Freelance Diaries: Part 3 — Lost in Interpretation

February 25, 2016 in Freelance

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To interpret it not to interpret: that is the question.

When I first went full-time freelance I had no intention of doing any interpretation. I was perfectly content to stay at home and take my time translating everything from movie subtitles to corporate documents. It was what I knew and what I was comfortable with.

Over the last three months or so, however, things haven’t quite turned out the way I expected. While I still do text translation mostly, I’ve also taken on a bunch of interpretation gigs of various shapes and sizes. I’ve interpreted for a couple of Q&A sessions at a film festival; I’ve interpreted for a couple of concert productions, one big and one small. I’m typing this part of the post at 9pm on Thursday night after a marathon 11.5-hour day where I interpreted for more more than 7 hours in three separate sessions lasting at least two hours each. It was one of the most brutal work experiences I’ve ever had (more on that shit later).

These are my stories.

Types of interpretation 

As an intro, I just want to offer an intro into what interpretation work entails. It’s not just translating from one language to another — it’s doing it orally, within a limited time frame, without any outside assistance, and with all ears on you. In other words, it’s a whole different universe of pain.

The reason why I love translating text is because I get to do it at my own pace. There’s no problem if I don’t know the word because I can take my time to think about it or look up other resources (Google Translate is actually a fantastic resource at times when you want a precise definition to a single word or phrase).

When I translate text, I like to make sure I get my shit right. I can go back and forth for ages to ensure the shit is perfect. You throw all those luxuries out when it comes to interpretation. All you’re doing is hoping you can remember what was just said, hoping your brain can process the words, and hoping something that makes sense spews out of your mouth before the people in the room start getting embarrassed for you.

The difficulty of the interpretation varies depending on the type. The easiest is probably sentence by sentence — dude says a sentence (sometimes just a word or part of a sentence), and you translate it into the relevant language. Provided each segment is relatively short, it shouldn’t pose much of a problem.

If that’s too fragmented (as I have found that to be), you might go with a whole block of speech — be it a paragraph or a few sentences. This often becomes a memory challenge more than anything else, so it’s always a good idea (as I discovered the hard way — more on that later) to have a notepad ready to jot points down.

The hardest absolutely has to be simultaneous interpretation, which is when you have the interpreter talking at the same time and over the voice of the speaker (usually into a microphone that broadcasts into headphones worn by members of the audience). This means the interpreter needs to be able to listen and talk at the same time — in two different languages. And that’s just insane.

The pay of course also varies wildly. Corporate gigs tend to pay more, while those related to the arts — such as concerts — tend to pay less, apparently because a lot of people are willing to take less money for the opportunity to be close to celebs. Meetings are considered different to lectures or forums. Sometimes you just need to follow people around at all times and provide assistance when needed. Other times it might be a combination of a bunch of different duties. Sometimes the interpreter even becomes the errand boy. It’s all part of the job.

I’ve found that if the client asks you what you want you should never sell yourself short. They won’t make a deal that breaks their budget, so don’t be shy — just make sure you can back it up when the time comes. And you must get the terms and conditions straight before inking the deal, especially if the event goes beyond specified times.

The main reason I took on interpretation cases is the pay. One day of interpretation work could equal a week of pay or more as a text translator. One week of interpretation work could equal a month of pay. One of the cases I took that lasted two weeks paid me as much as three months of what I earned in my old day job.

It sounds fantastic, but honestly, it evens out a fair bit when you consider the two things I want to discuss next: preparation and exertion.

Preparation

It’s easy to look an interpreter and think — that guy is getting paid a lot for the amount of hours he’s doing. I used to think that too. What people don’t see is all the work that goes on behind the scenes. I’m talking hours and hours, sometimes days or even weeks of preparation. You never know what will be said or how things will turn out, so you must always be ready for whatever comes your way.

