Floyd Mayweather Jr. contemplates a question during a news conference… (Steve Markus / Reuters )
Reporting from Las Vegas -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. was back in his element, smiling for the cameras, trash-talking with his opponent, holding court with reporters and generally acting like a man who believes he is the best boxer of his generation.
In the days leading up to his title bout Saturday against World Boxing Council welterweight champion Victor Ortiz, Mayweather looked relaxed and sounded supremely confident — as if he were preparing to deliver a tutorial to a younger, less experienced fighter who had no idea what he was really in for.
"It's different on this level," Mayweather said. "He's used to ballrooms. I'm used to fighting in front of 17,000.
"I earned the right to be where I'm at today. The only thing I can do is what I do best: entertain."
Call him a villain if you want, but Mayweather is 41-0 with 25 knockouts and the most successful pay-per-view fighter in the world.
"Floyd is motivated because he's the best thing out here at this time in boxing, and he wants to show the world how great he is," said his uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather.
If Mayweather's boxing skills match his swagger Saturday, look out.
Mayweather, 34, expressed no concern about the issues some fight fans feel could be detrimental to him inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena boxing ring.
Has a 16-month layoff built up rust on his aging body? Might legal problems, including a three-felony domestic violence case set to resume next month, distract him?
"Next question," Mayweather said, playfully flipping a reporter's notebook page.
What he embraces is what he craves and anticipates: all eyes on Mayweather.
He's had that this week, with more attention due at the weigh-in Friday and during a ring walk when a crowd of more than 16,000 and a pay-per-view television audience expected to be more than a million will be watching his every move.
Mayweather yearns for attention and gets it — he has more than 1.5 million Twitter followers. One of his main topics leading up to the bout has been his endurance.
"People say boxers aren't the same after 30, [but] that doesn't apply to me," said Mayweather, whose unbeaten record as a pro spans 15 years, since he won an Olympic bronze medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. "I'm always in tip-top shape. And once you've been at this level for so long, you're never nervous. Come Saturday, it'll be the same Mayweather as always."
And though it has been said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, Mayweather is playing that card, too, perhaps previewing the battle lines he wants to draw for a super-fight next year against Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines.
Ortiz, like Pacquiao, is a hard-punching southpaw.
"My job has always been to win," Mayweather said. "That's what this country is based on: winning. There's no country like America."
Ortiz, 24, listened and reasoned, "He tries a little too hard to scare people. I think it's funny how hard he tries to get into somebody's head. He talks some stuff. I'll take it."
He had no choice. Mayweather was just warming up. He said he had invited Ortiz's ex-trainer, Robert Garcia, to the fight as his guest. Heck, he might even host the father who had abandoned Ortiz as a boy.
"He wants sorrow, but I've been through a lot, too," said Mayweather, referring to his own father's jail time and mother's drug use during his youth. "They can't make it seem like Floyd Mayweather was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. It took hard work and dedication. And I'm older and wiser. He's just a kid."
What Mayweather has planned for Saturday is to outshine Ortiz with speed, counterpunching, defense, an awkward style and by outsmarting him.
"Every fighter who's truly come to fight me has not survived, they get knocked out," Mayweather said.
"The thing about me is that you can watch me [on television], but face to face — live — you see a different skill level than you've ever seen.
"I'm the best, baby, and I'm going to show him that."