Mayweather, Ortiz reflective, restrained
NEW YORK -- There wasn't the usual braggadocio, no getting in the other guy's face or chest-bumping.
Longtime welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and current WBC titleholder Victor Ortiz kicked off the promotional tour for their Sept. 17 showdown on Tuesday by showing each other a level of professional respect that is fairly uncommon for these functions.
Despite repeated taunts from the gathered audience questioning Ortiz's heart, and the occasional shout for Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao, the fighters focused most of their attention on themselves at the Hudson Theater.
The 34-year-old Mayweather, who is returning to action for the first time since defeating Shane Mosley in May 2010, used the opportunity to reflect on his career, family and personal supporters.
"I'm a lot older, a lot wiser," Mayweather said.
"I've been away from the sport awhile because I wanted to choose the right opponent. But also, I wanted to grow closer to my family, my mother, my children.
"My ultimate goal is for my son and my daughter to never work again. I have to give thanks to [advisors] Leonard Ellerbe and Al Haymon, HBO and my team for putting me in position so that my family will never have to work again."
During his reflective moment, Mayweather (41-0-0, 25 knockouts) appeared to get a little emotional. He paused briefly each time he thanked family members or close friends.
Maybe he is beginning to see the end of an illustrious fighting career. But Mayweather isn't yet ready to write the final chapters.
"I want to thank you guys [the fans] for all your support over the years," Mayweather said. "[Ortiz] is not my last fight. I want to stay active in the sport of boxing; hopefully I can give you guys 10 more fights.
"I may not be able to. I'm closer to 40 than I am 21. But I look forward to going out there. I'm not going to be moving. It's going to be like the Shane Mosley fight; I'm going to bring the pressure in the middle of the squared circle."
Ortiz, 24, has no thoughts of retiring. For him, this fight -- which will be staged at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and will air on HBO pay-per-view -- represents the beginning of what he believes will be a wonderful career.
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But Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) is approaching the rest of it with a new attitude. Roundly criticized in the aftermath of his TKO loss to Marcos Maidana in 2009, he was accused by many of lacking heart. It's the worst label to place on a boxer.
In the past, such comments pained Ortiz. Not anymore. He has experienced too much in life to allow such criticism to harm him anymore.
"I understand all the love-hate type stuff. It is part of the game," Ortiz said. "But tell me one thing I haven't already heard.
"My mom and dad, they left me. People who loved me, they left me. I've been through a bunch of [stuff], are you kidding me?
"For somebody to sit there and tell me how to live my life, or try to dictate how I should live my life, that makes me laugh. I don't care."
Being criticized doesn't concern Ortiz, and neither, apparently, does the Mayweather bout. It's a fight he says he has wanted since his teenage years, and when it was offered, Ortiz immediately signed on.
This was the opportunity he'd been dreaming of for too long.
Ortiz remembers one of the first times he mentioned wanting to fight Mayweather. He was 16 years old. There were doubters then, too.
"We were sitting down watching a Mayweather fight and [trainer Robert Garcia] -- he's not the nicest person toward us sometimes -- said, 'You can't be in there with him. He's way too classy. You're not in his class.'
"But no one is going to tell me how to live my life. I don't care. I'm here to fight."
Franklin McNeil covers mixed martial arts and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.
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