If there is a script or rundown you need to study it. You have to research the people or company you’re working for/with. You have to research the industry if you’re not familiar with it. You have to look up common terms and phrases used in that industry. Sometimes you might have to read/listen/watch a bunch of related documents, songs or movies or video clips. Above all, you gotta practice because it sharpens your mind. Whatever it takes, really. On the one hand it is about being competent enough to interpret on the spot, though for me it is probably more about being mentally prepared so that I can be confident. Because when you stress out, you blank out, and when you blank out, you freak out.

Preparation is essential; it might not always help, but occasionally it could save your butt. One of the first interpretation cases was a post-screening Q&A with a documentary filmmaker. As part of the preparation I watched the film, but I also did a bunch of research about the background and also the director. Lucky I did.

On the night of the Q&A, while we were backstage, the director told me she’d  keep her responses short and sweet — I believe her exact words were “one line at a time” — so that it’s easier for me. I was so relieved I didn’t even take my notepad up with me. But as it turned out, “one line” was 3 minutes of uninterrupted monologue. First question — 3 minutes. Second question — 2 minutes. “Oh sorry, was that too long?” said. Third question — 3 minutes.

I should have been shitting bricks, but I only shat pellets instead because I came prepared. During my research I had read a couple of interviews with the director about the making of the film, and fortunately most of the questions were about the production process, so I already knew what the answers were going to be. It saved me from turning into a stuttering beetroot on stage in front of hundreds of people.

Exertion

By exertion I am referring to the mental exertion required for interpretation. It’s the stress of being put on the spot in front of other people and the laser focus you need to maintain so you can preform an incredibly difficult task.

Situation plays a big part in the stress and focus levels. The rule of thumb is more people, more stress. Interpreting for one person is less stressful than interpreting for a meeting; interpreting for a meeting is less stressful than interpreting in front of an audience; and interpreting on TV is…well, I’m about to find that out in a week or so.

On the other hand, the amount of focus you need to have as an interpreter is incredible. Normally when I have a meeting or listen to a seminar or whatever, I’m selectively focused. I can zone out momentarily, think about how the Indiana Pacers are doing in the standings or what I’m going to have for dinner that night. When I translate, I can take mental breaks (and often physical breaks) every few seconds and end up spending hours on YouTube checking out film trailers. With interpretation, you need to be locked in at all times. You never know what’s going to come next, and sometimes you won’t know when it’s coming. Your brain is churning constantly, listening, processing, translating, talking. You can’t take any time out. You can afford to.

It’s such an intense and draining experience that I feel like I’m totally burned out after, but at the same time your mind is buzzing so much that it becomes impossible to relax immediately afterwards. It is why simultaneous interpreters are typically hired in pairs so they can rotate in 15-minute blocks. The focus and concentration required is so high that you can only sustain it for 15 minutes at a time.

When I used to sit in sessions with an interpreter I would put myself in their position and try to interpret everything that was said to see if I could handle it. And I used to think it’s not THAT hard and occasionally I would think I’d probably be able to do a better job. But that’s because I’m an idiot. When you’re in the actual interpreter’s chair it’s a whole different story. When you’re practicing on the side while someone else does it, you can take short mental breaks, you don’t have any of the pressure, and you don’t actually have to speak out loud. It’s apples and oranges. So next time, spare a thought for the poor red-faced interpreter struggling to get the right words out — he or she is likely much more capable than you think.

Peeing

This is probably the most important issue for interpreters. When you’re fully focused and trying not to screw up the interpretation, the last thing you need is to be busting to go to the toilet. It makes an already difficult situation a living hell. It’s tempting to drink the water or beverage they offer you because you’re so parched from talking non-stop, but it’s really an evil trap. The interpreter can’t excuse himself/herself to go take a leak. The show cannot go on without you. You’re being paid to hold it in. So my advice is that it’s always better to be dehydrated than feeling like you’re bladder is about to explode when you have more pressing concerns. Trust me, I learned this lesson the hard way.

Every case is different

It’s a great thing to gain more experience, because with more experience comes better skills and vocabulary, and that in turn creates more confidence. But the reality is that you can’t think that every case will be the same, and that if you’ve done one well you can handle them all. You must assess each case on its own merits when deciding whether or not to accept because they’re all so different.

For instance, I once took on a case as the interpreter of a foreign production team staging a concert for local performers. That turned out to be exhausting because that consisted of consecutive 16-18 hour days but also a lot of fun. I became the go-between for every unit, from the producer to the stage set-up crew to the lighting people to the video crew to the talent to the venue staff. I was doing everything from interpreting meetings to general discussions to translating work schedules. I learned so much about concert production in just a week or so, made lots of great friends and thoroughly burned myself out for some very good pay.

More recently, I was invited to do work on another concert, a much smaller one that only required my presence for one night and a full day, and for less pay (and less hours). I was fully prepared to be helpful and super busy, but also for some fun and learning. Instead, it was mostly a very boring experience. Instead of being the only translator for every unit, we had three interpreters for essentially three people — ie, the three of us were assigned to a foreigner each. They needed a little assistance but not much at all, and all the work could have easily been done by one person (of course I do realise it is better safe than sorry). However, all we did was stand around and follow them everywhere while they figured out how to solve their own problems. Standing around in my opinion is the worst — it was a waste of our time and made the people we’re supposed to be assisting uncomfortable. I’d rather spend that time doing something meaningful and I’m sure the foreigners would have preferred to be left alone.

Another major difference between the two experiences was that for the larger concert, I was a direct hire by the boss, whereas for the smaller concert I was hired by the translation company assigned to provide all the translation and chaperoning services. In the first case I was given autonomy to try and help out in any way I can, even in capacities that went beyond my job description. It was tiring but it was fun, and it made me feel like I was part of a team where everyone was working towards a common goal — to deliver the best show possible to ticket-buying audiences. In the second case, the boss was always hanging around with panicky and untrusting eyes, making everyone feel really uncomfortable. I understand it’s her business and she’s trying to make a good impression to her client, but it just made everyone really tense even when there was absolutely nothing to do, and it sucked the joy out of the experience. It felt like everyone was just covering their own backsides and didn’t care about the bigger picture and purpose.

So I guess that’s just a long-winded way of saying: There are good cases and bad cases. Never assume; expect the unexpected.

When it’s all said and done, I don’t regret any of my interpretation cases. As exhausting and stressful as it is, I think they are all valuable experienced that build not only competence but also character. While I still prefer — by far — the comfort of translating in my own home, I do look forward to taking on more interpretation projects in the future to expand my horizons.

PS: For the record, the best interpreters I’ve ever seen are the ones working for the Communist Party of China. I saw these nuts in action when I went to cover the 18th National Congress in Beijing  in 2012 and they were seamless. I don’t think I could have done as good of a job had I sat down and took my time and had all the resources at my disposal. These guys were machines, I tell ya. Probably machines that have been trained since infancy and terrified that they would “disappear” if they disappointed the government.

Freelancing Diaries: Part 2 — Pros & Cons

December 8, 2015 in Freelance

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Well, the time off between my last post and this one is indicative of how much less free time I thought I would have when I first embarked on the freelancing journey.

Every time you think you’re going to have a block of time to do something like read or do a blog post, something else inevitably pops up. Case in point: I had just finished a couple of projects last week and still had an easy one I thought I could take my time with, but on Monday I received an urgent call asking me to be an interpreter for a foreign production team in Taiwan working on a big concert over the next couple of weeks.

I initially declined because, as a freelancer, I wanted some “free” time. My family had already planned a weekend away with friends during the days of the concert and was planning a birthday party for my little boy. But then my wife and other family members convinced me I had been an idiot and that I shouldn’t have turned down the opportunity. Holidays can be rescheduled and kids parties aren’t that important in the scheme of things (they don’t even know what day it is anyway), but great cases like this one don’t come around very often.

It’s not easy — 14 days of interpretation and translating documents on demand, attending meetings and being around for the entire set-up and testing process as well as all rehearsals and playing an integral part in the actual concerts (I’ll be interpreting the video director’s commands to the cameramen throughout the shows). It means consecutive early mornings and late nights (I had a 16-hour day yesterday and had to be back by 7am this morning), which would have been fine 10 years ago, but now, after having worked in the cruisiest job known to mankind for four years, I’m really starting to feel it.

That said, it’s an awesome gig. You get to meet a lot of great industry people (personally I don’t care much about meeting the artists and celebrities and what not) who can open up a lot of doors for you in the future. You learn a heck of a lot in a short amount of time. You get to experience a major production and see everything close up. And most of all it pays very very well. In hindsight it should have been a no-brainer, and I would recommend would-be freelancers to never reject a case outright — say you need to check your schedule or some other excuse and you’ll get back to them soon. Then sit down, have a good think about it, speak to people and make some calculations if you have to. Then make the decision. I was just lucky I still had a chance to get the gig back this time.

Accordingly, I thought now would be the perfect time to discuss some pros and cons of the freelancing life. So here goes:

Pro: Be Your Own Boss

This is probably be biggest difference between being a freelancer and working for someone else. It changes everything when you are working for yourself.

When you work for a company like I did, for instance, you might want the best for your company, but ultimately you still put yourself first. And of course that should be the case. But often your personal interests and the interests of the company aren’t necessarily always aligned. You might want to go out for a long lunch, start work late or leave work early for whatever reason, and as a result your work will suffer. But if it doesn’t affect your pay or your performance review, you probably don’t really care that your company’s productivity is affected.

When you work for yourself, you’ll naturally want everything you do to be the best it can be, because your interests and the interests of your business are completely aligned. It no longer becomes what you can get away with — it becomes genuine compromise. And it’s compromise that has real consequences you care about.

Pro: Flexibility

What I love most about being a freelancer. If the new Star Wars movie comes out, I can catch the first session in the morning. I can go to any movie or restaurant when there aren’t as many people. I can go shopping, spend time with my kids, go to the gym — basically do whatever I want, whenever I want. In theory.

In reality though, it’s still about compromise. Yeah, you might be able to go watch a movie during the day, but if you have urgent work on you might have to cancel — sometimes at the last minute. Or you might have to work late into the night or even all through the night instead just to maintain that flexibility. Alternatively, you’ll just earn no money and you soon won’t be able to afford going to the movies.

Con: Can be hard to get motivated

Freelancing is a double-edged sword. You can work really hard and make way more than holding down a day job, or you can be really lazy and stare at the wall all day and find yourself in financial strife. It’s up to you, really, and I think I’m lucky in that I’ve been highly motivated in my first 6 weeks or so as a freelancer. I want to get more work and I don’t mind doing more, even if it’s just for the money.

That said, I can definitely see the other side too. I was very unmotivated at my previous job because there was zero accountability and productivity had no correlation to performance. That is rare though, and I’d imagine in most regular jobs people would do their best to earn higher bonuses and pay rises, etc. More importantly, you’ll probably have some authority figure or supervisor making sure you do your work and do it well. As a freelancer, the whip cracker is yourself, so you might end up being really unproductive if you just can’t get the motivation to do your work. This happens a lot especially if the deadline is not urgent. I had the same problem as a student, leaving everything to the last minute. You get tempted to surf the net and watch what Jordan Schlanky is up to on YouTube or check out what’s on TV or in the fridge every two minutes. Anything but work.

If you fall into that category you need to fix that mentality or stay in your day job. I have a feeling I may have to battle the motivation demon eventually. Things are just too fresh and exciting and busy right now for me to get lazy. And besides, I need all the money I can get right now.

Pro: Do what you want and enjoy

This is another major reason I chose the freelancing life. As much as I didn’t mind my old job, I didn’t love it. I liked the hours and some of the people and the cruisiness and being up-to-date with world news, but I didn’t like a lot of the actual articles I was translating. Plus I hated the company and the disgusting office and the way the organisation was being run.

