By Francisco Salazar
Entering his April 16th bout against previously-unbeaten Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz had heard the numbers of journalists predict that he was way in over his head against Berto. Whether that served as motivation or finally showcasing the skills that once made him a “can’t miss” prospect, Ortiz defeated Berto and fulfilled his dream of winning a world title belt. Now he faces a tall order in fighting the unbeaten and flamboyant Floyd Mayweather this Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Again there are those who think Ortiz is biting off more than he can chew against Mayweather. Maybe so, but Ortiz is a different fighter now than what he was five months ago.
Five months ago, Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KO’s) was the challenger against then-champion Berto. Fighting over 3,000 miles away from his hometown of Ventura, CA, Ortiz seemed to get stronger and better as the fight progressed, despite being knocked down twice by Berto.
It was the type of gut-check performance by Ortiz, one that most members of the media and fight fans were hoping for since making his professional debut back in 2004.
He will have to be at his best again and then some, as Mayweather will look forward to notching another victory to his record.
The experience in the ring between the two fighters is different. Obviously, Mayweather has more fights and victories against some of the very best in boxing. Ortiz has the explosive power, but has only fought one 12 round fight and that was against Berto.
However, Ortiz has the confidence and momentum going into this fight. He is unbeaten in his last six fights and a victory over Mayweather will make him a breakout star not only in boxing, but in the world of sports.
He has not let the words of Mayweather get to him, thus far. He just wants the best Floyd Mayweather to show up in the ring on Saturday night.
“I want the actual Floyd Mayweather to show up,” said Ortiz in a recent conference call. “I don’t need a Mayweather that’s lost speed or lost power or lost age. He’s got that beautiful mouth of his that just never stops. In doing so, I want the best Floyd that’s out there.”
Mayweather is coming off a 16-month layoff from his last fight, a one-sided 12 round decision over Shane Mosley. Mayweather also had a long layoff of 21 months before returning to the ring in September of 2009, where he won a one-sided 12 round decision over Juan Manuel Marquez.
Despite the number of great performances Mayweather has had over the years and number or world title belts he has won, Ortiz has never been impressed.
Instead, Ortiz has tipped his cap more to the fighters Mayweather has beaten, amongst his 41 victories.
“Floyd is a good fighter. But, I’ve never thought he was great; ever since I was a kid. You know when you’re a little boy, you sit back and you say, ‘Wow. That guy’s good. That guy’s great.’”
“Oscar (De La Hoya) was one of those for me. (Shane) Mosley was definitely one of those for me. Bernard Hopkins was one of those for me. In his prime, Zab Judah was one of those for me. And Floyd, not in his prime, not in his come up, not in his anything, he’s ever been that to me. So, I’m definitely not impressed for one, and I’m not a person who’s going to hold any kind of respect like those 41 other victims.”
In the Berto fight, Ortiz went up in weight to 147 pounds. Despite the knockdowns and Berto being at his best, Ortiz was able to beat him in by close decision. Then again, no one gave Ortiz much of a chance in the fight. Coming out aggressively was a key for Ortiz against Berto and will not doubt sure to be a game plan against Mayweather.
Although he has been coy about strategies and game plans his team has implemented against Mayweather, Ortiz is relishing the fact that he is the underdog, even though he is the title holder.
“In boxing, I’ve always been pointed the finger at and told that I won’t do certain things, that I don’t have the potential or the talent to become something big, and I did pretty well for myself.”
Aside from his manager Rolando Arrellano, his trainers Danny Garcia, Mario Aguiniga, and Joseph Janik, Golden Boy Promotions are confident that Ortiz will have his hand raised on Saturday night.
Ortiz also has the backing of De La Hoya, who lost a 12 round split decision to Mayweather in May of 2007. Aside from the chemistry and good relationship they have had over the last couple of years, De La Hoya and Ortiz have spoken about Mayweather and his style, as was evident on a recent episode of HBO’s “24/7.”
De La Hoya has admitted to giving Ortiz some advice, but thinks that Ortiz is very capable in defeating Mayweather on his own.
“I can give Victor tips or advice or whatever you want to call it,” said De La Hoya, who has returned to the boxing spotlight after dealing with personal issues recently. “You know, he does have an amazing team behind him, his trainer and the people who come up with the strategies. Obviously, I have been in there with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and I know what works for him and I know what doesn’t work for him. Victor’s a smart guy and obviously, when he’s up in that ring, he’s going to do what he’s going to have to do to win this fight. Let’s just put it this way, there’s no doubt in my mind that Victor’s going to win.”
After a roller coaster ride that he has experienced throughout his personal life and in boxing, Ortiz has earned more respect from the media and fight fans alike.
Much has been documented about his upbringing along with his siblings and finding his calling with boxing. He is at peace with his past in and out of the ring and is eager to pull off the upset victory against a fighter he is expected to lose against. Again.
Ortiz is a six to one underdog going into the fight. He is okay with that; he has been an underdog throughout his life, in previous fights, and will probably continue to be an underdog in future fights.
Although a potential fight with Manny Pacquiao or a rematch with Berto is appealing, he is focused on Mayweather.
Some fighters have hoped to just look good against the talented Mayweather in the past. Others have hopes to land that one punch to knock out the undefeated Mayweather. For Ortiz, it may be boom or bust. However, he envisions a clear-cut victory and starting a legacy that few fighters have achieved before him.
“Forty-one of his fights, he fought the same way every fight. Every single fight except the analysts are too blind to see that he actually fights the same way every fight. Now, I don’t really care what he’s got to bring, you know, he’s done. The moment they mentioned Victor Ortiz versus Mayweather, he was done. Period.”