What is it with the number seven? The seven deadly sins, the seven wonders of the world, the Magnificent Seven...the age of Victor Ortiz when he first dreamed that one day he would beat Andre Berto. The number has held a bizarre significance throughout the alphanumeric age, and in that grand tradition, I hereby present to you seven factors that may contribute to the downfall of the supremely talented Floyd Mayweather on September 17.
There has been an air of invincibility around Mayweather for years. A lot of that is opponent selection. He never fought the men perceived as his biggest threats: Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and most recently, of course, Manny Pacquiao.
But despite what Mayweather critics might have you believe, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya weren't exactly bums. The idea that Mayweather is unbeatable stems from how dominant and methodical he has been in dismantling pound-for-pound level fighters with minimal difficulty. He hasn't faced a guy that he wasn't faster than, and let's face it, just better than. And that will not change against Ortiz. But...
It doesn't always take a world-class opponent to topple a great fighter. If Max Schmelling could beat Joe Louis and Randy Turpin beat Sugar Ray Robinson, thinking that Mayweather could not possibly lose unless maybe he faces his greatest potential challenger, Pacquiao, at this point, is ridiculous. It's been shown time and time again, like Mayweather himself has said (and not really believed): "Anything can happen any given Saturday".
The version of Shane Mosley that Mayweather beat was certainly a more viable fighter, coming off a dramatic win over Antonio Margarito a year before, than the entirely faded and reluctant Mosley that showed up in the ring against Mayweather nemesis Manny Pacquiao. The staunchest of Mayweather dissidents have to acknowledge that. And Mayweather did completely break Mosley down with vastly superior technique and a stark edge in quickness, notably hand speed, lacing him with straight rights at will throughout the second half of their mismatch. But very early in the fight, especially the infamous round two, Mayweather was clearly bothered by Mosley's aggression.
While many subscribe to the theory that Mayweather simply "figured him out" and stifled Mosley the rest of the night, it has to be pointed out that Mosley, at a certain point, simply wasn't throwing any punches. He was playing right into Mayweather's hands and fighting an unwinnable fight. You have to give Mayweather credit for dictating the style, but defensive wizard or not, unless he telepathically broke Mosley's arms, he was not responsible for his foe refusing to throw punches when he had plenty of opportunities to do so with Mayweather standing in front of him most of the time.
Mosley's follow-up draw to Sergio Mora and shellacking from Pacquiao have me wondering if it was just as much of an egg laid by Mosley as a dominant clinic from Mayweather. I can't imagine Ortiz standing there trying to time Mayweather instead of just letting his powerful hands go and playing the odds.
Ortiz often ends up in action-packed fights because he's an offensive-minded aggressor who's been known to drop his hands at inopportune moments and take some punishment on the way in. Mayweather, a master of the art of the counterpunch, will presumably take advantage of this as well as anyone has.
One of the great Mayweather mysteries is how much power does he actually have at this weight and in general? It's often referred to as "underrated power", which is interesting because if everyone thinks it's underrated than maybe it's properly rated. I think what they mean is "deceptive power," meaning it's not easy to identify because he's not a one-punch knockout artist, but he has wobbled some guys known for solid chins with immaculate timing, perfect placement and delivery. When Mayweather caught Shane Mosley coming in a few times, Mosley stopped coming in.
With Ortiz, we've seen him respond in different ways when his agressive style backfires. Two years ago against Marcos Maidana, he shriveled when facing serious adversity in the ring for the first time. Against Andre Berto in April, his heart and grit were on full display as he weathered a serious knockdown in round six and rallied to actually put Berto on the canvas in the round's closing seconds.
How big of a puncher is Mayweather compared to Berto and Maidana? Mayweather may not boast raw power, but precision goes a long way in determing the effectiveness of a punch. How Ortiz responds when Mayweather catches him will be a major indicator of how the fight will play out. If he can walk through them and maintain a frenetic pace, it's a great sign for Ortiz. If he responds badly to Mayweather counters early, it's going to be a long night for him. Or a quick one, and not in a good way.