On the other hand, I love translating movies and TV shows and songs. It’s fun and varied and I enjoy doing it. Makes a whole world of difference if you have to sit in front of a computer anyway.

Of course, I don’t love every case I get (even so, when the work is directly linked to your income you don’t mind it as much), but by and large it’s a much better situation for me and my family than it was before. And I still get to keep in touch with my old colleagues.

Con: Can’t say no

I mentioned this in my last post about freelancing and I believe it is true. As a freelancer, saying “No” to a case that comes knocking could be a fatal mistake. It’s particularly true for clients who are not regular or repeat customers.

We’re all creatures of habit: all things being equal, those who employ freelancers will tend to go back to the last person they used, so if you say no, you might lose that client forever. Most of my clients these days have come from friends or colleagues who couldn’t do a case for whatever reason, and since then I’ve become their primary source of translation cases. Even this lucrative concert deal I am on now came from a friend referral; I originally translated an album for the band, and then a month later some old songs for the upcoming concert, and now I’m suddenly interpreting for the production team.

Conversely, there have been a couple of cases I’ve turned down in the last couple of years (either because the money was too low or I didn’t think I could do it) and I never heard from them again. In fact, this includes a friend who wanted me to translate something for them for free.

So if you’re going to be a freelancer, you better be prepared to say “Yes” to everything, no matter how impossible it may seem — until you can afford to say “No.”

Pro: Make a lot more money

Though you could also make a lot less money, I still say this is a “pro” because you have the “potential” to make a lot more. If you’re in a normal job you can only hope for pay rises and bonuses, but if you freelance you can, theoretically, make as much as time permits.

Granted, this involves having enough cases and cases that pay well, but once you get that stream flowing and you maximise your efficiency, the freelancing life can be much more lucrative. More money and less work hours. Who doesn’t want that?

Con: Flat out or starving

I’ve been mostly flat out thus far, but I hear the freelancing life is one of extremes. One experienced freelancer told me that you’re either flat out with work and stressing out over deadlines or bored out of your mind with no work and stressing out about paying the bills.

So yes, freelancing can be stressful either way, but as this same freelancer told me, it’s really about managing your time and making compromises. That way you don’t have to be flat out or starving — you can be reasonably busy or enjoying your free time instead.

Brilliant Mayweather beats Cotto, I face facts

May 7, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

I finally got a chance to watch the Mayweather-Cotto bout fought last night in Las Vegas.

Just the day before, when previewing the fight, despite admitting that Floyd Mayweather Jr had all the advantages, I decided to go out on a limb and pick Miguel Cotto to score a stunning upset. Part of it is because Mayweather is 35 and is going to prison in less than a month. But subconsciously, it may have simply been because I wanted Mayweather to lose his perfect now-43 and 0 record.

And now, after Mayweather defeated Cotto in a unanimous victory (117-111, 117-111, 118-110), I have to give the man props and eat crow. Quite simply, Mayweather was sensational, and together with the game but outclassed Cotto, put together the most exciting fight of his illustrious career — which hasn’t always had a lot of action.

Watching the fight after already having read the fight recaps was a strange experience because it turned out slightly different to what I had expected. I thought Cotto would come out strong and fade in the later rounds, but it was Mayweather who came out on the offensive, being, surprisingly, the more aggressive fighter in peppering Cotto with jabs and right hands. After the first three rounds I wondered how Cotto would be able to get back into it, given that Mayweather was clearly faster, sharper and more accurate with all his punches.

But to Cotto’s effort — the dude is a flat out warrior — he fought back like a champion, busting up Mayweather’s nose and making him bleed profusely from the nostrils and mouth for the majority of the second half of the fight. It was the first time I had seen so much blood on Mayweather’s face. I’m not sure if it was a strategic decision by Mayweather to make the fight more exciting by often exchanging with Cotto in the corners (and if so, good on him), but the fact is Mayweather took Cotto’s best shots and dished back his own, and then some.

The difference between the two fighters was clear. Cotto was more plodding, looking to trap Mayweather against the ropes and the corners where he could unleash furious body blows and powerful head shots. The problem was, even when he got Mayweather where he wanted he still couldn’t do significant damage — for the most part — due to the incredible defensive reflexes and that famous shoulder roll of his opponent.

On the other hand, Mayweather simply controlled distance and pace like a masterful technician. Hate the man as much as you want for being an arrogant show-off, a wife-beater or a racist, but watching him fight last night was an absolute pleasure. He was always moving to a distance that suited his offense, which allowed him to get off first with his lightning quick hands. When Cotto closed the gap, he either opened it up again or closed it up even more so that Cotto couldn’t get off his own shots. When Cotto appeared to be getting the other hand with his relentless pressure, Mayweather just used his arms to tie up Cotto’s gloves. And later on in the fight, Mayweather adjusted and found a new weapon — the left uppercut — that became his most effective weapon down the stretch. He was just flat out better.

Let’s not forget Cotto here because his effort ensured that we were able to see Mayweather at his best — Money himself admitted afterwards, with rare marks on his face, that Cotto was the toughest guy he had ever fought. I had the fight a little closer than the judges in the end with a 8-4 scorecard (116-112), but there was no doubt Mayweather had won it convincingly. There was no feeling that Mayweather would have faded had the fight continued either. In fact, round 12 was probably Mayweather’s best round, in which he rocked Cotto with several vicious left uppercuts and right hands.

Cotto left the ring before interviews, and Mayweather, as usual, was back to his irritating self, basically ignoring all of Larry Merchant’s questions to say only what he wanted to say. Needless to say, Manny Pacquiao’s name came up and it was the usual excuses, showing that there’s almost no point in expecting something to happen at this point.

But that’s still not going to stop people from fantasising about what might happen if they do eventually meet in the ring. And despite years of having believed that Pacquiao has the tools to beat Mayweather, after this fight and Pacquiao’s last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, maybe I’m not so sure any more.

Supporters from either side are going to point to their common opponents as evidence that their guy will win. Pacquiao beat Oscar de lay Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and now Miguel Cotto with more ease and in more dominating fashion (though it is impossible to overlook that they fought at different weights — especially Cotto, who weighed 154 for Mayweather and just 145 against Pacquiao; and the popular argument that Mayweather had softened them up first). Mayweather, on the other hand beat Marquez, a guy many believe bested Pacquiao one or two or maybe even three times, with utmost ease (though that was at a catch weight too ).

Previously, I believed that Pacquiao’s relentless activity, punching power and endless stamina would eventually wear down Mayweather en route to a points win. But I realised that was an oversimplification of the facts. It’s not that Mayweather doesn’t like to throw — he showed against Cotto that he can be a very active offensive fighter himself, landing 179 of 687 punches compared to 105 of 506 from Cotto — it’s just that he prefers to just do enough to win. That’s why Mayweather hasn’t been as impressive as Pacquiao in beating up some of their common opponents.

I was also wrong about Mayweather’s inability to throw combinations. Before this fight I thought he had become more of a pot shot puncher who threw only one or two punches at a time. But against Cotto, he was tearing it up with sick combinations from all angles. These combinations were different to Pacquiao’s, which tend to be quicker but wilder; Mayweather’s combinations were more methodical, not in rapid Pacquiao-like succession but each one was snappy and dead on the mark , and arguably, even more effective.

If the two were to match up now, you’d have to pick Mayweather, with his bigger size, longer reach and superior defense, as the favourite. As much as I like Pacquiao and want him to win, it’s time to face the reality of the situation.

