Sometimes, even villains need someone to hate.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. boasts millions of fans, but there's no denying there are millions who despise him and hope Victor Ortiz knocks him out and hands Mayweather his first professional defeat tonight at the MGM Grand Garden.
Mayweather, 34, says he doesn't view Ortiz, 24, as the enemy. In his mind, the true bad guy is his longtime adversary, Oscar De La Hoya, Ortiz's promoter.
Mayweather and De La Hoya claim they don't hate each other, but after all the jabs they've exchanged in advance of tonight's WBC welterweight title fight, it's hard to imagine Mayweather inviting him to his self-proclaimed "Big Boy Mansion" at Southern Highlands to watch Monday Night Football.
Mayweather (41-0, 25 knockouts), who tonight ends a 16-month absence from the ring, has refused to acknowledge De La Hoya throughout the promotion. Instead, he has heaped praise upon Golden Boy chief executive officer Richard Schaefer.
Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs) is Mayweather's fifth straight Golden Boy opponent. The streak began in May 2007, when Mayweather won a 12-round split decision over De La Hoya. He has followed with victories over Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez and Shane Mosley.
"They shouldn't call it Golden Boy Promotions anymore," Mayweather said. "They should call it Richard Schaefer Promotions. Richard's done all the work. Me and Oscar can't see eye to eye. But me and Richard do good business.
"I'm not jealous of (De La Hoya). Everything he's got, I got two of them."
According to the Nevada Athletic Commission, Mayweather will make $25 million from tonight's purse, and his total take could approach $40 million with his cut of the HBO Pay Per View telecast and other revenue streams. Ortiz's purse is $2 million.
Mayweather, a 7-1 betting favorite at the MGM Grand, said he holds no animosity toward Ortiz, despite his rancorous behavior during the weigh-in Friday before 4,000 fans at the Grand Garden. Mayweather, who weighed in at 146½ pounds, briefly put his hands around the neck of Ortiz (147) during the customary face-off, and the scene turned testy for a minute before order was restored.
"I respect Victor Ortiz as a fighter," Mayweather said. "But he looks up to a guy (De La Hoya) who wears drag, does drugs, drinks alcohol and commits adultery like a god.
"Like I said before, you get mixed feelings from this guy (Ortiz). What we call it from where I'm from, we call him a liar. So he must step up and be honest."
De La Hoya, who spent three months in a California rehabilitation clinic for drug and alcohol addiction, has gone on the HBO reality series "24/7" and disparaged Mayweather's record based on when he fought some of his opponents. De La Hoya claimed Mayweather fought Hatton when Hatton was in decline, even though their 2007 clash was a battle of unbeatens. De La Hoya also chided Mayweather for fighting Marquez in 2009 and Mosley in 2010, claiming both were past their prime.
"You can't shoot shots at a person and not expect to get shots back at you," Mayweather said.
De La Hoya said he's simply speaking the truth.
"Maybe he thinks I'm going to make a comeback," he said jokingly. "Back then, I was lying because I was sick in the head, and Mayweather is a victim of that, too. I'm just telling it like it is.
"But I always wished the best for the guy. I'm always grateful to him. He helped me make the record of 2.4 million (pay-per-view) homes."
Schaefer said he doesn't think Mayweather is genuinely hateful of De La Hoya.
"Sometimes they'll irritate each other," he said. "But I think Floyd was genuinely ticked at Oscar for the things he said about the quality of his opponents, and I'm sure Oscar wasn't happy with some of the things Floyd has said about him. But I'll bet at the post-fight press conference, they'll hug."
Schaefer paused for a moment.
"Then again, maybe not," he said with a wry smile.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.