Lee Payton gives his take on Saturday night's big fight between the returning Floyd Mayweather Jr and Victor Ortiz.
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This Saturday night in Las Vegas, Victor Ortiz will attempt to be the first fighter to beat Floyd Mayweather. Those who doubt the young man's ability to pull it off point to his issues against lesser opponents, but I think it would be a bit foolish to write this one off as an easy fight for the biggest draw in boxing. Mayweather has proven to be a great fighter with special focus and discipline so he must be favored over everyone in the world not named Emmanuel Pacquiao, but the man he's fighting brings a devastating offensive package that is not to be taken lightly.
So does Ortiz have a realistic shot at an upset that would shake up the world of boxing? Let's examine what "Vicious Victor" brings to the table, starting with the positives.
At 24, he is 10 years younger than the veteran slickster. Some would say that this isn't much of an advantage because of the lack of experience at the highest level, and that argument is certainly valid. I personally consider it an advantage because it means that he has a fresh set of legs under him and he's also probably as quick as he'll ever be.
Floyd's latest opponents have all been in their 30's. Ricky Hatton was the youngest, but he drank away years of potential ring life. Shane Mosley was finished. So was Oscar De La Hoya. Juan Manuel Marquez could go, but he was in his mid-30's, too. That youthful bounce Ortiz has going for him is something Mayweather hasn't been up against in a long time.
They say the first thing to go on a fighter is his legs. Mayweather is always in immaculate condition and has never taken a beating in the ring, so there is no reason to suspect that he'll fall off significantly any time too soon, but perhaps he's not as quick on his feet as he was at 24.
Lamont Peterson was able to keep Ortiz from hitting him consistently by moving back out of range very quickly. Floyd has never had to run to stay out of trouble and has stated many times throughout the promotion that he will be standing right in front of Ortiz all night long. I actually believe him, partly because I sense a lack of respect for his opponent, but that's how he fights southpaws.
Instead of the shoulder rolling Mayweather that people marvel at (a style that was designed to defend against conventional fighters), he chooses to look for spots to land crisp punches behind a high guard. He doesn't get caught up in the game of angles and footwork, but rather goes right up the middle on lefties.
Standing in front of Ortiz is not the easiest way to go about business, which makes me think he could see Floyd get banged around a little bit this time around. Putting your hands around your forehead is a good way to take something off the opponent's punch, but it's a passive stance, which means there is no threat of offense coming back. It allows the opponents to get off first, which can be dangerous.
Some people think that Mayweather has a difficult time with southpaws because he took awhile to figure Zab Judah out and he was also wobbled by a short right hook from Chop Chop Corley awhile back. I think those people are onto something. It seems to me that things aren't as natural or automatic when he gets in there with a lefty. He doesn't have a built-in defense for the straight left and right hook and that's why they touch him up more than conventional fighters. A bigger, hard-hitting southpaw with good wheels and short punches sounds like as good a candidate as anyone to get the job done.
In his last fight against Andre Berto, the boy became a man, coming out on top in an absolute war. Even though he was dropped hard along the way, Ortiz proved his mettle by getting up and returning the favor in the same round. He also pressured his opponent in a way we've never seen before. Jim Lampley said it best when he declared that Ortiz was fighting like a man possessed. If he can summon the same kind of effort (and he should be able to for the biggest fight of his life) then it's just another thing for Floyd to deal with.
Now there are those who would be quick to say that if Victor does press all night, then there will be plenty of opportunities for Mayweather to counter punch and put him away. I certainly agree with that, but when was the last time you saw Ortiz throw a wide, slow punch? Everything he throws is straight or short and hard. The fact that he doesn't waste motion means that he's getting the most out of every punch with very little space or wind-up.
This is not Ricky Hatton and it's not Jesus Chavez, either.
One thing that stands out to me about Victor Ortiz is how well he cruises around the ring. In fact, I think it's a noticeable advantages that he has on Floyd, who may not have the same "spring" he had years ago. It could be that Ortiz is a step quicker that night, so maybe he will choose to move around a bit to set up offensive opportunities, like he did against Nate Campbell.
Of course, he does make mistakes in the ring, and Mayweather is a master of taking advantage of errors.
Playing the mental game with an elite fighter like Floyd won't get you anything but a loss. Part of his genius is tricking good fighters into slowing down and playing his game. Ortiz cannot allow Floyd to dictate the pace of the fight, or many of his advantages go out the window, and it becomes school.
Victor also cannot get caught up in head hunting, as he sometimes does. I've noticed that even during his shadow boxing routine, he's shooting the jab and straight left high. It seems like he is aiming for the head, when Floyd's not likely to be there. He'd have better luck shooting it shoulder/chest high since that is the larger more stationary target and there's better chance of striking gold.
In my opinion, the most obvious flaw in the young man's style is a lack of fluidity and head movement, especially when he's throwing punches. Ortiz tends to attack in a straight line, which isn't all bad, but his head stays right there to be hit, as we saw against Peterson who found success when he planted his feet and countered.
That robotic, somewhat stiff style has done wonders for him on offense because it maximises his speed and power, but it also leaves his head available.
And that may just be the bottom line of the fight. If Vic gets nailed and loses his head, he'll get beaten decisively. But if he is able to take the punches (I think he'll stand up to Floyd's shots) and stay cool, he could give Mayweather the fight of his life.
In fact, I believe he'll do just that. Floyd deserves to be a big favorite, obviously, but this young man brings a lot to the dance, as far as I can tell. "Money" is going to have to earn his money Saturday night and that means the fans will get their money's worth.