But does that mean Pacquiao is sure to lose? I don’t think so either. After having watched Cotto land a few on Mayweather despite his orthodox style and plodding speed, I still believe Pacquiao has the best chance of beating Mayweather than anyone else on the planet. If Cotto could land some effective punches throughout the fight, then surely Pacquiao, with his blazing speed and footwork, could as well — and with greater snap and power. Pacquiao is also less likely to fade, as Cotto did a little when he put together a string of three solid rounds from around the mid-point of the fight. However, what I see as Pacquiao’s greatest advantages are his southpaw stance (kryptonite against the shoulder roll) and his bizarre punching angles and timing, which could catch Mayweather off guard. That said, Mayweather is better than adjusting mid-fight than anyone else in boxing, so perhaps that’s not saying much either.

What is maybe more worrying for Pacquiao now is Mayweather’s offense. We all know Pacquiao can get a little out of control at times, and against Mayweather, the ultimate counter puncher, he will surely pay for it. It might depend on how disciplined Pacquiao can be, because we know he’s going to be pissed off. I suppose what I am trying to say is that Mayweather might have become more of a favourite after the Cotto fight, but Pacquiao may also have a bigger chance of winning than he had before. Does that even make sense?

At the end of the day, there are going to be people from both camps who are going to defend their guy no matter what. Right now Mayweather seems to have the upper hand, but who knows if that will change if Pacquiao comes out and blasts Tim Bradley away on June 9.

So all of this back and forth banter between the two sides is rather pointless because no one will really know for sure until these two get it on. Unfortunately, right now it looks as unlikely as ever.

Fight Prediction: Mayweather vs Ortiz

September 14, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

On September 17 in Las Vegas, undefeated 34-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr (41-0,  25KOs) will return from a 16-month lay off take on 24-year-old southpaw brawler Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22KOs) for Ortiz’s WBC Welterweight belt.

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Floyd Mayweather Jr is entertaining.  Some would say more out of the ring than in it, though true fans of the sport can’t help but be in awe of his phenomenal ability.  And sure, Mayweather is not fighting the man everyone wants him to fight, Manny Pacquiao, but Victor Ortiz does make a very interesting ‘tune up’ for the Pacman — if the megafight is to finally take place next year as recent reports would suggest.

In the meantime, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Ortiz is a dangerous young opponent coming off a career reviving win against previously undefeated Andre Berto in April 2011 — his most satisfying win since being stopped by Marcos Maidana in 2009 where many believed a badly cut Ortiz had quit against his heavy-hitting opponent.  But does he stand a chance against someone in the class of Floyd Mayweather Jr?

Personally, I’m kind of torn here.  I’d love to see someone knock Mayweather off his pedestal, but at the same time that could spell the end of Mayweather-Pacquiao — and after all these years of waiting, that would be a monumental disappointment.

That said, the probability of Ortiz pulling off the upset is incredibly slim.  On paper, at least, or if you’ve ever watched the two men in action, Mayweather should punish Ortiz and give him a boxing lesson all night long.  Mayweather is simply too skilled, too slick, too fast, too experienced, and too defensively sound for someone as raw as Ortiz.  On top of that, Mayweather seldom gets hit flush, and when he does, he has survived and come back stronger.  His ability to adjust mid-fight is second to none.

But as the saying goes, anything can happen in boxing, and Ortiz at least appears to have the weapons and temperament to trouble Mayweather, whose form after 16 months off could potentially be a little off.

First of all, Ortiz is 10 years younger than Mayweather and, judging from his last fight, is in the form and shape of his life.  He’s like a caged animal that has been released after years in captivity and has this fearless attitude about him, like he just wants to tear through everyone in front of him.  His motivation and determination is through the roof right now.

Secondly, Ortiz is physically stronger than Mayweather and visibly bigger.  At 5’9″ he is an inch taller and has arms like tree trunks.  His thick body is also built like a brick house.  His punches can do serious damage and it looks like he’ll be able to take a punch much better than he used to.

Thirdly, Ortiz may not be as fast as Mayweather but he does have decent speed.  I’m not sure if it’s enough to bother Mayweather but it could be a significant factor in the fight if Mayweather underestimates it.

