by Hans Olson
We’re only one day away from the biggest fight of 2011, Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz for the WBC Welterweight Championship.
Photo Tom Hogan/ Hogan Photos
You can feel the excitement in the air, practically every square inch of Las Vegas having some sort of reminder that Floyd Mayweather is back. None is more striking than the MGM Grand itself, the entire structure illuminated with an image of Floyd, hands raised under the banner “Home of the Champion.”
I spoke with a number of boxing folks at today’s weigh in…the first being Welterweight contender Paul Malignaggi.
“I think it’s going to be a good fight,” said Paul. I make Mayweather the favorite, but Mayweather is getting up there in age a little bit. When guys get at that age you can get old overnight. You show up one night in the ring and they’re not the same as they were. It’s always a shock—it was a shock when it happened to Roy Jones. I’m not saying it’s going to happen to Floyd Saturday. It may or may not, but one of these days it’s going to happen to him if he keeps fighting. For all intents and purposes I hear Mayweather looked good in the gym, so I favor Floyd. But Victor Ortiz is a real opponent, and he’s got a real shot at winning the fight. If Mayweather wins it and wins it decisively, we gotta start giving this guy credit.”
A fighter who’s been calling Malignaggi out as of late was former unified Jr. Welterweight Champ Devon Alexander, here to check out the big fight tomorrow. Devon didn’t make a prediction on stage when he was introduced to the crowd at the weigh-in, but shared with Boxing Insider some thoughts.
“I don’t know, you know. My personal preference—I usually go with the skill. You got skills, you can maneuver through anything. If you’re hurt you can get out situations if you got skill.”
Regarding his free-agent status, Devon said things are in the works: “We’re working on something big.”
Another former unified champ, Zab Judah was in the house. He feels Floyd can get it done tomorrow night.
“Floyd’s looking good,” said Zab. “I’ve been with him the last six weeks in camp and he’s looking good. He’s in tip-top shape. I don’t think you’ll hear the 12-round bell ring.”
Henry Ramirez, trainer of Josesito Lopez, offered some insight on his fighter’s undercard bout tomorrow against Jessie Vargas.
“The key is for Jose to fight his fight, said Ramirez. “Obviously, he has to close down the distance. I think Vargas is going to try to box a little bit. I think there’s going to be a point in time where maybe both guys are going to have to weather the storm. I just think my guy, with more experience and to me, a little more grit—more battle-tested, is going to prevail in the fight.”
HBO’s Larry Merchant was trying to save his voice for tomorrow’s telecast, which he’ll be calling alongside Jim Lampley and Emmanuel Steward.
“I never make predictions on fights that I’m going to announce,” said Merchant. “Mayweather is a 5-1 favorite, which speaks for itself. Ortiz is ten years younger, he’s strong, he’s hungry—sometimes we get surprises.”
One of Quebec’s finest fighters, Adonis Stevenson was oozing confidence on the eve of his undercard fight against Dion Savage.
“I feel good, I feel great now. Tomorrow is time for showtime. Tomorrow you’re going to see. I’m going to look very quick, very fast—and tomorrow, you’re going to see a knock out.”
Steveson’s promoter, Yvon Michel shared with Boxing Insider his thoughts on Mayweather/Ortiz.
“I really love the attitude of Victor Ortiz who’s very comfortable. I believe he’s going to give a good fight but I think Mayweather brings too much to the game. He has more skill, he’s got the speed, the maturity, and he’s in great, great shape. I think Mayweather will win, but by decision.”
After, I asked Yvon for an update regarding the Jean Pascal/Tavoris Cloud negotiations.
“There will not be a Cloud/Pascal fight. I thought we were close to an agreement but finally he (Don King) requested some options on Jean Pascal which is ridiculous. Jean Pascal is bringing much more than Tavoris Cloud, even though Cloud is the champion, so I’ll never ever do that. We have other options. I had a meeting with(HBO’s) Kerry Davis yesterday. I’m going to talk to Jean and next week we’ll announce what’s going to be next.”
Speaking of Pascal, the former Light Heavyweight Champion of the World is in town.
“I feel good, it’s always nice to be in Vegas. The weigh-in was crazy so I’m expecting some fireworks tomorrow,” said Pascal.
I asked Jean for his opinion on Mayweather/Ortiz.
“Honestly, I really don’t know because Ortiz seems to be really focused—he’s young, he’s hungry. But the thing is, Money Mayweather has been there, done that so many times. I have to go with Floyd because he’s versatile, he’s been there. I have to go with the green—Money Mayweather!”
One of the main issues to a super-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao not happening has been Floyd’s insistence on Olympic style drug testing, something Pascal supports. During the promotion to Pascal’s fight with Bernard Hopkins last spring, Pascal had repeatedly asked Hopkins if he was willing to take the test.
“Listen, I’ve been to the Olympic games, in 2004. I was taking tests while I was fighting for free! I was fighting for my country. Now these guys are making millions of dollars—so they have to take the test! Basically, we have to protect ourselves, and we have to show the fans that boxing is a clean sport.”
As for his next fight, Pascal is ready to fight anyone that’s willing to actually fight him.
“I’m ready to face anyone, anytime, anywhere. If I have to go on Mars to fight a Martian…that’s no problem man!”
I then caught up with the promoter of tomorrow night’s card, Richard Shaefer.
“It was a great weigh-in—with an intense stare down. There were several thousand people in attendance. It was a great atmosphere, and I was happy to be there to break it up! I was happy nothing happened.”
Richard expects a competitive fight tomorrow.
“Both of them as you can see are fired up, ready to go. Ortiz seems to be very calm, doesn’t seem to be phased by the magnitude of the event. He seems to be very, very confident. Of course, Mayweather is Mayweather. He’s a showman, we saw it again at the weigh-in. So far nobody has the recipe to beat him so we will see tomorrow if Victor Ortiz is going to be the first one.”
Next up, I spoke to a few members of The Money Team. “Floyd’s feeling great—relaxed and ready to go! He’s focused, he’s been down this road before, it’s nothing new to him,” said Money Team’s Mark Sweezer. “Ortiz is a good fighter, but Floyd’s focused; ready to get it done and get it over with and go on to the next fight…make it happen! We’re Mayweather, we’re not scared! We’re all natural! Our legacy is not about the money, it’s about nothing but our legacy.”
One of the most familiar members of the Money Team is Floyd’s bodyguard Big Kip. I asked Big Kip how Floyd’s feeling right now. “He’s feeling awesome. Just another day in the park, he’s ready to go though! Big Kip has gotten quite a bit of air time on HBO’s 24/7, and many fans now recognize him. “It comes with the territory. I thank God and Floyd for the job—and he’s been good to me!”
Back inside the MGM’s lower entrance, Victor Ortiz’s trainer Danny Garcia exited the weigh-in, clearly focused on the fight. I asked Danny how Victor’s feeling, and what his fighter needs to do to win.
“Great, he’s feeling great!, said Garcia. “He’s going to need to go over there and beat him up. If Mayweather wants to box or go forward, whatever…we’re ready for both styles.”
The trainer who will be on the other side of the ring is Roger Mayweather. I asked Roger what we can expect from Floyd tomorrow night. Roger looked at me in silence, and smiled. After momentarily pausing, with confidence Roger offered this:
“You’re gonna see.”
Stay tuned for more, live from Las Vegas.
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson