They say that history repeats itself, and in the case of Floyd Mayweather against Victor Ortiz, history's repetition might be right on time for those doomed to repeat it. Twenty years ago this past February, Terry Norris defeated Sugar Ray Leonard by unanimous decision and with that unexpected victory he catapulted himself to boxing superstardom and began a lengthy run on top that included victories over Donald Curry, Meldrick Taylor, and Simon Brown just to name a few. Ironically, Norris' own inevitable fall from the top would be most terrible of all but for Leonard, the defeat was his first since Roberto Duran in 1980, it was his first official in-ring thrashing, and he would never win another boxing match; fighting only once more in an embarrassing KO loss to Hector Camacho six years later.
Fast forward twenty years to the present, and it's very nearly the same situation Floyd Mayweather is facing against the 24 year old Victor Ortiz.
There are many obvious parallels between Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather Jr. as fighters, but there are also some interesting parallels between Leonard's 1991 fight against Terry Norris and Mayweather's September 17th fight against Victor Ortiz. In February of 1991, Sugar Ray Leonard was coming off a 14 month layoff following his December 1989 victory over Roberto Duran in their anticlimactic rubber match. Terry Norris was chosen by the 33 year old Sugar Ray Leonard as his latest comeback opponent because he was considered to be a beatable, but legitimate young gun. The 23 year old Norris was not particularly well known at this time but he was the WBC Super Welterweight Champion, and had recently knocked out John "The Beast" Mugabi in stunning fashion. Not long before that however, Norris was himself knocked out by the hard punching Julian Jackson. It was the type of loss that could have easily shattered his confidence as a fighter.
From Ray Leonard's perspective, Terry Norris was a safe fight that he was expected to win, but also a fight that would test his ability to hang with a young and hungry boxing champion. For Leonard it was a bit like fighting a younger version of himself. A win over the upstart Norris would prove to Leonard and to the boxing world that Sugar Ray was still sweet.
Like Leonard, Floyd Mayweather is coming off a similar layoff. Mayweather is 34 years old, and facing a WBC Welterweight Champion ten years his junior. In his last fight 15 months ago, Floyd was rocked in the second round by a past-his-prime Sugar Shane Mosley but to his credit, Mayweather bounced back, dominated the rest of the fight and won easily. Mayweather has not fought a young hungry lion like Ortiz since 2007 when he dispatched a then undefeated Ricky Hatton in ten rounds. Mayweather is likewise expected to win against Ortiz, who can be seen like Norris was, as a safe but legitimate - handpicked opponent - who should test him and prepare him for a Superfight against Manny Pacquiao. Ortiz, like Norris in 1991, has a devastating loss on his record to go along with a recent big win. If the 2009 Marcos Maidana defeat took Victor Ortiz to hell, the Andre Berto victory brought him from hell and then back.
And so it goes that Victor Ortiz now stands on the threshold of a victory that would redeem him in every imaginable way. A victory over Mayweather would make Ortiz an instant star, he would most likely sweep all the major year end boxing awards, and a win over one of boxing's biggest stars would go a long way towards earning forgiveness for boxing's gravest sin, quitting in the ring as he did against Marcos Maidana in 2009 and then infamously declaring afterwards, "I'm not gonna go out on my back. I'd rather stop while I'm ahead so I can speak well when I'm older. I'm young but I don't think I deserve to be getting beat up like that."
If Ortiz beats Mayweather, his critics will have to take a second look at the Maidana fight and consider the possibility that by "quitting" to avoid serious injury, Ortiz in effect preserved himself as a fighter and by doing so actually made it possible to take advantage of the bigger opportunities when they ultimately came knocking on his door. Against Andre Berto, Ortiz answered the knock of that opportunity and won the WBC Welterweight Championship, a title belt that Ortiz truly coveted. Opportunity is again knocking for Victor Ortiz, this time very loudly against Floyd Mayweather.
Will Ortiz answer the door this time, knowing what lies behind it?
Can he beat one of the two best fighters in boxing?
Conventional wisdom says no. Las Vegas odds say no. And Floyd Mayweather Jr. will probably have something to say about it too. Still, if you follow boxing long enough, you realize that no fighter is invincible and that time catches up to even the very best of them. There is always somebody out there with your number. Mike Tyson had his Buster Douglas. Julio Cesar Chavez had his Frankie Randall. Sugar Ray Leonard realized this painful truth in 1991 when Terry Norris beat him up and humiliated him. A 35 year old Roy Jones Jr realized it against Antonio Tarver in 2004, and the unbeaten 32 year old Aaron Pryor realized it against Bobby Joe Young in 1987. Father time finally caught up to Ray Leonard and when it happened, Terry Norris was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it. Granted, Leonard was not undefeated when he fought Norris but at that time he had yet to be truly humbled in the ring by a fighter he was expected to beat.
By continuing to push his luck in the most unforgiving of sports, there is now an air of vulnerability for Mayweather just as there was for Leonard in 1991.
So what will happen on fight night? Will history repeat itself? The feeling here is that it will. Floyd Mayweather is a great fighter but time will finally catch up to him as it does for everyone and he will realize very early in the fight that he made a terrible mistake by fighting so infrequently against naturally smaller opponents as he got older. He will learn why so few fighters are able to stay undefeated forever. He will come face to face with the fact that boxing is a young man's game. Mayweather's layoff, combined with his inactivity and advanced age will create the perfect situation for young Victor Ortiz to take advantage of, and Victor will seize the moment and do just that.
Prediction: A highly motivated and vicious Victor Ortiz staggers a declining Floyd Mayweather early to get his respect, drops him midway through the fight, and goes on to pound out a clear cut unanimous decision victory over Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather will have his moments in the fight, but the night will belong to Victor Ortiz, who recently stated that he wants to fight the best Floyd Mayweather possible on September 17th. No he doesn't. The best Floyd Mayweather beats him and does so with relative ease just as the best Sugar Ray Leonard would have most certainly beaten Terry Norris. But that wasn't the best Sugar Ray Leonard in 1991 and neither will Mayweather be at his best come September 17th. A dominant performance by Ortiz will come as a great surprise to many just as it did 20 years ago when Terry Norris manhandled the great Sugar Ray Leonard.
For Mayweather, it will be his first loss and a test of his greatness in terms of how he responds to it. For Ortiz, it will be the biggest win of his young career, it will position him for another huge fight, perhaps against Manny Pacquiao but most importantly for Ortiz, a win will mean true redemption.
To the Victor go the spoils.
Result: (9/18/11) Mayweather KO4 Ortiz. Protect yourself at all times!
Leonard-Norris it certainly wasn't!