Now that the dust has settled, it all makes sense.
You don’t just hop willy nilly into the ring versus Manny Pacquiao after an extended break. For all of his undeniable cherry-picking of old, over-the-hill opponents, and his noticeably lackluster showing against the ghost of “Sugar” Shane Mosley, the Filipino pop star is still a force to be reckoned with. Heck, at his best, Pacquiao is undoubtedly one of the 10 best boxers in the world today.
That is precisely why Floyd Mayweather Jr. selected Victor Ortiz as his next opponent in their September 17th showdown.
While he never really disappeared from the stream of public consciousness, Mayweather’s last fight was a one-sided unanimous decision victory over Mosley way back in May of 2010. Since then, the controversial -- but still undefeated -- boxer has battled an assortment of pitfalls, legal and otherwise. That, coupled with discussions between his camp and Pacquiao’s camp constantly stalling, has left Mayweather with no one to fight and nothing to do for over a year.
And while Mayweather’s resolve is unique and undeniably strong, even he cannot simply brush the dirt off his shorts and step into the ring against the best. Ortiz, for lack of a better term, is the appetizer to Pretty Boy Floyd’s eventual Manny Pacquiao main course.
For everyone who thinks Mayweather selected a pushover, however, keep in mind that Ortiz is no slouch. This is a man who is 5-0 with a single draw in his last six matches, including a memorable win over Andre Berto in what was universally recognized as one of the year’s best fights. That Berto fight, in particular, showed just how versatile Ortiz is given that he fought at welterweight after spending a vast portion of his career at junior welterweight.
Being 10 years Mayweather’s junior will be another plus for Ortiz, a fierce puncher who is big enough and fast enough to give just about anyone -- including Floyd -- fits. And while theoretically a defensively skilled tactician of Mayweather’s ilk should not have too many problems against an at-times reckless fighter, stranger things have happened.
Best of all, this is a way for Mayweather to secure a massive payday all the while staying true to his roots and fighting a real opponent. Even if this match doesn’t surpass the 1.4 million sales of Mayweather-Mosley (doubtful), is there really any doubt that it will draw big numbers? Mayweather is as big a pull as there is in the industry, so the interest will be there regardless of what anyone else thinks of him antagonizing Pacquiao in recent months.
The fight against Ortiz and the time leading up to it are going to be a big test for Mayweather. Will he deem the training sessions, hard work and unspeakable pressure of staying perfect as worth the big pay day he will inevitably receive? Will he feel like he is in good enough of physical condition to take on Pacquiao, who has essentially been resting for the past few years, fighting against guys that don’t even remotely resemble legitimate challengers?
Time will tell.
One thing is for certain at this point, Mayweather is still Mayweather. He still cares about his legacy and he still cares about his fans. He’s still as smart as he always was, and he’s still oblivious to ridiculous jabber about him ducking Pacquiao, as he has been from the beginning.
A month ago Pacquiao versus Mayweather seemed like a pipe dream. Now, by virtue of this move by Floyd, it has suddenly become very, very real possibility.