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Julie Jacobson/AP/Press Association Images A complicated guy: Mayweather at yesterday's weigh-in.
# Knock-out
Inside the Ropes: Mayweather a step away from boxing's biggest fight
Gavin Grace previews Floyd Mayweather’s bout with Victor Ortiz and explains Tyson Fury’s sudden love of all things Irish.

As a boxer, and as a man, Floyd Mayweather is difficult to describe effectively, but hats off to The Guardian’s Kevin Mitchell, who managed it yesterday in fewer than 140 characters, writing:

“FMJ complicated guy: smart, dumb, caring, bully, hard, sensitive. A baby-like tough guy” [sic]

It’s the last sentence in particular that strikes a chord with me. Mayweather is petulant and childish outside the ring, but inside it he is as masterful and intelligent a fighter as there has been in recent times. He’s equally capable of pulverising an opponent as he is of toying with him. He’s not quite as comfortable out in the real world, though, less able to control himself, a fact to which his numerous clashes with law enforcement can attest.

Mayweather Jr. is unbeaten in 41 fights, but in the minds of most casual fans, he is linked most closely with a man he hasn’t fought: Manny Pacquiao.  A bout between the two has nearly happened on at least two prior occasions, but I have a hunch that a comprehensive win for Floyd tonight will help make that crucial breakthrough.

Pacquiao is a southpaw, a fact that’s lead many to suggest that Mayweather’s reluctance to fight the Filipino stems from his perceived weakness against lefties.

Tonight, he takes “Vicious” Victor Ortiz, another southpaw.  He’s ten years younger than Mayweather and packs a punch – he has downed or stopped his opponent in each of his last 16 contests.  He’s also hungry and eager to make a name for himself.

Given he’s up against a 34-year-old who hasn’t fought in fifteen months, he has to be credited with a chance of sorts.

Having said that, Floyd Mayweather is no ordinary 34-year-old.  He’s as nimble and clever a defensive fighter as the sport has produced in twenty years and is well capable of nullifying his opponent’s power in Las Vegas tonight.

Should he manage to do this, it may give him the confidence he needs to strike a deal with his biggest rival, finally giving the sporting world the fight it wants. That result is far from certain, though, even for someone as talented as Floyd.

Ironically, perhaps, given its billing, Mayweather vs. Ortiz has the makings of a great, great fight.

This week in boxing history

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is probably the fighter most similar to Sugar Ray Leonard to appear since the latter’s heyday in the 1980s.

Leonard was another tough but tricky fighter who won when he had to, a quality he demonstrated most clearly when he fought Thomas Hearns on September 16, 1981.  By that point in his career, Leonard had fought 30 times, only failing to win on one occasion. Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez and a certain Floyd Mayweather Sr. could each count themselves among his victims.

But for all his success, he still had to prove himself against the “Hit Man” Hearns, who was tearing up the welterweight division at the time.

Hearns controlled much of the contest, and was ahead on the scorecards heading into the last three rounds.  Crucially, however, he was also tiring, and was eventually knocked down in the 13th round. The contest was halted in the next session.

It was the fight of the year and endures as one of the highlights of the decade.

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Parries and jabs

Tonight also sees a second successive Saturday night of boxing in Belfast, this time headlined by British Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury.

The unbeaten Fury, who has family ties to Antrim and Galway, has been promoting himself as more Irish than English in the build-up to tonight’s contest.

He has even suggested that his fight with Nicolai Firtha, coming the evening after Ireland’s Rugby World Cup match with Australia and the day before the All-Ireland Final, will help cap a great weekend for Irish sport.

According to Boxing Ireland, the heavyweight has his sights set on a title fight with one of the Klitschkos in Croke Park next year.

There’s some genuine Irish interest to be had in tonight’s card, too, with Willie Casey set to make a return to the ring after a self-imposed six-month break following his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux.

Unfortunately, the return of one fighter is balanced by disappointment for another. The occurrence of a shoulder injury means that Lurgan’s Stephen Haughian will be unable to participate in his fight with former world titleist Junior Witter.

Amir Khan’s next fight is set.  He’ll take on Lamont Peterson on December 10 after both camps agreed terms earlier this week.  The event will take place in the US, with Peterson’s hometown of Washington D.C. looking the most likely venue at this stage.

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