Who knows if Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will ever actually fight each other in the ring, not just in the court of public opinion? Certainly not this writer. I won't even begin to speculate on whether the events of the fall will lead to the near-mythological battle we all want next spring.
However, two things appear to be certain. Manny Pacquiao will complete his trilogy with the great Juan Manuel Marquez in November, and Floyd Mayweather will look to add up-and-coming Victor Ortiz to his substantial list of victims in September.
Marquez is hard not to like: he's a supremely talented boxer with a warrior's heart, and he isn't afraid to fight fire with fire. There won't be any loving glove-taps between rounds, and Marquez won't ask to quit on his stool late in the fight, if he's still around at that point. He has engaged Manny in two of the most memorable, action-packed, back-and-forth bouts of the last decade, both razor-close fights that many people saw going completely different ways. He came away with a draw and a loss.
He deserves this third fight. With Mayweather unavailable, and Ortiz out of the question because of the Top Rank-Golden Boy feud, Marquez was the next most deserving opponent. He probably isn't the most viable or competitive foe, because of a significant size disadvantage and a widening gap in skill, but it's hard to argue that any other fighter deserved this fight more. No one has the personal history and track record with Pacquiao that Marquez does.
You can argue it's Mayweather's fault that the fight with Pacquiao hasn't happened (and that's debatable), but you can come right back and say the Pacquiao team is at fault for failing to consider Ortiz, the newly anointed WBC champ, because of Bob Arum's refusal to match his guys with a Golden Boy fighter.
With those two options out of the picture, I whole-heartedly defend the choice of Marquez as Manny's November opponent. I believe all the other candidate's hadn't proven they were ready yet. Marquez has already proven what he can do in his twenty-four rounds with Manny, and as a man, he deserves this chance, even if the vast majority, including me, believes he has very little.
However, I think Victor Ortiz, in the welterweight division, is a much more exciting, formidable foe for either of the two pound-for-pound champs than this version of Marquez. Everyone blows up what happened to Ortiz against Marcos Maidana, a tough-as-nails, gutty fighter who's been in plenty of wars, been hurt, gets off the canvas with regularity and launches some of the most bone-crunching, powerful punches in the 140 lb division. Maidana may have limited skills, but his heart and resolve are battle-tested.
Ortiz went to war with him and got roughed up. People don't mention that he put Maidana down three times in the opening two rounds of that contest, including twice after rallying from being down and badly hurt himself in the first. It was a sensational fight, one that neither participant need apologize for.
Ortiz is not without his flaws, leaving himself particularly vulnerable on defense, as seen in the Maidana affair, late in the draw with Lamont Peterson, and against Andre Berto. There are a lot of fundamental issues that Floyd will be sure to capitalize on. Nonetheless, Ortiz' combination of speed, power, southpaw stance and improved stamina and heart will present the ever-elusive Mayweather with a steep challenge after almost a year and a half out of the ring.
It's hard to assess how great a chin Floyd has because he almost never gets hit, but we have seen that when he does, his legs wobble. Mayweather has almost never been seriously hurt in his career, but he has definitely taken some shots that have disrupted his balance and footwork. Ortiz has power and he's an aggressive attacker, with the important equalizer of youth on his side. Mayweather could school Ortiz on the finer points of the sweet science, but I think, and hope, that Ortiz' offensive barrages will put some sizzle into a Mayweather fight for the first time in years.
To me, the intrigue in Mayweather-Ortiz is far greater than that of Pacquiao-Marquez III, and I think this is the fight that could really put the dream matchup in jeopardy. I'm concerned about the long layoff and just a beginning-to-fade Mosley and the smaller Marquez on Floyd's recent resume. Ortiz is a young, active fighter riding the high of a career-turning victory and seeking the greater things in the sport, the type of achievements Mayweather and Pacquiao locked up before Vic turned pro.
Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to Pac-Marquez as well, to give some resolution to the epic battles they've waged. But I gotta give some props to Mayweather, for taking what I think is a more challenging, compelling fight against one of the best young talents in the division. For the first time in a long time, give a nod to team Mayweather for setting up one of the most interesting fights of the year in September, while team Pacquiao added a necessary, but probably non-competitive event to close out their season.
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