The old "puncher's chance". It's an overused cliche in the boxing world. But in order to have a puncher's chance, you need to have a strong punch. Victor Ortiz certainly does.
Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs), the 24 year old welterweight titlist and California native, is a powerful young fighter who despite two losses and two draws in his career has knocked down almost every fighter he's ever faced. Yet he's never fought anyone as skilled as Floyd Mayweather Jr., who in 41 undefeated fights hasn't been knocked down. We'll find out just how far Ortiz has come on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas when the two square off in what will be boxing's biggest fight of 2011.
Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) enters the fight at 34 years old and with 16 months in between fights. His last contest came in May of 2010 when he dismantled the aging Shane Mosley en route to a unanimous decision victory. When this fight was announced earlier in the year, there were many who were shocked to see Mayweather getting into the ring with a young, powerful fighter who had just come off a huge victory. Mayweather has always been criticized, correctly or now, for handpicking opponents and ducking his best challengers. Many would have liked to see Mayweather and Mosley mix it up earlier in their careers, and there has always been Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto out there. Of course, we all wait with bated breath for the day Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally agree to the best fight boxing can produce.
So finally for many, Mayweather is doing what he should have always done, and that's test himself. But are we getting too excited about Victor Ortiz? This is the same Victor Ortiz who essentially gave up in his July 2009 loss to Marcos Maidana, and drew with Lamont Peterson less than a year ago. And while Maidana and Peterson are good fighters, they are by no means world class. It is certainly true that Ortiz has done some growing up since the loss to Maidana, and it's his mot recent victory - a thrilling decision win over Andre Berto - that people point to when they praise Ortiz. He was knocked down twice by Berto, also flooring his counterpart twice as well, and showed some heart and grit by surviving and eventually winning.
But boxing at its absolute best is not simply about effort, and with Mayweather Ortiz is in with the best. Stylistically, this could be a total nightmare for Ortiz. As a reference point, we can look back to Mayweather's 2007 fight with Ricky Hatton. Ortiz will likely try to employ the same game plan that Hatton had on that night, which was all about getting inside and making it a brawl. It wouldn't be a shock to see Ortiz take some of the early rounds, and maybe land a good shot or two on Mayweather, as Hatton did. But Mayweather adjusts better than anyone in the fight game, and if Mayweather starts to time Ortiz, employ his patented defense and hit counter shots, it could be a long night for Ortiz.
Ortiz's best shot may be that Mayweather has lost a step or two, now at 34 years old and with a 16-month layoff. But it would be hard to believe that Mayweather would get into the ring with a guy like Ortiz if he felt he was slowing down. Floyd wants to protect the "0" at the end of his record more than anything.
Ortiz will likely need to land that one big shot, a la, the puncher's chance.