Late Breaking

Mayweather grabs Ortiz by the throat, but Victor smiles instead of chokes


LAS VEGAS – On and off the scale, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz played their assigned roles. Ortiz was where he was supposed to be and who he was supposed to be. Then, there was Mayweather, light on the scale, yet heavy in every other way.

The heavily-favored Mayweather attempted to intimidate Ortiz with some heavy-handed tactics Friday before and after he weighed 146.5 pounds in front of lively crowd at the MGM Grand’s Events Center.

Actually, one hand said it all.

Mayweather put his right hand around Ortiz’ throat as the two stood, nose-to-nose, in what was supposed to be the traditional stare-down at the end of the formal weigh-in. Mayweather’s gesture summed up what he believes will happen in the scheduled 12-round bout for the belt, the World Boxing Council’s welterweight title, possessed by Ortiz.

Throughout the build-up, Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) has suggested that Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) will choke.

The 24-year-old Ortiz is a relative newcomer to all of the attention, media, hype, distractions and antics attached to a major fight. The 34-year-old Mayweather isn’t.

Mayweather has been there often throughout a 16-year career without defeat. He often acts as if he owns the big stage. Maybe, that’s why he treated Ortiz with such disdain at the weigh-in. He looked at Ortiz as though he was trespassing. He acted as if he wanted to throw Ortiz out onto the street, if not into a dumpster.

But Ortiz only smiled, before he was at the 147-pound limit and after Mayweather let go of his throat. Ortiz leaped like a kid, threw his hands over his head and flashed the telegenic grin that has captured the camera’s focus and much of the public imagination in the HBO series, 24/7.

“It’s a big joke,’’ Ortiz told a publicist as he left the stage while an estimated crowd of 4,000 roared. “It’s funny.’’

Funny, but not always comedy. The tension surrounding Mayweather always seems to be there, under the surface and dangerous. Both fighters have estranged fathers. Ortiz says his dad abandoned him when he was 7-year-old kid in Kansas. He said he tried to reconnect with his dad, Victor Sr., but failed. He’s moved on. Meanwhile, Mayweather’s relationship with his dad, Floyd Sr., is an ongoing series, also captured ad nauseam on 24/7.

In the latest chapter Mayweather Jr. and Sr. are estranged all over again. The senior Mayweather, who hadn’t been seen since the last blow-up a couple of weeks ago, was spotted on the floor at the weigh-in. A Tweet was attributed to him, although there was skepticism about whether Floyd Sr, even has a Twitter account.

“Can you believe that I ain’t even being invited to the Floyd Mayweather fight tomorrow?” the Tweet said. “The man who he owes everything to isn’t wanted there.”

If the Tweet didn’t come from Floyd Sr., the message has. In so many words, he has said exactly that many times.

There’s no word on whether Floyd Sr. will show up at the fight on his own. If he does, it’s safe to say he’ll watch from some seat far from his son’s corner. Then, there’s the potential for a twist that’s bizarre by even boxing standards. There continues to be speculation that Floyd Jr. has invited Ortiz’ dad to the fight. There’s even been talk that Victor Sr. will be invited to accompany Floyd Jr. into the ring along with former Ortiz trainer Robert Garcia and longtime rival Brandon Rios.

It’s funny only if you like sick comedy.

But Mayweather’s notorious gamesmanship has no limits. His uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, was not on the stage for the weigh-in. There wouldn’t have been much room for him anyway. Instead, a large entourage followed Floyd Jr., who paced and chewed gum. After both fighters stepped off the scale, some of the Mayweather followers went to work on Ortiz with taunts and trash talk. Hey, Mayweather can’t do everything.

But Ortiz walked away from the scene looking almost as though he were a fighter with little to lose. That might be his biggest advantage, although he’s confident he can win a title that would not be shared. Only one can be the first to beat Mayweather.

Before the weigh-in, Ortiz got a call from former heavyweight champ George Foreman. Four years ago, Ortiz won a fight in Houston, Foreman’s hometown. After the victory, Ortiz met with Foreman, who gave him a copy of his best-selling book, By George. Inside the cover, Foreman wrote “One day, you’re going to be a champion.’’

Ortiz reminded him of that Friday.

“You were right,’’ he told Foreman.

But now he faces a much tougher task. Against Mayweather, he has to prove that nearly everybody else is wrong.