career has been built on extremely careful matchmaking, and avoiding certain fights at certain times.

The reality is that, like Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather’s legend has been built on victories over carefully selected opponents. However, Mayweather and Pacquiao are truly the best out there, and, what’s more, the extent to which they are the best is quite staggering.

Last May it was ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley’s chance to dethrone Mayweather. The vastly experienced Mosley was ranked third at welterweight and much was made of the argument that Mosley was the first legitimate welterweight that Mayweather had faced.

Mayweather won at least 10 of the 12 rounds in a comfortable victory over the veteran. A year later Pacquiao made even easier work as ‘Sugar’ turned sour.

Today the up-and-coming Ortiz is ranked third at welterweight and much is made of the difficulties that Mayweather has previously faced with southpaws such as Zab Judah and DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley.

All the same, Mayweather soon got the measure of Judah and Corley, as he did Mosley last May. Mayweather’s greatest asset is the ability to make adaptations that nullify his opponent’s strengths.

Mayweather mocks those who think they have the gameplan to beat him, proclaiming that, “There is no blueprint on how to beat Floyd Mayweather,” and that “My gameplan is just to be Floyd Mayweather.”

Mosley thought he had the blueprint to beat Mayweather and it briefly looked as though he did. What Mosley didn’t factor in was just how fast Mayweather can adapt. By the end of a fight Floyd Mayweather is a better fighter than the Floyd Mayweather who began the fight.

In the second round last May, Mosley twice landed big right hands, the second of which buckled Mayweather’s legs. Oscar De La Hoya jumped out of his seat in excitement and exaltation.

After Mosley first showed his hand by landing the big right, the punch which formed the core of his gameplan, a plan prepared over months by the talented trainer Naazim Richardson, it would take Floyd Mayweather approximately 80 seconds to process what Mosley was trying to – and to trump him.

Even if Mayweather’s body has slowed down in the intervening 16 months, it is his speed of thought which Ortiz should fear.

Like Mosley, Ortiz may get a chance to take Mayweather out early on. Nonetheless, given that Ortiz does not have much pedigree as a finisher, Mayweather’s unbeaten record is not in much danger.

All in all, it is most likely that Oscar De La Hoya will be disappointed yet again and that Victor Ortiz will not replace Mayweather as “the face of boxing.” De La Hoya will have to console himself with his share of the revenue, and yet another chance to help arrange Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Somehow Ortiz-Pacquiao just doesn’t have the same ring to it, and for all of Mayweather’s unpopularity, one wonders how many boxing fans would truly like to see him lose in the early hours of Sunday morning.

With Mayweather now 34, and Pacquiao nearly 33, time is running out on that dream match-up. Ortiz could end that dream with the performance of a lifetime – it would be a victory more attributable to Mayweather’s old age than young Ortiz.

James Garner / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account