Expert Picks: Ortiz-Mayweather
Saturday marks what could prove to be a career-defining victory for young welterweight champion Victor Ortiz, 24, or merely the latest notch on the diamond-encrusted platinum belt that we imagine Floyd Mayweather Jr., 34, wears on trips to the hardware store. In arguably the biggest boxing card of 2011, both men -- along with some interesting undercard fighters -- can make a grand impression while the world (ticket buyers and pay-per-view customers among us, at least) is watching. Our panel of ESPN.com experts offers its take on how fight night will play out.
Dan Rafael's analysis
Victor Ortiz-Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Mayweather is coming off a 16-month layoff and is 34 years old, but he hasn't been seriously challenged in many years. Although Ortiz is 10 years younger and bursting with confidence after his title win against Andre Berto, his aggressiveness probably will work against him. I can see Ortiz giving Mayweather some problems early as he tries to use his strength to bully him, but Mayweather is so poised, and is such a supreme counterpuncher and defensive specialist, that Ortiz will be playing into his hands. I see Mayweather coming through some dangerous early moments, finding his groove and picking Ortiz apart to win a clear decision or stop his fading foe late, a la the Ricky Hatton fight.
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Alfonso Gomez: Gomez was picked as Alvarez's opponent for a reason: because Alvarez's handlers think he'll give his best effort and make an entertaining bout but won't be good enough to upset Alvarez, who is on the verge of becoming a human cash register. If an opponent is going to trouble Alvarez, it'll be somebody with tight defense, good speed and lateral movement. Although Gomez is a good fighter who will come out swinging, he's deficient in each of those categories. He's going to be right in front of Alvarez, who is younger, quicker, more skillful and more powerful. He should roll to a lopsided win in his second junior middleweight title defense.
Erik Morales-Pablo Cesar Cano: This one looks like man versus boy. Morales, 35, is an all-time great Mexican legend and a three-division champion enjoying a career renaissance at a time when many thought he was finished. Cano, who took the fight on a week's notice after the ill Lucas Matthysse dropped out, is only 21 and hungry, but he's woefully inexperienced and slow. He has never faced even a top-25 opponent, much less a future Hall of Famer such as Morales. Old or not, Morales figures to take the youngster to school.
Kieran Mulvaney's analysis
Mayweather-Ortiz: One of the big questions here is whether, with age and inactivity, Mayweather still has the same legs and hand speed that have been the highlight of his stellar career. If not, if he has slowed a little, then Ortiz may have a real chance to win this fight. If he is the Mayweather of old, it will likely be a long night for the younger man. Expect Ortiz to attack early and for Mayweather to take his time, maybe concede a couple of early rounds against the ropes, until he starts to time the oncoming Ortiz with sharp counters. As that happens, he may even drop the younger man as he rushes in. The middle rounds will be exciting give-and-take stuff, but in the second half, Mayweather will be in cruise control en route to a points win.
Alvarez-Gomez: Alfonso Gomez comes to fight. It's why he is a fan favorite, and it will be his undoing against Alvarez. Despite being known as a brawler, Gomez can box pretty sweetly, too (as he showed against Arturo Gatti), and initially his movement may cause Alvarez some problems. But Miguel Cotto brutalized Gomez at 147, and ultimately Canelo's heavy hands will exact a similar punishment. Expect the kid to begin catching up to a determined Gomez by Round 3 or so, and then to beat him down en route to about an eighth-round stoppage.
Morales-Cano: The outcome of this depends so much on Morales. Was the Marcos Maidana fight an aberration, the last hurrah of a proud warrior? Did the brutality of that bout empty his tank? If so, then this could be the classic case of the old champion succumbing to a lesser, younger man. But if his close loss to Maidana was a sign that he still has much more to give, then there is nothing on Cano's résumé to suggest he has the ability to match the older fighter's skills and experiences. Assuming Morales' needle isn't on empty, I'll pick him to make history via decision.
Michael Woods' analysis
Mayweather-Ortiz: Maybe you're like me and you got swept up in the Mayweather-Ortiz promotion. You heard about Ortiz's rough upbringing, about how his parents abandoned the Ortiz kids. So maybe you're rooting for him against the less humble hitter, Mayweather. You were further swayed by the presentation of Ortiz as a young lion, hungry and strong. He has knocked every single foe in 33 starts to the mat. Now, remove emotion from the equation, and consider that Ortiz is tailor-made to be dissected by the stellar pugilist, Mayweather. Expect Mayweather to box masterfully and exploit Ortiz's balance issues. I wouldn't get hung up on the promise from both men that the fight won't go the distance. Mayweather isn't undefeated because he's a risk-taker. He will engage in sweetly scientific boxing en route to a dominant unanimous decision.
Canelo-Gomez: Golden Boy Promotions has much invested in the talents of young "Canelo." The 21-year-old Mexican boxer/puncher puts butts in seats, something of a rarity in the game during these lean economic times. So you have to figure Golden Boy knows pretty much exactly the level of danger Alfonso Gomez presents, because they aren't keen to kill off the carrot-topped golden goose. Here's the answer for the reader: some. Motivated and stubborn, the 30-year-old, Mexican-born Gomez has been stopped just once. But he lacks the power to bother Canelo or to stop the kid from breaking him down in the last third of the bout. I expect Alvarez to end it inside the distance on Saturday at the Staples Center.
Morales-Cano: Erik Morales had to shift gears mentally, from Lucas Matthysse to Pablo Cesar Cano, when the young masher Matthysse exited with a viral infection last week. The 35-year-old legend went from being an underdog to the favorite. Yes, Cano has a gaudy record (22-0-1 with 17 KOs), but he has feasted on a lot of home cooking in Mexico. Morales (51-7 with 35 KOs) has forgotten more about fighting than the 21-year-old knows. Cano will learn more, the hard way, and lose by KO in Vegas.