One recent Sunday afternoon, former boxing champ Victor Ortiz went to Logan Paul’s house in Encino, Calif., and watched the YouTube star knock out the last of three partners in the final round of a sparring session.
“Holy crap,” were Ortiz’s words as Paul, his longtime friend, ended another session in preparation for a Feb. 20 exhibition bout against Floyd Mayweather.
“Mind you, these are full-on professional boxers,” Ortiz told MMA Fighting. “I sat back in shock and awe. He was so composed and relaxed. He used his reach perfect – took a little step, hook down the middle, sleep. Night-night.
“My only complaint there is that he didn’t read him a bedtime story.”
Ortiz knows some fight fans will groan at this story. Training camp stories can be real, but they are also some of the oldest tall tales told in the fight game. Even the knockdowns caught on tape – see Conor McGregor vs. Paulie Malignaggi – are the subject of heated dispute.
Real or not – and questions remain about how real the Paul vs. Mayweather fight will be – a stamp of approval from a former champion is a valuable plug. It’s one Ortiz, whose lapse in attention famously cost him a win against Floyd Mayweather in 2011, is happy to give to Paul. Whatever the critics want to say, it’s no bother.
“I know what I know, and I know what I see,” Ortiz said. “What I’m saying, in a sense, is that he will give Floyd trouble.”
Loyalty is important to Ortiz, who first met Paul six years ago and calls him “a real one.” That’s why he is offering whatever help he can three weeks into his own camp for a targeted return on the main camp of a Jan. 30 fight card featuring super middleweight champ Caleb Plant vs. Caleb Truax.
For now, that doesn’t mean stepping in the ring as a sparring partner, but instead stopping by during Logan’s camp to give pointers where he can and relay lessons learned from his experience with Mayweather, a loss he’d still like to get back.
“He’s a dear friend, and I believe in him,” Ortiz said of Paul. “I’m telling you, it’s going to be an interesting fight. I’ve talked to him about Floyd a few times. … I give him the simple things: ‘Floyd is Floyd, but you’re unstoppable. You’re on another level.’ I strongly believe Floyd will have trouble. Logan can box, and he has power, reach speed, and he can move now.”
Since word got around that Ortiz is helping out the 25-year-old boxing neophyte, Ortiz said said he’s been hazed nonstop by fight fans. To a certain extent, he can understand why. As a highly trained professional, he is one of the guys that should take issue with the latest disruptor to the combat sports industry. But he understands why it’s happening.
“I can absolutely see 110 percent why they would be upset,” Ortiz said. “I can agree to a certain extent. But honestly, realistically, today’s society is about numbers. You can be one heck of a boxer, but if you’re not putting butts in seats, you ain’t getting paid.”
These days, Ortiz, 33, said his skin is thicker than ever against criticism. He is just getting back on his feet after prosecutors dismissed sexual assault charges against him earlier this month. He maintains his innocence and said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a woman accused him of assaulting her at a party in 2018. He said his inner circle is a fraction of what it used to be after fair-weather friends abandoned him and is closer than ever to those who believed his innocence.
Three years ago, Mayweather un-retired to take on McGregor, another boxing neophyte whose star power far exceeded his ring time; the ex-UFC champ was stopped in the 10th round of the professional bout. Ortiz is biased, but he likes his friend’s chances better.
“Conor couldn’t do nothing,” said Ortiz, who in 2014 co-starred with Ronda Rousey in The Expendables 3. “I don’t mean to speak bad. Conor’s a heck of a UFC fighter in the octagon, but he has no business in a ring, as opposed to someone like Logan – Logan learned in a ring. So his stuff is all standup. Everything about Logan is boxing, angles, moving, so it’s two different worlds. I couldn’t tell you what someone like Logan or myself could do in an octagon, but stick to what you know. And Logan, he knows boxing right now.”
Although McGregor and his former coaches at Dublin’s Crumlin Boxing Club would certainly disagree on Ortiz’s version of history, Ortiz believes there’s a big difference in what the former two-division UFC champ brought to the table.
“McGregor’s a hell of a boxer,” said of the ex-UFC champ, who returns Jan. 23 for a rematch with Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. “I’m a huge fan of McGregor. I’ve always pulled for Conor, except for when he fought Floyd. Floyd shut it down when Floyd was done playing. He said, ‘OK, I just gave the world a show. I’m going to put you night night.’ Did he catch him a couple of times? Absolutely. It’s a fight, for god’s sake. But Floyd was going to shut it down when Floyd wanted to.”
When Mayweather comes out of retirement for his second boxing exhibition fight (his first, a match against Tenshin Nasukawa, ended via first-round TKO), Ortiz said he will have his hands full.
“[Mayweather] found a YouTuber – that sounds easy enough for a 20-time world champion,” Ortiz said. “Alright, let’s beat him up. But what I’ve been watching and seeing is a YouTuber gone professional boxer who puts in hours and hours of work studying films. He’s very disciplined, and he’s working his butt off, and he listens. He has a heck of a coach [in Milton Lacroix] who’s very knowledgeable and very experienced. I believe it’s a dangerous combo.”
“From what I see at the gym, I can honestly say Logan can probably hit harder than [Mayweather],” he added later. “Now, who’s more accurate? We’ll see Feb. 20.”
And in Ortiz’s fantasy matchmaking scenario, he gets to face off with Mayweather after Paul is done with him.
“I literally had my hands down in front of him, and I took four straight rights in the middle of the ring,” Ortiz said. “[I said], ‘C’mon champ, show me how hard you hit.’ I took them flush in the mouth. Which one dropped me and which one ‘knocked me out?’ When I was looking outside the ring, waiting for a time-in, he went back to the corner, ran up, unloaded a right. My three-year-old could drop me, too, if I wasn’t looking.”