Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
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Nothing gets a rise out of Floyd Mayweather Jr. more than questioning his legacy.
Mayweather boasting about his flawless 41-0 boxing résumé and declaring himself one of the greatest fighters ever — if not the best of all-time — has become a recurring refrain during the buildup to his bouts.
Although it’s been 16 months since Mayweather last stepped in the ring, those sound bites have surfaced again leading into Saturday’s WBC welterweight title fight against Victor Ortiz (29-2-2). Mayweather can’t stop the defensive words from flowing out of his mouth when faced with criticism about recent opponents.
“They say, ‘This guy is too small,' and then I fight another guy and they say, ‘This guy is too big,’” Mayweather said. “After Saturday night, they are going to say, ‘Floyd Mayweather had too much experience.’ Then if I’m up in my 30s and fight another guy in his 30s, they’ll say, ‘That guy is too old.’ But I’m not too old. I’m always in a no-win situation. The only thing I can do is go out there and keep winning, keep proving myself over and over again.”
The 34-year-old Mayweather has spent even more energy than usual defending himself this week because of comments made by Oscar De La Hoya, his former opponent and founder of Golden Boy Promotions, which lists Ortiz as one of its fighters.
De La Hoya has told anyone within earshot that he was on the downside of his career when he faced Mayweather. He asserted the same was true of Mayweather’s last two opponents, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez.
De La Hoya argues that the 24-year-old Ortiz is the first man in recent memory to get a shot at Mayweather in his prime. Basically, De La Hoya is accusing Mayweather and his team of being too selective to keep his cherished undefeated record intact.
Ortiz has made no attempt to distance himself from the statements of his boss.
“I think it’s justified,” Ortiz said. “Look at who he’s fought. He’s fought some good guys, but all of them were on their way out.”
There’s an easy way, of course, for Mayweather to make all of this talk disappear and universally get the acclaim he believes he deserves: Beat Ortiz with ease and book a bout against Manny Pacquiao.
Whether it’s unfair or not, most boxing fans will never mention Mayweather alongside greats like Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali until he beats the other best fighter of his generation. The long-discussed bout with Pacquiao has never come to fruition because of Mayweather’s insistence on Olympic-style drug testing.
It’s a conviction some accuse as an excuse to avoid Pacquiao.
“I’m not ducking or dodging nobody,” Mayweather said. “I’ve never ducked or dodged anybody.”
As certain as Mayweather discussing his legacy during fight weeks are the insults he lobs at Pacquiao. Mayweather hasn’t mentioned Pacquiao by name but has continually made comments seemingly aimed toward the 32-year-old Filipino named Fighter of the Decade a year-and-a-half ago.
“I know what happens in this sport,” Mayweather said. “A guy doesn’t all of a sudden get to an age and just become good. You look at the books, in 1997 or certain years, and say, ‘Well, where was this guy at?’ He just all of a sudden pops up and becomes good out of the blue — just out of the blue. Come on, man. Make this make sense, man.”
His own career has gone more conventionally, Mayweather would say. He’s worked his way up five weight classes and taken out boxing luminaries like De La Hoya and Arturo Gatti at their divisions.
Mayweather has also faced and beaten previously undefeated fighters like Ricky Hatton and Diego Corrales. “The Money Team,” as Mayweather calls his associates, says these are the facts his detractors choose to forget.
“He’s been very disrespected,” said Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe. “You have to recognize a champion and all the great things he’s accomplished. He’s won multiple titles and fought all the guys of this generation. You’ve got to respect that.”
Mayweather’s reputation has also taken a hit because of issues away from boxing. He’s had multiple lawsuits filed against him and is known for a party-filled lifestyle.
“I’m in my own country where if I do make it rain, I’m throwing money to the American citizens in a recession,” Mayweather said in another shot at Pacquiao. “A guy comes over to our country, which is America, makes money in our country and takes it back to his country to feed his people.”
Mayweather says it’s out of his control whether he will ever face Pacquiao. He used his now well-circulated slogan, “If you’re the best, take the test,” to describe the situation.
Until that happens, expect Mayweather to continue vocalizing his accomplishments.
“If no one believes in Floyd Mayweather,” he said, “I believe in me.”