By Chris Robinson
In the first part of my latest interview with HBO Sports' Bert Sugar, we took a look at this weekend's heavyweight title clash between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye. Not wanting to leave anyone out, I was also sure to get Sugar's take on another one of the sport's biggest stories, the recently announced Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz welterweight title showdown, set to take place on September 17th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Love him or loathe him, you can’t really understate what the braggadocios 34-year Mayweather brings to the sport, as the Ortiz matchup very well could be looked at as this year’s biggest extravaganza. Opening up on the matchup, you can sense Sugar’s enthusiasm being toned down by his personal curiosities.
"I just don't know if we will see the old Floyd Mayweather or an older Floyd Mayweather,” Sugar stated candidly. “He's been out for sixteen months. He seems to be, most of the time, and I was at the press conference, talking about Manny Pacquiao. And you have to understand Ortiz. What is he, 29-2-2 with 27 knockouts? He's knocked down an opponent in every fight, even the two he's lost and the two he drew. He brings power."
Ortiz certainly does bring some heat to the table, most recently evidenced by his April get down with then-WBC champion Andre Berto. In that fight Ortiz would survive two knockdowns of his own as he floored Berto twice himself on his way towards seizing the victory.
With the victory came the shattering of the notion that Ortiz was a quitter, as suggested by his June 2009 loss to Marcos Maidana, and Sugar feels fully that we have a different kind of fighter on our hands.
"I think he's come again as a main attraction fighter. I think he put that [loss] behind him. I think that was a regeneration of a fighter,” Sugar boasted of the 24-year old champion.
Sprinkling Ortiz with praise is certainly warranted but September 17th is just as much about the return of Mayweather, who has been out of ring dealing with legal and personal issues ever since his May 2010 drubbing of Shane Mosley.
So, did Sugar ever feel that we would see Floyd again?
"I thought he would [come back] and I hoped he would because he adds something to boxing,” Sugar stated. “He's what boxing has been waiting for. As compared to the Klitschko-Haye fight, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is what we've been waiting for."
When asked to close his eyes and ponder the matchup, Sugar instead showed more curiosity as to just how much Mayweather will have left once the opening bells rings.
"I just don't know,” Sugar added. “Because for three rounds I am going to be watching for the rust factor. Is there a rust factor? Will he go right back to being the great Floyd Mayweather Jr.? If Ortiz rushes him the way he rushed Andre Berto, then we might see a different type of fight than the usual Floyd fight. But all things considered, Floyd has been a tremendous tactician but he's had two fights in two and a half years and you don't know what you are watching for. Because you don't get young and you don't get better sitting around on your bum."
Of course, with Mayweather you can’t mention his name without thinking of a possible meeting with Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao down the road. It’s a fight that we have been hoping for but one that has proven itself to come with its share of hurdles at the negotiating table.
It’s anyone’s guess as to what is going through Floyd’s head on any given day but Sugar would like to think that Pacquiao is in his plans.
"There are many of us hoping that the Ortiz fight is a page-turner, not a page holder. That, in effect, that's what his plans and ambitions are. That's what he sounded like at the press conference. But he did say he wanted the testing again. It might go up in smoke, twice as it had before. It's what boxing has been waiting for, the most anticipated fight since Leonard and Hearns thirty years ago."