By Eric Raskin
If all you’re watching when two boxers compete are the four fists flying, you’re only seeing part of the picture. Here are the physical elements to keep an eye on (including the fists, of course) when Mayweather and Ortiz square off, with additional strategic insight provided by their head trainers, Roger Mayweather and Danny Garcia:
Mayweather’s famous shoulder-roll defense has frustrated one opponent after another, but Garcia has a strategy for it, especially if Floyd tries to slip and roll with his back to the ropes. “If he goes to the ropes, we can go to the body or the head, hit him anywhere,” Garcia said. “Victor will get in close and land his uppercuts, that’s our best chance.”
Garcia caused a stir at the final press conference when he accused Mayweather of fighting dirty. He elaborated, “When he fought Ricky Hatton, he was using the elbow so much, too much. Joe Cortez was the ref and I don’t know why he didn’t take a point away from him.” Roger Mayweather countered, “He didn’t knock out Ricky Hatton because he used his elbows. He knocked him out with that [expletive] check-hook.” Cortez is the ref on Saturday night, and his reaction – if indeed Mayweather does throw elbows – could impact the fight’s outcome.
As HBO analyst Emanuel Steward explained, Ortiz has to be wary of Mayweather’s quick counter right hand. Garcia agrees. “He’s pretty fast, and definitely his best punch is the right-hand counterpunch. So we’re going to get inside, that’s our advantage. If Victor goes inside, Floyd can’t counterpunch him.”
Mayweather is one of the few fighters on the planet who can win a fight backing up. But he stepped out of character against Shane Mosley and marched his opponent down. So in which direction will he move against Ortiz? “He’s going to have to run,” Garcia opined. “He likes to run. He never stays in front of you. He did against Mosley, but that’s because Mosley didn’t have nothing.” Uncle Roger doesn’t see Floyd as a runner. “If Ortiz is going to back my nephew up, I want to see it. I’ve never seen anybody do it to him.”
Ortiz hit the canvas twice against Marcos Maidana and twice against Andre Berto, usually from single punches, but he also got up every time. So is his chin a glaring weakness? And does it matter against Mayweather, who isn’t known for his heavy hands? As you’d expect, Roger thinks that chin will prove problematic for Ortiz. “If he goes down this fight, he ain’t going to get his ass back up,” Mayweather insisted.
Will Ortiz ever completely live down his surrender against Marcos Maidana? Certainly, he didn’t fill fans with confidence by fighting defensively in some of his post-Maidana fights, including his disappointing draw with Lamont Peterson. But Garcia said that had nothing to do with heart. “In those fights, people thought that he was moving around because he was scared. He was not scared. He has a big heart. I told him to move that way, to box. That was strategy.”
Nobody likes fighting lefties. Mayweather has faced six of them prior to Ortiz, and he did get hurt by DeMarcus Corley and struggled mightily in the early rounds against Zab Judah. “I really think Zab Judah would have beat him, but Zab got tired,” Garcia said. “This time, Mayweather is facing a lefthander with a lot more power, who’s younger.” But Ortiz isn’t what you’d call a traditionally tricky southpaw, and he tends to square his shoulders, so his stance should prove no more than a minor factor.
Swinging and missing at Mayweather all night can be a frustrating exercise. It can also be exhausting. And when you get tired, you lose your legs. Ortiz is one of the best-conditioned fighters in the world, a guy who casually runs half-marathons between fights just for the hell of it. If Ortiz has the strong, youthful legs to fight hard all 12 rounds, he might be able to succeed where older fighters like Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez failed.