When the announcement came that former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather would face alphabet welterweight champion Victor Ortiz on September 17th in Las Vegas -- news delivered succinctly by Mayweather to his one million-plus followers via his Twitter account -- it was greeted by an overwhelmingly negative response.
Floyd still running! -- (@RushMemphis)
Will Mayweather ever stop ducking? -- (@JSchneider)
Memo to Floyd: No one cares until you man up and fight PacMan -- (@badflounder)
Here's my two cents: This is a good fight.
And you know what else? It will lead to a better one.
First, let's address the Filipino elephant in the room. Mayweather was never going to fight Manny Pacquiao this year. Whether it was due to his fragile hands, his never ending string of legal problems or a stubborn desire not to jump when Bob Arum tells him to, Mayweather had already made the decision that a Pacquiao fight was, for now, off the table. It didn't matter if the offer was for $50 million, $65 million or $75 million. He wasn't going to do it.
But Mayweather did want to fight. And the list of candidates between 140 and 154 pounds are not that appealing. Paul Spadafora? Please. Paul Williams? Too big and, with Williams coming off a second round drilling at the hands of Sergio Martinez, not worth it. Timothy Bradley? Not unless he wanted another round of criticism for fighting a 140-pounder.
Truth is, Ortiz makes a lot of sense. He's a legitimate welterweight coming off his most electrifying -- and most watched -- performance to date, a knockdown, drag-out decision win on HBO over Andre Berto in April that Mayweather observed from the first row. He has power, charisma and is promoted by Golden Boy, making a deal quick and easy.
Ortiz has a compelling back story too, which is no small consideration when you remember that Mayweather is driven to be the biggest pay-per-view draw in the sport. There will undoubtedly be a 24/7 series once HBO is officially announced as the broadcast network (a foregone conclusion) and Ortiz, whose parents abandoned him and his five siblings in Kansas when he was a child, brings something to the table. There will be plenty of shots of the foster homes Ortiz grew up in and probing questions that will reduce Ortiz and his family members to tears.
Ortiz is a legitimate threat, too. He has some flaws -- he's indifferent to defense and lunges at his opponent on most of his power shots -- but he blends power and skill as well as any 147-pounder in the world. Ring Magazine ranks Ortiz as boxing's No. 2 welterweight (behind Pacquiao) and judging by his performance against Berto, Ortiz is just coming into his prime.
There's more: Ortiz is a big, powerful southpaw just like -- wait for it -- Manny Pacquiao. With Mayweather fighting in September and Pacquiao locked into a November date with Juan Manuel Marquez it sets up a May 2012 collision between two of boxing's best. These two have done this dance with each other for years but several industry insiders believe this is how it is being set up.
There is a catch, of course. Both have to win. A Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown loses a large chunk of its appeal if either fighter takes a loss this year. And that's not out of the question. Marquez is a nightmare matchup for Pacquiao, having fought him to a draw and a narrow decision loss in their previous two meetings. And if Ortiz connects on the kind of shot Shane Mosley did in the second round of his fight with Mayweather last May, he has the power to close the show.
It's a risk. But considering a fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather wasn't happening this year, it's a good one. Both will be good, competitive fights. And if both win emphatically, it will only increase the buildup (if that's possible) for their inevitable matchup. We have waited a long time for Mayweather-Pacquiao. Perhaps, we will only have to wait a little bit longer.