LAS VEGAS – The news conference Wednesday included a meal and two mouthfuls of a lot more from Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz. Who ate whose lunch? Doesn’t matter. There are no scorecards at a formal news conference. No winners either.
There was just an over-indulgence of promises and pontification to go along with the indigestion a few days before Mayweather and Ortiz break bread and maybe each other’s noses Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
At the top of the menu, there was a Mayweather allegation that Ortiz has been lying about how his father abandoned him when he was a kid in Kansas.
“I know the real truth,’’ Mayweather said of a story that has been told for years and re-told in HBO’s poignant portrayal of Ortiz in the 24/7 series. “His father didn’t leave. No, he didn’t leave. He went to high school in California. I’ve done my homework.
“But it’s good for TV.’’
Mayweather wouldn’t disclose his source, but it is believed to be Robert Garcia, Ortiz’ former trainer and the brother of his current trainer, Danny. The Garcia brothers, neighbors in Oxnard, Calif., don’t talk to each other. Apparently, Ortiz also doesn’t talk to Robert any more after an unhappy split.
“I understand,’’ Ortiz said after Mayweather delivered the line like a thespian at the MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre.”It’s a tactic.’’
Ortiz dismissed it as small piece, another imaginary pawn, in the mind games that Mayweather has learned how to play as well as anybody. Ortiz said it didn’t affect him.
“I’m a tree stump,’’ Ortiz said. “Things like that don’t bother me.’’
If it does, Ortiz is in trouble. The gamesmanship figures to continue. Mayweather has invited Robert Garcia and lightweight champion Brandon Rios to the welterweight fight. Rios, who is trained by Robert Garcia, claims he used to get the best of Ortiz when they were young amateurs at a gym in Garden City, Kan. Ortiz might even see his estranged trainer and his old rival staring at him after he steps through the ropes and waits for opening bell during the introductions. Mayweather plans to have both with him when he enters the ring.
In questioning the credibility of a story that has come to define Ortiz and his sudden popularity, Mayweather seemed to be testing his ability to deal with everything that comes and goes on boxing’s biggest stage. Mayweather has been there often. Ortiz has not. For Mayweather, the fight always begins the day that the contract is signed. His rips are rhetorical probes in an attempt to find weaknesses in Ortiz.
On Wednesday, however, it was hard to judge whether Mayweather had found any or even one in Ortiz, who was relaxed as ever. Ortiz even initiated a few of the exchanges. In his formal address to the media from the podium, he turned to the unbeaten Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs), who was sitting to his right.
“I sense a little bit of nervousness in this area, right here,’’ said Ortiz, who holds the World Boxing Council’s version of the 147-pound title. “I’m going to teach what it is to have that one on your record. Hey, I’ve already got two.’’
Mayweather couldn’t resist. He interrupted Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs), yelling:
“You got two draws, too.’’
Ortiz wouldn’t back down in an exchange that might have been preview of fight that both will end in a knockout.
“Somebody is scared,’’ Ortiz countered. “I’m going to put you on your ass, I promise.’’
An Ortiz victory of any kind would be a surprise. As of late Wednesday, betting odds at Las Vegas books heavily favored Mayweather at about 5 1/2 –to-1. If the news conference was a sign, however, more surprise could be imminent. For the first time that anybody can recall, Mayweather was called a dirty fighter. Over his 16-year career, he’s been called a lot of things, but never that. Enter Danny Garcia, who delivered the charge from the bully pulpit during the news conference.
“Please, fight a clean fight,’’ Garcia said as he turned toward Mayweather. “Don’t turn your back. Don’t hold.’’
Don’t waste your time, Mayweather countered in his turn at the pulpit.
“The trainer called me a dirty fighter,’’ Mayweather said. “When has boxing ever been a clean sport? It’s a sport when you’re trying to hurt the other guy.
“How can it be clean?”
No answer for that one from Garcia, or the media, or even Ortiz. Call the news conference a draw. Hopefully, the fight won’t be.