Alan Dawson – London
Like he has done throughout his 41-fight professional career, Floyd Mayweather Jr will prevail – by way of decision – over a game Victor Ortiz despite his so-called problems outside the ring, according to trainer Jesus Chavez, who fought Mayweather Jr in a 2001 war. Speaking exclusively to On The Beak, Chavez talked tactics ahead of Ortiz’s first defence of his WBC welterweight world championship against challenger Mayweather Jr on Saturday, September 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas.
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Jesus today. Credit: S. Verbeek
Much has been made of Floyd Mayweather Jr’s mentality. He acts bonkers and irrationally, according to his former promoter Bob Arum – founder of Top Rank. He’s got some well-documented legal problems and a now highly-publicised strained relationship with his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr, who is alleged to have attempted to use a one-year-old baby Floyd as a shield when he was shot in the 1970s. Those who opine that Mayweather Jr’s apparent questionable mental state will affect him this weekend against Ortiz need look no further than his unwavering dedication to training, inspirational work-rate and his determination to protect his zero.
“If it seems for some reason that he is not 100 percent focused on the fight or he is taking Ortiz lightly then that’s counter-productive,” top trainer Jesus Chavez exclusively told On The Beak editor Alan Dawson. Chavez (44-8-0, 30ko) is a master of his craft. A champion of the sport having won major world honours in the super featherweight and lightweight division, the 38-year-old now spends six days a week passing on his wisdom to students of the sport at the flourishing Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in Dallas, Texas. Chavez also knows Mayweather Jr. Both as an athlete and as a man.
In 2001, Chavez dropped a ninth round retirement to Mayweather Jr (41-0-0, 25ko). It was Chavez’s first shot at a world championship having long reigned over the NABF title in the 130lb weight class. Because of Chavez’s battling display – his aggression in the opening three rounds ensured he won two of the first three on HBO broadcaster Harold Lederman’s scorecard – Mayweather Jr’s come-from-behind triumph over Chavez is still, to this day, considered to be one of Floyd’s most exciting. Ten years on, Mayweather Jr and Chavez still keep in touch, with the former making sure to call his friend Jesus whenever he is to make a stop in the Lone Star State.
“Quite honestly, Mayweather has always been very flamboyant,” continued Chavez. “He has always been the same Floyd Mayweather who hangs out around 5am and does what he does, but he pulls the work together and comes up with the win. It’s quite amazing,” he paused, and the three-word sentence lingered in my mind. “There’s a lot of good and bad being said about him but at the end of the day he’s winning his fights!”
Something I had noticed during Mayweather Jr’s numerous open media workouts was that he had a keen focus on the midsection of the heavy bag, as well as beating-up Leonard Ellerbe’s body protector. I asked Chavez that even though Ortiz (29-2-2, 22ko) has mainly been knocked down by a focus to his chin, would there be merit in attacking Victor’s body in order to sap him of energy, quieten his pressure and perhaps secure a late stoppage when Floyd then pays full attention to the chin and temples.
“The bodywork could work against Ortiz,” said Chavez. “Ortiz can’t really play into what Mayweather is doing. Ortiz should be focusing only on how he’s going to fight Mayweather. You train your hardest and you train to expect something in return. Ortiz won’t underestimate Floyd by any chance as he’s a wrecking force. He surprised me when he fought Ricky Hatton and knocked him out… up until that point I never thought he had the power to knock him out. I gave him more respect.
“Against Ortiz… he’s a very good fighter and he’s been stopped, he’s been cut in the past and I think the times when Ortiz sees blood he kinda shies out of the fight,” he added, referring to his notorious stoppage loss to Marcos Maidana. “If he sees blood coming out of a small cut or his nose, I think that might turn the fight for Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather will box and fight the way he regularly boxes until his opponents get frustrated and bite the bullet at the end.”
When Hatton returned home to England after losing a technical knockout to Mayweather Jr in 2007, he commented on how surprised he was at Mayweather Jr’s ability to fight effectively on the inside. Two of the punches that Floyd utilised well whilst fighting from close range with both Hatton and Chavez were the left hook, but also the right uppercut.
“The uppercut was one of the things I kept on getting caught with [against Mayweather Jr],” Chavez said. “I remember because I was there. I was not hurt but they caught me by surprise. My head was getting knocked back and you’re like oh my god this guy [me] is getting nailed.”
He continued: “One of Mayweather’s best attributes is his defensive skill… he’s going to make you throw and make you miss. Missing takes a lot more out of the opponent than it does to hit a glove or connect the punch. The offensive fighter who misses the punch has to reposition himself, his body and then think what punches he’s going to throw next.
“[The key to] Fighting Floyd Mayweather is to make him fight,” Chavez stressed onto me. “Mayweather doesn’t like to fight, you have to make him, to push him. Mayweather is going to have to respect Ortiz. Ortiz is going to have to try to beat him, not be shy about getting hit, getting cut and make it a dirty fight in order to have a good chance to win.”
Speaking of dirty… it’s been one of the things Ortiz’s trainer Danny Garcia has accused Mayweather Jr of being, of using his elbow illegally to gain an edge, particularly against Hatton in 07. Were cheap shots something Chavez had ever experienced when fighting Floyd? “No,” he answered swiftly.
“If they think his elbow is his biggest weapon then they’re in trouble! Every fight is different. If pulling off his elbow was going to be a mechanism… if Ricky Hatton is crashing into it, that’s just that fight. That’s not his only defensive move or dangerous move, if you’re training for that then you have to worry about if it’s going to be the left or right elbow, but don’t forget he also has two punching gloves!”
One of Ortiz’s main advantages going into Star Power will be that he is naturally the bigger man. Despite being relatively inexperienced as a welterweight fighter, he showed against Andre Berto – himself a cut and athletic 147lb campaigner – that it was he who was the bigger man as he looked, on fight night, a strong junior middleweight. With that added mass he had the upper hand when he and Berto attempted to out-bully the other during their fight of the year nominee earlier this year. Ortiz was the successor, won the WBC title and now a shot at Floyd.
How important will fight night weight be against Mayweather Jr? “I think he should come into the fight feeling comfortable with the weight,” Chavez said, implying that there should not be too big a focus on Garcia striving for Ortiz to rehydrate to, say, 157lbs. “He should feel good physically, only he knows, we can say that he can have more weight so he’ll be better off but it’s him who needs to feel comfortable. First of all and foremost he has to feel good about himself. He does not need to worry about the weight, just go in there and do the job.”
Artwork used to promote Chavez and Mayweather Jr's dust-up
In Mayweather Jr’s most recent outing, a 2010 decisioning over Shane Mosley, Sugar had Floyd staggered (but not down) with a right handed power punch early on, however, Mayweather Jr recovered sufficiently and went on to win a landslide victory. Against Ortiz, the ability to absorb a punch when they do connect will be crucial. Because many commentators focus on Mayweather’s pure defensive skills, is his courage something that is perhaps under-rated? “I think his courage is under-rated,” Chavez said in agreement.
“I underestimated Mayweather up until the point he fought Hatton. Not when I fought him, I didn’t have that mentality. I go into fights with the mentality of giving it my all, my best. I don’t think either fighter will get underestimated [on Saturday].”
Considering the skills on display, respective training camps, championship level experience, how did Chavez envisage the match-up between Mayweather Jr and Ortiz panning out? “Mayweather will win, probably by decision.”
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