VICTOR ORTIZ vs. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View (6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET)
Weight: Welterweight (147 pounds)
Major title(s) at stake: Ortiz’s WBC
Also on the split-site broadcast: In Los Angeles, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Alfonso Gomez, 12 rounds, junior middleweights (for Alvarez’s WBC title). In Las Vegas, Erik Morales vs. Pablo Cesar Cano, 12 rounds, junior welterweights (for vacant WBC title); Jessie Vargas vs. Josesito Lopez, junior welterweights, 10 rounds.
Height / Reach: 5-9 (175cm) / 70 (178cm)
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 29-2-2 (22 knockouts)
Trainer: Danny Garcia
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 2 welterweight
Major titles: WBC welterweight (2011-current)
Biggest victories: Carlos Maussa, Nov. 10, 2007, KO 1; Jeff Resto, Dec. 6, 2008, TKO 2; Mike Arnoutis, March 7, 2009. TKO 2; Antonio Diaz, Dec. 12, 2009, TKO 7; Nate Campbell, May 15, 2010, UD 10; Andre Berto, April 16, 2011, UD 12 (won title).
Losses: Cory Alarcon, June 3, 2005, DQ 1 (illegal punch after the break); Marcos Maidana, June 27, 2009, TKO 6.
Draws: Marvin Cordova Jr. Jan. 19, 2007, TD 1 (Ortiz was cut); UD 10; Lamont Peterson, Dec. 11, 2010, MD 12.
Height / Reach: 5-8 (173cm) / 72 (183cm)
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Turned pro: 1996
Record: 41-0 (25 knockouts)
Trainer: Roger Mayweather
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: None
Titles: WBC junior lightweight (1998-2002); WBC lightweight (2002-04); WBC junior welterweight (2004-05); IBF welterweight (2006-08); WBC junior middleweight (2007).
Biggest victories: Genardo Hernandez, Oct. 3, 1998, TKO 8 (wins junior lightweight title); Diego Corrales, Jan. 20, 2001 (Corrales was unbeaten); Jose Luis Castillo, April 20, 2002, UD 12 (survives close fight); Oscar De La Hoya, May 5, 2007, SD 12 (highest-profile fight); Ricky Hatton, Dec. 8, 2007, TKO 10 (Hatton unbeaten); Juan Manuel Marquez, Sept. 19, UD 12; Shane Mosley, May 1, 2010, UD 12.
Skills: Both fighters are talented boxers. Mayweather is an orthodox defensive specialist with near-perfect technique. Ortiz is an unorthodox southpaw with counter-punching ability. Ortiz’s power overshadows his skill because he often relies on it during his fights. That’s not the case with Mayweather, who always puts the essence of boxing — to hit and not get hit — first during his fights. No other active fighter in the sport has the elite-level combination of talent, technique and ring generalship that Mayweather possesses.
Power: The obvious choice here is Ortiz. Mayweather is no slouch in the punching department, but he wasn’t known for his power even when he fought at junior lightweight, where he was bigger than most of his opponents. Two factors prevent Mayweather from being a better puncher: his chronically injured hands and the fact that he doesn’t like to take risks in the ring. Mayweather rarely goes for the knockout, even when the opportunity is there. Thus, his 60.9 KO percentage is slightly low in comparison to Ortiz’s (66.7). However, Ortiz has an added statistic to accompany his KO ratio, he’s dropped all but two or three of his 33 professional opponents. A side note to that stat is Ortiz’s claim that he doesn’t even try to knock his opponents down. He says he only concentrates on boxing. The knockdowns occur without added effort.
Speed and athletic ability: Both fighters are gifted athletes. Ortiz, a standout sprinter and long-distance runner in high school, is not as graceful as Mayweather, but he’s more powerful and explosive. Mayweather, the more precise and fluid of the two, has the edge in reflexes, balance and hand-eye coordination.
Defense: Is there a better defensive fighter among active boxers than Mayweather? An argument can be made for Vitali Klitschko, who is seldom touched by his opponents, but the WBC heavyweight titleholder has considerable height and reach advantages over most of his opposition that aids his defense. Mayweather doesn’t. What’s impressive about Mayweather’s defensive prowess is the fact that he’s boxing from a more flat-footed stance in recent years and yet still as elusive as he was when he used a lot of lateral movement. However, he’s not untouchable. He can be hit, even hurt, but nobody has been able to land that follow-up shot that could really turn one of his fights. Ortiz, on the other hand, is not terribly hard to find. He gets caught with clean power shots even when he’s in with journeymen and brawlers.
Experience: No contest in this category. Ortiz, who has 33 pro fights under his belt, is experienced for a 24-year-old fighter, but he’s a mere pup compared to Mayweather, who has been fighting on the world-class level since late 1998. Mayweather, who has fought 154 more pro rounds than Ortiz, has faced 15 fighters who held major titles. Ortiz has fought four.
