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Ortiz has overcome odds before

Victor Ortiz will put his welterweight title on the line against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Victor Ortiz will put his welterweight title on the line against Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Getty Images)
By Tim Dahlberg
Associated Press / September 16, 2011

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LAS VEGAS - His family disputes make interesting reality television. His legal issues could land him in jail. Worse yet for Floyd Mayweather Jr. is that he’s getting older by the fight and Manny Pacquiao keeps stealing his spotlight.

One place he doesn’t expect to have any problems, however, is in the ring tomorrow night against Victor Ortiz.

“I believe in my skills. I believe in my talent,’’ Mayweather said. “This fight will not go the distance.’’

Mayweather returns to the ring for the first time in 16 months in an intriguing matchup against a young slugger who vows to give him his first loss. He’ll make millions to fight Ortiz on pay-per-view, largely because he’s found a way to sell himself as must-see TV on HBO’s “24/7’’ series.

Oddsmakers don’t figure he’ll have trouble with Ortiz, and neither do most boxing observers. But Mayweather, 34, hasn’t fought in such a long time that the predictions may be little more than guesses.

Ortiz says he has nothing to lose and nothing to fear in the biggest fight of his life. But other fighters have said that, and Mayweather remains 41-0, a fighter who may not be great but has a record that makes him look close to it.

“I’m going to finish you off,’’ Mayweather told Ortiz at Wednesday’s news conference at the MGM Grand hotel.

Mayweather said he was already at the 147-pound weight limit for the welterweight title that Ortiz won by upsetting Andre Berto in his last fight, which is not surprising since Mayweather is never out of shape. But there are questions even inside his own camp about the length of his layoff and the advance of age that claims every fighter.

The last time out Mayweather had a soft touch against an aging Shane Mosley, who stung him in the second round only to fight to survive the rest of the way. This time he has a 24-year-old in front of him full of confidence after a fight he desperately needed to right his career.

“America wants to see change, and change is coming soon,’’ Ortiz said.

For those who followed the “24/7’’ plot over the past three weeks, the Ortiz story is a simple one. He overcame the odds of being abandoned by his parents to become a boxer who fights with the same intensity with which he lives.

Given up by many boxing fans for giving up in his fight two years ago against Marcos Maidana, Ortiz righted his career by coming back from two knockdowns in a gutsy fight to beat Berto and win the welterweight title in April.

“He has a real heart,’’ promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. “He’s a fighter who has been down and always gets back up. Every opponent he’s faced has touched the canvas.’’

Indeed, the best thing about Ortiz in the ring - at least for fans watching from home - is that he always seems one punch from a knockout and one more punch from being knocked out himself. He’s 29-2-1, but he’s fighting for only the second time as a true welterweight and he’ll be going up against a fighter who is very comfortable at that weight.

But it may be the experience factor which will be the real difference. Mayweather is a veteran of big fights - the bouts he’s been in have sold a total of nearly 7 million pay-per-views - while this is the first time on center stage for Ortiz.

“It’s a completely different stage,’’ said De La Hoya, who was on that stage for most of his career. “Either you crumble under the lights or you shine like there is no tomorrow. Victor’s as cool as a cucumber, he doesn’t let anything affect him.’’

Ortiz said that’s because he always had to overcome the odds from the time he was born in Garden City, Kan., to his life as a boxer today in Southern California.

“It’s always been me against everyone,’’ Ortiz said. “I welcome the challenge and will rise to it, just as I have every time.’’

The fight figures to be another huge payday for Mayweather, one of only two boxers - Pacquiao is the other - who can consistently sell his fights to America’s living rooms. And it could lead to something much bigger, assuming Mayweather wins and Pacquiao dispatches Juan Manuel Marquez in their Nov. 12 fight.

Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, said recently that he thinks the impasse over drug testing that has blocked the fight can be resolved and that the two could finally meet in perhaps boxing’s richest fight ever next May.