Reporting from Las Vegas — The most modest man at the podium made the boldest statement Wednesday.
Danny Garcia, a soda truck driver who also trains world welterweight champion Victor Ortiz, turned to multimillionaire Floyd Mayweather Jr. and made a simple, passionate plea that will resonate until the boxers square off at the MGM Grand on Saturday night.
“Floyd, at least for this fight, fight a good clean fight for the people,” Garcia said as he stared down at Mayweather, who was seated at a news conference dais. “We all know how you fight.
“Don’t put up your elbow, don’t turn your back. That tells me you’re scared of fighting.”
Strong words from a working-class man whose morning delivery route includes stops in Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo.
It wasn’t Mayweather’s turn to speak, but as he showed HBO cameras during training camp, when he threw his father out of his gym in an expletive-filled tirade, he doesn’t have much patience in debate.
“Yeah, I am scared of fighting,” answered Mayweather, mocking Garcia’s accusation. “That’s why I’ve been dominating here for 16 years. I’m the one doing the [pay-per-view] numbers. I’m not worried about you. You’re the trainer. Let your fighter fight.”
Ortiz, 24, who claimed the World Boxing Council title with a stirring exchange-of-knockdowns battle with Andre Berto in April, took up his trainer’s cause.
“You have 41 [victories], but none of those 41 were against me,” said the Ventura boxer, who has a record of 29-2-2 with 22 knockouts. “I sense some nervousness. I am the current WBC champion. I’m going to teach you what it’s like to have that one [loss].”
Mayweather, 34, whose 41-0 record includes 25 knockouts, cautioned his younger foe — a 51/2-1 underdog at the MGM Resorts’ Race and Sports Book — telling Ortiz to stay “classy.”
Ortiz responded with a dig at Mayweather’s involvement in a felony domestic violence case in which the mother of his three children was allegedly a victim.
“Oh, we’re talking about class here? I’m going to put you on your [rear],” Ortiz said.
When it was Mayweather’s turn, he expressed surprise that the Ortiz camp had turned scornful.
“The trainer says I’m a dirty fighter. Well, it’s a dirty sport,” Mayweather said. “It’s the hurt business. How can it be clean?”
He added, “Don’t worry about me backpedaling. I’ll come straight ahead. The fight’s not going the distance. When I hit you and hurt you, don’t grab me. I’m going to finish you off.”
Mayweather also claimed Ortiz’s sad story of being abandoned in his youth by his father is “not true” — citing Internet talk as his source of information. Mayweather said he’s grown tired of Ortiz’s repeating, “Dude, I grew up with nothing.”
There was another message: Welcome to big-time boxing, kid.
“It didn’t bother me. I’m a tree stump, man,” Ortiz said afterward. “You can say whatever you want. I know when you do something well, everyone’s your friend, and when you hit the floor, everyone forgets you.
“It’s going to be a sad moment for Floyd Saturday night.”