By Paul Albano: Alas, Vicious Victor Ortiz isn’t a pseudonym of Manny Pacquiao. And thus the biggest event in boxing remains the hypothetical it’s been for two years—which is a travesty, and quite frankly, embarrassing for the sport, the two fighters, their promoters, and everyone involved. Yet, none of that should obscure the fight that was announced Tuesday. Because, as booby prizes go, Mayweather-Ortiz not only isn’t half bad, but it just might be the most interesting fight of the year.
Article posted on 08.06.2011
Regardless of which guy you may have sworn a blood-oath to, most Mayweather and Pacquiao supporters (or as they’re sometimes more poetically referred to, Flomos and Pactards) would agree that the recent opponents for both have been…well…somewhere between disappointing and crushingly disappointing. The common thread is that both fighters have sought out rivals that are either old, small, coming off a loss, Joshua Clottey, or some combination of the four—essentially acting like prospects trying to pad a record, rather than the champions willing to prove themselves against any and all comers that we want them to be.
(In fact, I’d guess Ortiz, 29-2-2, got the golden ticket because 1) Mayweather reportedly owes like a billion dollars in back taxes, 2) Ortiz is a newly minted star coming off an upset victory, and if you’re ever going to really get credit for beating him, now might be the time, 3) though Ortiz does have legit boxing ability, he’s most successful as a pressure fighter—one with little use for subtitles like jabbing—and Mayweather is by skill and temperament a counter-puncher tailor-made for pressure fighters, and 4) Ortiz isn’t hard to find, and while his jaw certainly isn’t glass, he’s no stranger to the canvass either.)
But all of that ambient noise belies the main point—this is still a great fight. And if it’s not that, it’s still damn compelling. Part of reason is the constant intrigue that Pretty Boy Floyd so generously provides. As a personality, Mayweather is engaging, brash, delusional, irreverent, ego-maniacal, confident/arrogant, narcissistic, funny, loquacious…and whatever else means the exact and total opposite of boring, humble, and self-deprecating. As a fighter, he’s the consummate practitioner of the sweet science—sickeningly athletic, a precise puncher with real power when he chooses to use it, and reflexes so sharp they border on prescience. Together, Mayweather is polarizing like politics, the Miami Heat, or one of those avant-garde art exhibits in New York City where an artiste dresses as Jesus and urinates on something. Yet, since beating the PPV kingmaker himself, Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather has morphed into the Terrence Malick of boxers—producing fights that, though skillfully executed, are rarely exciting, and most maddeningly of all, pretentiously infrequent. So Mayweather against nearly anybody bears paying attention to, if for no other reason than we never know when, or if, his next fight will happen (though whenever he needs lots of money is probably a good guess).
Except the beauty of it all is that Ortiz isn’t just anybody. He’s not cannon fodder, or a feather-fisted tune-up, or a past his prime ex-champ cashing in on his name and legacy. Instead, Ortiz, 24, is a former blue chip prospect—a young, hungry, up and comer fresh off a significant win that redeemed his career and gave him a second chance at the greatness he once seemed destined for. He’s also physically bigger and stronger than Mayweather, and not totally overmatched athletically. Plus, Ortiz has knockout power in both hands, a willingness to throw meaningful punches, and as he proved against Andre Berto, the resolve to battle through adversity (which I honestly never thought I’d say about him). Add the intrigue of Mayweather, 34, entering his mid-thirties, and coming off of what will be a 16 month layoff, and the unbeaten record (41-0) he fetishes will be genuinely at risk. It still isn’t Floyd and Manny, but at least the fight scene is more interesting now than it was on Monday.