Chin: Mayweather has been buzzed or rocked a few times (against DeMarcus Corley and Shane Mosley) but he’s only officially been down once, when he took a brief knee from intense pain after hitting Carlos Hernandez with an injured hand back in 2001. (His glove also touched the canvas after getting hit with a right hook in the second round of his fight with Judah in ‘06, however it wasn’t ruled a knockdown and he didn’t seem seriously hurt.) Ortiz has been dropped six times, so far, against Tomas Barrientes, Dairo Esalas, Marcos Maidana (twice) and Andre Berto (twice). He appeared hurt after his knockdowns against Maidana (in the first round) and Berto (in the sixth), but he was obviously not too out of it to fire back.
Conditioning: Both fighters train all year, regardless if they have a fight scheduled, and both are fanatical about their preparation once a bout has been made. However, Mayweather’s stamina over a 12-round fight is far more proven than Ortiz’s ability to fight the championship distance.
Wear and tear: Mayweather has never taken a beating in the ring but the 299 rounds he’s fought since turning pro in ‘96 have to begin taking a toll at some point, especially now that he’s entering his mid-30s.
Corner: Ortiz, who was given a sound boxing foundation from amateur trainer Ignacio “Bucky” Avila, has been guided by a fighting family (the Garcia clan of Oxnard, Calif. — first by Robert and Eduardo, and now by head trainer Danny Garcia) since the age of 16. However, Mayweather was literally born into the sport. He was groomed to be a champion by his father, Floyd Sr., a former welterweight contender who fought Sugar Ray Leonard, from the age of 2. Mayweather’s uncle Roger, an accomplished former two-division titleholder, took over training duties during the later stages of Mayweather’s stellar amateur career when Floyd Sr. went to jail for drug trafficking. Floyd Sr. resumed training his son once he was released from prison in 1997 and guided Mayweather to his first world title and first five defenses. However, Mayweather split with his father in mid-2000 and reunited with Roger, who has been his head trainer ever since. Danny Garcia, a former pro boxer, is a solid strategist who knows how to motivate Ortiz, the only fighter he trains at the present time. However, he hasn’t proven to be in either Floyd Sr. or Roger Mayweather’s class in terms of pro experience, technical expertise and corner advice during a fight.
Outcome: Both fighters begin the fight looking to establish their jabs from a safe distance. Mayweather, who subtly lures Ortiz forward by taking just half a step back, not only scores first with his jab, but finds a home for his straight right as early as the second round. Undaunted, Ortiz will increase his pressure even though he walks into more right hands from Mayweather, who opts to cover up in the center of the ring rather than back up to the ropes. Ortiz will attempt to attack Mayweather’s body while the veteran is in this defensive posture, but as soon as he gets close, the future hall of famer will tag him with an uppercut and then grab and hold him until referee Joe Cortez breaks them up. Cortez will seek to separate the fighters as soon as they clinch or grapple and Mayweather will be the first to land a punch when the over-officious hall-of-fame ref gets out of the way. Perhaps frustrated with Mayweather’s tactics, Ortiz will back away and dance around the challenger in the middle rounds in hopes of drawing the older fighter forward. To his surprise, Mayweather will oblige him by stalking after him. Mayweather will score with head-snapping lead right hands and left hooks to the body as he tries to walk down a bewildered looking Ortiz in rounds six and seven. In the eighth round, Mayweather will get a little greedy and try to mix his hook in with his gradual assault. One of them will miss its mark and Ortiz will counter with a straight left that clearly puts Mayweather on wobbly legs. Ortiz instinctively attacks but Mayweather is clear enough to grab and hold for dear life as the crowd goes crazy. Cortez immediately breaks them, but Ortiz immediately presses Mayweather to the ropes and rakes the vet with hard body shots before the bell rings. Ortiz jumps on Mayweather at the start of the ninth and again forces the five-division titleholder back into the ropes where he is able to punish the defensive master more than any fighter since Jose Luis Castillo. Mayweather survives the round without getting seriously rocked but it appears the tide has turned in favor of the young titleholder. However, a recovered Mayweather meets Ortiz in the center of the ring for the 10th round and the two welterweights exchange punches in close. Mayweather lands clean two- and three-punch combinations. Ortiz lands less often, but his short hooks and uppercuts that land on gloves, arms and shoulders physically shift and move Mayweather, who does well by not getting caught clean with any of the explosive combinations. Ortiz baffles the crowd by not continuing to press Mayweather at the start of the 11th. Instead the southpaw elects to circle the challenger and look to land hard single shots from long range. A carefully stalking Mayweather is able to land a well-timed jabs with the space Ortiz gives him. Ortiz will land a straight left to the body that knocks Mayweather on his heels, but many observers will view this as the challenger’s round. Confident that he is ahead on the scorecards, Mayweather will be content to jab from a distance. Ortiz will attack in order to regain his lost momentum but he will find Mayweaher’s chin all but impossible to nail. Ortiz will shift his offense to Mayweather’s body whenever he can get in close enough without being grabbed and though he doesn’t hurt the challenger, he does enough to take the 12th round just by physically moving and roughing up the odds favorite. Still, Ortiz will wonder if he did enough to keep his belt after the sound of the final bell.
Prediction: Mayweather wins a close but unanimous decision
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.
Photo by Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos.com / Golden Boy Promotions