Many people think this will end up a classic Mayweather whitewash because he's been at his best against come-forward brawler types. Carlos Baldomir, Arturo Gatti and Ricky Hatton are mentioned as fighters with similar mindsets and strategies as Ortiz. But Ortiz is not a come-forward brawler type when he's at his best. He's an athletic boxer-puncher who happens to pack serious power and often hurts his opponents which rightfully leads him to an offensive, stalking style. Ortiz moves around the ring well and against a fighter in Andre Berto, an athletic specimen with quick hands and feet, he more than held his own in terms of speed.
Ortiz' deficiencies don't stem from being too slow to react; they come from sloppy lapses in technique and form. Athletically, he is absurdly more gifted than some of Mayweather's previous victims who have been cited as blueprints for why Ortiz will suffer the same fate. What that means is that Mayweather can't cheat as much and rely on reflexes and speed to get him out of trouble. He will have to give Ortiz some respect until he can figure out a flaw to exploit, which might be difficult to do if Ortiz is in his face pressing the action like he should be.
I'm not talking about Mayweather here, though he too is a very confident man. Ortiz claims he first imagined beating Mayweather when he was nine years old, a dubious, impossible claim that became ironically worthy for the unintentional comedic hilarity it then spawned. As if in a trance, he insists he will beat Mayweather, he thinks nothing of him, he will keep his belt, whatever it takes. And looking into those sometimes vacant eyes, I actually believe that he believes that.
Ortiz has taken some thrashing for his personality and trash-talking seeming contrived and forced. I actually like Ortiz, and I think it's only recently, under the microscope of this incredible media circus, that his act has sometimes come off as something less than sincere. In his post-fight meltdown against Maidana, he offered some of the most honest, personal, painful to watch testimony you will see from a fighter when he genuinely questioned if he was even cut out for the sport.
The Ortiz who was in the ring against Berto was a man possessed. There was no need for hollow proclamations. The self-belief was evident within seconds of the opening bell. I don't know what to make of Ortiz the man. But Ortiz the fighter is a confident bully, and that's exactly what he'll need to be against Mayweather. And after 15 years of waiting for this moment, you can't expect him to start having doubts now.
Ortiz has hurt nearly everyone he's fought. Has he ever fought anyone on the level of Mayweather? No. But he has fought guys who can take a punch and he's fought guys physically bigger than Mayweather. Should he happen to connect with something, it stands to reason that Mayweather will feel the impact. I think you could make a solid argument that Ortiz is the most powerful opponent he has faced.
It's hard to imagine Mayweather being seriously hurt in a fight because it's never happened. Can he go 12 rounds against Ortiz without taking a significant punch? And what happens if he does get hit? Against Mosley, he was shaken a bit from a right hand in the second round. In the follow-up, Mosley knocked him off balance a couple times when he had his guard up.
If Mosley can do that, I'm willing to give Ortiz the benefit of the doubt that he can do similar if the opportunity presents itself. And if he does wobble him, even momentarily, you can rest assured he will come in firing and go for the kill, which Mosley did not emphatically attempt to do.
Are those gray specks in "Money's" beard?
Mayweather is an impressive 41-0. He's also a disconcerting 34 years old. It doesn't take a Rip Van Winkle beard to look like an old man in the ring. It's being a split-second slower than you once were, not seeing things as fast as you used to, not having the same energy level and stamina you once had. It doesn't just happen to battle-ravaged sluggers. For all professional athletes, right around their mid-thirties, there comes a day when they begin to feel their age. Happens to some faster than others. But 35 is not 25.
Some people have skills or other variables that compensate when their physical abilities might be starting to fade. See Bernard Hopkins or Vitali Klitshcko. I don't see Floyd Mayweather as one of those fighters. He is so dependant on being quicker and better conditioned than his opponent, so reliant on being a superior athlete and so accustomed to taking full advantage of those benefits in the ring. He is not a fighter I can see being successful at the highest level once age strips him of even a percentage of those preternatural gifts. He's as much a world-class athlete as a world-class boxer.
I'm not Nostradamus. I obviously can't say with any type of certainty when exactly Mayweather's expiration date as a great fighter is. Only that it will come, like every great fighter before him who fought long enough. The reason the age issue concerns me particularly for this fight is because Ortiz, unlike his predecessors Mosley, Marquez and Hatton, is exactly the type of fighter who can exploit and expose those type of issues. If he's lost a step, Ortiz can punish him.