The anticipation has reached a fever pitch as the biggest fight of the year is just two days away when Floyd Mayweather makes his return to the ring against Victor Ortiz. Mayweather remains a solid 7-1 favorite to snatch Ortiz' newly won WBC Welterweight Championship. Here are 15 things to consider, some facts, some opinions and some random tidbits to get you fired up.
1) The fight is for the WBC championship in the welterweight division, with a 147 lb weight limit. Bear in mind, that's the WBC championship, merely one of the four organizations that sanctions championship fights. The legitimate welterweight championship, currently vacant, is not at stake. It surely would be up for grabs though if the winner of this fight advances to face Manny Pacquiao, currently the No. 1 welterweight contender, next year.
2) The weigh-in is conducted approximately 30 hours before the fight actually takes place. In his last fight against Andre Berto, Ortiz made the 147 lb limit on Friday afternoon and by Saturday night had re-hydrated all the way up to 161 lbs. Expect a similar weight-shift this weekend. Mayweather typically comes into the ring around 150, so Ortiz should have a solid 10-pounds on him on fight night.
3) Ortiz beat Berto in a thriller on April 16, 2011. Both men were on the canvas twice, but it was Ortiz who did the most damage and fought the better fight. At the time, Berto was the highest-ranked welterweight behind Mayweather and Pacquiao. Berto rebounded to TKO top-5 welterweight Jan Zaveck of Slovenia on September 3 and remains the highest-ranked welterweight behind Pacquiao and Ortiz (Mayweather is unranked because of inactivity but he clearly belongs in the top two).
4) Mayweather beat Shane Mosley in his last fight, a clinic of counter-punching and superior hand-speed and reflexes. That fight occurred 16 months ago on May 1, 2010. At the time, Mosley was the highest-ranked welterweight behind Mayweather and Pacquiao. Mosley went on to fight to a draw with Sergio Mora and lose another lopsided decision against Pacquiao, dropping out of most welterweight rankings altogether.
5) Mayweather boasts (and often boasts about) a record of 41-0. But his oft-repeated phrase of "41 have tried, 41 have failed" is technically inaccurate, because he has only actually faced 40 opponents, having beaten Jose Luis Castillo twice. The first fight against Castillo is widely considered the closest fight he has ever had, with many even arguing that Castillo deserved the win. He won a unanimous decision of 116-111 and 115-111 (twice). Mayweather's only split-decision was against Oscar De La Hoya, a fight most observers saw Mayweather winning fairly clearly.
6) Ortiz has a record of 29-2-2, not quite as impressive as Mayweather's glistening undefeated one. But in truth, he only has one legitimate loss. In 2005, Ortiz was disqualified in the first round against Corey Alarcon for hitting on the break. Prior to that, Alarcon had already been down once and well on his way to losing by first-round knockout. The one real loss came against Marcos Maidana on June 27, 2009. Ortiz got too aggressive and sloppy against a monster puncher and paid the price. To make matters worse, he seemingly quit and explained afterwards that he wasn't sure if he was cut out for this business. He dispelled most of the doubts about his courage and heart in his rousing performance against Berto.
7) If you order the fight in High Definition, it's going to cost you 10 dollars more. Yep. But if you're already spending 60 dollars on it, and you have HD capabilities, then you might as well throw in 10 more to get a picture so clear you'll see Roger Mayweather's nose hairs glistening under the ring lights.
8) Joe Cortez is refereeing the fight, and among hard-core boxing fans, that's been met with everything from skepticism to outright condemnation. Cortez is a bit overly officious and his "fair, but firm" mantra seems to often benefit the slicker fighters on the outside. He took criticism, most of it unfair in my opinion, for the way he presided over Mayweather's fight with Ricky Hatton, breaking up the fighters when Hatton wanted to make it an ugly fight on the inside. The best referees are the ones you don't notice, and Cortez just has a way of injecting himself into the action. It probably won't, and shouldn't be, a difference maker.
