Mayweather-Pacquiao could happen after all

Floyd Mayweather Jr. gets beaten up a lot. In the media. On the Internet. By reporters. By fans.

But the erstwhile pound-for-pound champion has yet to be beaten where it matters – in the ring. Mayweather is 41-0-0, which, if you’d forgotten, is three fewer losses and two fewer draws than are on Manny Pacquiao’s record. And if you didn’t know that, just listen to Mayweather speak for a while. He’ll be quick to remind you of it.

The guy is a genius. He may not be the nicest guy you’ll run into and you definitely don’t want to draw the security patrol duty in his neighborhood, but he knows how to grab attention and sell himself.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has once again made himself the boxing world's center of attention.
(Getty Images)

When he announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he’s returning to boxing to face Victor Ortiz for the World Boxing Council welterweight title on Sept. 17, the news lit up boxing forums like Glitter Gulch, which is not far from the Las Vegas mansion in which Mayweather lives.

It’s going to be a massive pay-per-view and likely will exceed the 1.4 million units that Mayweather sold for his May 1, 2010, drubbing of Shane Mosley. Given Ortiz’s win over Andre Berto and Mayweather’s ability to command an audience, it wouldn’t be a shock if the fight surpassed 1.5 million sales.

Generating revenue like that is why Mayweather can afford to make $100,000 bets on basketball games when he’s bored.

Under the circumstances, a Mayweather-Ortiz match is one of the best fights that could be made. Of course, the fight that everyone really wants to see is Mayweather against Pacquiao, rivals for the spot as boxing’s biggest draw and finest fighter.

Ortiz has long been a talented, though perplexing fighter. The whole was never seemingly as good as the sum of his parts. And then came April and Ortiz burst out in a big way when he routed Andre Berto to claim the WBC belt. That version of Ortiz, the fast, big, aggressive and mostly importantly, determined guy, is a legitimate threat to beat just about anyone in the world.

Don’t, for a moment, though, think he’s going to beat Mayweather. He’s not. Ortiz is good, perhaps even very good. Mayweather, though, like Pacquiao, is great. Don’t be surprised if the Mayweather-Ortiz fight turns out to be a replica of Mayweather’s signature performance, a Jan. 20, 2001, victory over the late Diego Corrales in which he knocked Corrales down five times.

A strong powerful puncher like Ortiz, much like Corrales more than a decade before, will be neutered by Mayweather’s defensive wizardry, ring awareness and precise punching. There is no one in the game today harder to hit with a combination than Floyd Mayweather Jr. But even more significantly, Mayweather is so in control of what goes on in the ring that he’s rarely hit with a punch he does not see.

Punches a fighter does not see are the ones which hurt them and wind up knocking them out. Most world-class fighters can absorb a punch they see coming unless they’re fighting someone who hits like Mike Tyson.

Mosley wobbled Mayweather in the second round of their bout last year, but he pretty much couldn’t land another blow the rest of the way. Mayweather may have been hurt one or two other times in his career – DeMarcus Corley briefly seemed to have him in jeopardy – but nothing else really obvious springs to mind.

The genius of this match with Ortiz is that it will come about two months before Pacquiao fights Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas. Pacquiao will be in the early days of his training camp for Marquez when Mayweather climbs into the ring to face Ortiz, presumably at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, though that was not announced on Tuesday.

But Mayweather could invite Pacquiao to come to the fight as his guest. He could infuriate Pacquiao’s loyal legion of followers, who become irate if one says anything that could in any way be construed as remotely critical of Pacquiao, by taunting him and telling him to watch how a real professional operates.

Of course, you know he’ll taunt Pacquiao for picking at his leftovers. Mayweather won 11 of 12 rounds against Mosley in 2010 and won all 12 in a demolition of Marquez in 2009. He also beat Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya before Pacquiao did the same.

That will just up the ante for a fight between them, one that would almost certainly shatter every existing record in terms of revenue generated, paid gate and pay-per-views sold.

The thing that makes a Mayweather-Pacquiao match so fascinating is the great contrast in style. Mayweather is a defensive maestro and an underrated offensive fighter whose jab sets up a range of other punches, all of which are delivered with near-perfect precision and blinding speed. Pacquiao is an offensive machine whose overwhelming punching power and killer instinct make up for whatever small defensive holes he may have.

Golden Boy, which is promoting Mayweather, and Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao, couldn’t have asked for anything better: Pacquiao sitting ringside at Mayweather-Ortiz on Sept. 17 and then Mayweather cheering on Marquez at ringside at Pacquiao-Marquez on Nov. 12.

The fact that Mayweather chose as his opponent Ortiz, a strong, powerful offensive fighter just moving into his prime rather than a fading Paul Spadafora, could be construed as a sign that he’s getting himself ready for the offensive onslaught he may see when he takes on Pacquiao.

The Mayweather-Ortiz fight is, by itself, a top-notch bout. It’s starting to look, however, as if it’s the first of two preliminary bouts – with Pacquiao-Marquez being the other – leading to an inevitable fight between them next year.

Let’s say Mayweather wins nine of 12 rounds against Ortiz on Sept. 17. Then Pacquiao finally exorcises the demons and puts Marquez away in the final third of their fight on Nov. 12.

What would that lead to? Why, Mayweather-Pacquiao, on May 5, 2012.

Don’t point out all the potential pitfalls lurking that could prevent a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Jun 7, 2011