Commentary

Mayweather out to stave off age, Ortiz

Updated: September 17, 2011, 2:19 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. has not fought in 16 months, since his near shutout of Shane Mosley, but seemingly little has changed between now and then.

He's still brash and outspoken and believes he can't be beaten. He's still flashing his wads of money and bling (just watch an episode of HBO's "24/7"). Still faces numerous outside-the-ring distractions. And still commands attention as he prepares to challenge welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz.

This is business as usual for Mayweather.

In perhaps the biggest fight of the year, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET, $59.95), the 34-year-old Mayweather -- a future Hall of Famer, a five-division champion and one of the greats of his generation -- will face the youthful exuberance of Ortiz, who is coming off his career-best win. That came in April, when he got off the deck twice (and scored two knockdowns of his own) to outpoint Andre Berto and win a 147-pound belt in a thrilling contest.

Although Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) has received wide acclaim for his upset win against Berto and is respected for his youth and strength -- two attributes Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) hasn't faced in ages -- few give him much of a chance to win. Hence, Ortiz is a 5-to-1 underdog, even though the 24-year-old is clearly the best opponent Mayweather could have selected who isn't named Manny Pacquiao.

"I wasn't surprised when Floyd said he wanted to fight Ortiz, because he likes to be challenged when he fights," said Leonard Ellerbe, one of Mayweather's advisers, "and Victor, with the skills and heart of a young lion, is exactly that type of challenge he relishes."

But will Mayweather's long layoff be an issue? Will those legs suddenly turn old overnight? Mayweather, who hasn't taken much punishment during his 15-year professional career, says to forget about the notion of ring rust.

"Well, I haven't showed it thus far," he said.

Ortiz is happy to hear that.

"All I really know and want is, I want the actual Floyd Mayweather to show up," Ortiz said. "I don't need a Mayweather that's lost speed or lost power or lost age. He's got that beautiful mouth of his that just never stops, so in [fighting him], I want the best Floyd that's out there."

Ortiz should get that guy because, by all accounts, Mayweather was as good as ever during his training camp, which he holds at his own gym in Las Vegas, where he has lived for years.

"They say I'm still looking sharp. They say I'm still looking young," Mayweather said. "Of course, I run at 3 or 4 in the morning, and I don't think as far as me deteriorating or losing skills -- I think I'm still very, very sharp. Still strong. The reason why is because I don't think I've been in any toe-to-toe wars. I think when a fighter's in toe-to-toe wars -- a lot of wars -- it's wear and tear on the body, and I haven't taken no abuse. So I thank God for blessing me with this great defense."

One of the ways Mayweather has preserved himself, besides not getting hit often in his fights, is that he always has taken care of himself between fights and during his layoffs.

[+] EnlargeFloyd_Mayweather
Jeff Bottari/Getty ImagesFloyd Mayweather may be 34 and chronically inactive compared to other fighters, but those who have observed him in the gym claim he hasn't lost a step.

"I just try to be responsible and have discipline as a fighter, you know. Maintain my weight. I keep my weight between 147 and 150 even when I'm off," Mayweather said. "A lot of times people say, is it what you eat? No, it's how much you eat. I don't overindulge myself in just food. I don't overindulge myself with eating. If it's something that I like to eat, then I'm gonna eat it, but I'm not just going to pig out.

"I work out. I love to play basketball a lot, even when I'm off. I'll be off because it takes -- even if I fought two times a year -- it takes six months to build the fight of this magnitude up before it can be a huge blockbuster in pay-per-view. It has to be the right opponent. We have to have the right game plan."

So Mayweather took his time and enjoyed an extended vacation after the Mosley victory, but he also is in the midst of dealing with a variety of legal issues that swirl around him. He has six cases pending against him, including four felony charges and four misdemeanor charges stemming from an alleged domestic dispute with Josie Harris, the mother of some of his children.

Even those issues don't seem to cause Mayweather much angst, at least in public, when it's time to promote the big fight.

Asked by a newcomer to the boxing beat following Wednesday's final news conference if those legal problems were a distraction, Mayweather looked perplexed. He said the reporter wasn't familiar to him, so he must have been new to have the audacity to ask such a question. The rest of the writers, many of whom Mayweather has known for years, didn't blink.

Why? Because Mayweather has fought, and excelled, for years in the face of numerous distractions. Mayweather's fighting in the absence of some sort of legal problem would be more newsworthy than his fighting with them.

He has had an uncanny ability to block out the distractions, whether they are lawsuits, assault cases, tax issues or very public problems with his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr.

"Things happen in life. It's a roller-coaster ride," said Mayweather, who has not backed away from answering questions about the issues. "You go through certain obstacles in life. That's what life is. Life is ups and downs.

"As far as the Josie Harris situation, she said she got, if I'm not mistaken, she said she got stomped, punched, stomped and beaten. But we have yet to see photos.

"Everybody knows where the highest child support -- where we can get the most money for child support at -- is California. So where do you think she lives at? Where do you think she lives now? California. So when me and her were getting along and we were on good terms, she was living in Vegas.

"If she doesn't get what she wants, she says, 'OK, I'm going to California. If I can't get what I want, basically the system will make you give me what I want.' So things happen like that."

As for the fight, Mayweather remains supremely confident. When is he not?

"I've been dominating the fight game since Victor Ortiz was 9 years old until now, and I'm still sharp," he said.

Ortiz, however, believes he will be the first to hand Mayweather a defeat and is predicting a knockout (as Mayweather predicts a knockout of his own).

"Forty-one of his fighters he fought the same way every fight," Ortiz said. "Every single fight -- except the analysts are too blind to see that he actually fights the same way every fight. Now, I don't really care what he's got to bring, you know -- he's done. The moment they mentioned Victor Ortiz versus Mayweather, he was done. Period."

It sounds like Ortiz thinks Mayweather just might finally turn old.

"Everything will be discovered and told [Saturday], when a man's career ends and a new man's begins," he said. "Let me clarify for you: Victor Ortiz will begin his reign and his throne, and I'm going to bring a cane for a good friend. Make sure his back ain't hurting too much or something."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.