9) Ortiz has a tragic, compelling back story. He and his siblings were basically abandoned by both parents when he was a teenager. It's been a major part of his story arc on the 24/7 series that HBO has been running to help promote the fight. But...not everyone's buying it. One person in particular was quite skeptical, Mayweather, who noted at the press conference yesterday: "I know his father didn't really leave. He went to high school in California. But it's good television." I would never question someone's background, especially one as heartbreaking as Ortiz. So why would Floyd say that?
10) Danny Garcia, who trains Ortiz, is the older brother of trainer Robert Garcia, the man in the corner of Antonio Margarito, Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia (their younger brother). Robert used to train Ortiz too, in fact. Rios and Ortiz were friends and training partners. The story on exactly what happened next is murky, but as a young fighter, Ortiz left Robert to train with Danny. The brothers stopped speaking to each other and Ortiz and Rios became bitter enemies.
11) Mayweather, a master of manipulation and mind-games, devised a sinister plan: invite Robert Garcia and Rios as his guests to the fight, and even suggested he may have them join him on his ring-walk. Maybe Ortiz should bring out a surprise guest of his own for his ring-walk: Pacquiao. If there's one subject or person who seems to make Mayweather uncomfortable, Pac is the man.
12) Ortiz fights in a southpaw stance. He is a natural right-hander who fights with his right foot forward and uses his power hand to jab. Mayweather's a professional who has fought southpaws before and will be ready for anything. But the angles are different, and it's true that previous Mayweather victims Zab Judah and DeMarcus "Chop-Chop" Corley, both lefties, seemed to bother him at different moments of those fights, possibly in part because Mayweather's very refined technique is more suited to orthodox foes. He adjusted and broke them down, but they remain among a handful of Mayweather's opponents who have found even a smidgen of success.
13) Ortiz has proven power. Mayweather has not had many knockouts since moving up in class and weight. Mayweather has barely ever been down, only once officially when he broke his hand in a fight and took a knee from the pain. Ortiz is a semi-frequent visitor to the canvas. So you have a guy with power against a guy who's never been hurt, and a guy without much power at this weight against a guy who's constantly finding ways to get in trouble.
14) Ortiz has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Two years ago in the aftermath of the Maidana debacle, it was unthinkable that Ortiz would find himself in this position. There were serious doubts whether he would ever be able to recover. Not only as he re-established himself as a top contender, he owns a belt at 147 lbs, a division in which he has fought once. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Enter the record books as the first man to beat Mayweather. Move on to other high-profile pay-per-view fights, a rematch with Mayweather or a fight with Pacquiao, a win would give him those opportunities for higher paydays and more glory. And a loss? Well, that's what he's expected to do. He's still a viable opponent for Amir Khan who's moving up to welterweight, rematches with Berto and Maidana would offer more blood and thrills, and someday the feud with Rios has to be settled where it matters most, in the ring. Ortiz has a bright future, win or lose.
15) Mayweather is the overwhelming favorite for a reason. He is the best purveyor of the sweet science fighting today, especially in the sense of hit and avoid getting hit. According to compubox, in his last five fights Mayweather connected at a rate of 46 percent and was landed on only 16 percent of the time. He is a defensive genius who picks his spots better than anyone in the game. While Pacquiao runs people over with sheer aggression and will, Mayweather methodically dismantles his opponents with lightning quick reflexes, sharp counter-punching and a refined technique.
With an abundance of subplots and lingering questions, let's hope the fight turns out to be as great as the stories behind it. Ortiz will have to be at his absolute best, better than he was against Berto and that's a tall order. Mayweather can prove that he hasn't lost a step, he is at the peak of his powers, and he's ready to face Pacquiao in the mega-fight of the new century next year. The stakes of this fight are high and the styles primed to make it more competitive than people think. Whether you agree or disagree, let's hope I'm right because the last thing any of us want to see is a one-sided exhibition with no fireworks.