By Mitch Abramson
Manny Pacquiao believes that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is laying the groundwork for a potential blockbuster fight with him by taking on Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17. While Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr. have circled each other from a distance over the past few years as the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, negotiations have broken down over the issue of drug testing and Mayweather’s apparent desire to take time off. But in taking on Ortiz, a southpaw with speed and power, Pacquiao thinks that Mayweather is getting ready for the challenge of one day facing him.
“Yeah, that’s what I said awhile ago,” Pacquiao, a southpaw, said during a press conference to promote his bout with Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas. “I know he’s preparing to fight because he got a southpaw opponent for this fight.”
At the same time, Pacquiao vacillated between sounding as if he wanted to fight Mayweather to rejecting the idea completely. He seemed to be teasing the public’s appetite for such a blockbuster match.
“I don’t really need that fight," Pacquiao went on. "If that fight happens, well, good; that’s the fight I want; if it doesn’t happen, I’m also happy because I’m already satisfied with what I have done in boxing. I’m thinking that Floyd is preparing for our battle because he got a southpaw opponent for his next fight, so maybe like that. I give the possibility.”
Pacquiao, who sparred with Ortiz several times earlier in his career, gives the southpaw a good chance to upset Mayweather on Sept. 17.
“He’s a strong puncher,” Pacquiao said of Ortiz. “He’s heavy-handed. You don’t have to underestimate Ortiz because he is strong and there is a big chance for Ortiz to win the fight.”
He broke the fight down this way: “Both fighters have an advantage. Floyd is faster than Ortiz and Ortiz is stronger than Floyd, so it depends how hard they train for the fight. Ortiz has a big chance for the fight.”
Pacquiao said he would be open to fighting Ortiz should the Garden City, Kansas product get by Mayweather, and that he and Ortiz are very familiar with the other’s style from their sparring days.
But he’s not open to rising in weight in the future, and says that passing through eight divisions is enough.
“That’s hard to accomplish- eight divisions,” Pacquiao said with a smile. “That’s not that easy.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.