Fourthly, Ortiz is a southpaw, and we’ve all heard about Floyd’s troubles with southpaws throughout the years (Corley, Judah, etc).  The conventional response to that assertion is that Floyd has beaten every southpaw he has faced, but it must give Ortiz encouragement that Floyd has more difficulty with southpaws than orthodox fighters, primarily because his celebrated shoulder roll technique doesn’t work as well against southpaws.  It has to count for something, right?

Another thing Floyd is said to have problems with is a strong, stiff jab, which Ortiz also has.  He just has to learn to utilise it consistently throughout the fight.

On the flip side, Mayweather has not fought for 16 months, not since his May 2010 fight against Sugar Shane Mosley which he dominated after a major scare in round 2 where Mosley rocked him with a couple of big right hands.  Before that, Mayweather dominated Pacquiao’s next opponent, Juan Manuel Marquez, in September 2009.  And before that, a KO against Ricky Hatton in December 2007.  That’s three opponents in 45 months!  Yes, Mayweather won all those fights, but the inactivity, combined with his age (34) could come back to bite him in a hurry.

Mayweather also has brittle hands and hasn’t shown genuine KO power for quite some time, which could allow Ortiz to walk through some punches in order to land his own.  And if he does, will Mayweather be able to withstand the onslaught?  As the fight against Mosley suggested, if a big power shot lands in the right place, Mayweather can be hurt.

Lastly, there’s the distractions.  We all know about the Mayweather family’s legal troubles, and now the first episode of the Mayweather-Ortiz 24/7 series (one of the best yet, by the way) has revealed another rift between father and son.  Junior insists it doesn’t bother him at all, but his face suggests a different story.

Do all of these things add up to an upset in the cards?  Possible, but unlikely.  I’d put Ortiz’s chances of pulling off the improbable win at around 10-15%, and he’ll most probably have to do it via a stunning knockout.  He’ll have to be aggressive but patient, use that stiff jab of his to control the pace and pounce on Mayweather and not give him a chance to dictate.  If Ortiz goes in looking to brawl his way to a win he’ll become the perfect target for Mayweather’s counters.  If he remains disciplined and uses controlled aggression he could shock the world.

The more likely scenario is one where Ortiz comes out with guns blazing, takes it to Mayweather in the first couple of rounds, maybe even win them…before Mayweather figures out Ortiz’s style and schools him the rest of the way en route to a clear unanimous victory or even a late round KO.  I am still suspicious of Mayweather’s power at this stage of his career so I am going to predict a comfortable Mayweather UD.

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Book Review: ‘The Moneyless Man’ by Mark Boyle

October 24, 2010 in Book Reviews

For most of us, a life without money is downright unfathomable.  It’s what our lives are all about, whether we admit it or not.  We’re always trying to think of ways to make more money because we know it will make life easier, more comfortable, and ostensibly, happier.

According to former businessman Mark Boyle (who resides near the town of Bristol in the UK), this is no way to live, especially if we are concerned about the future of our environment.  In this capitalist world, we are consuming our finite resources far quicker than is feasible in the long-term.  In our desperation to make more money, we have become ignorant, or worse, indifferent, to the damaging effects of our excess consumption and mass wastage on the world we inhabit.

So Boyle decides to run a little experiment — living without money for an entire year — and it’s chronicled in his book, The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living.  The term ‘freeconomic’ means, essentially, living without money.  People who live (or try to live) this way are part of the ‘freeconomy’.  It’s actually something Boyle has been promoting for some time.

I was reviewing this book for a trade publication, so I had to read it, but even if I didn’t have to, I think I would have been equally fascinated to learn how someone could live without money for a year.  Without the ability to make, receive or spend money, how does one pay for the basic necessities of life, such as food and drink?  What about shelter, if you can’t pay the mortgage or the rent?  And water and electricity and other fees, if you cannot pay any bills?  And don’t let me get started about cooking, toilets, tooth-brushing, showering and cleaning.

I don’t want to give away too much, but the stuff that Boyle does is in the book is not as horrific as some would have imagined.  According to his own rules, he can’t just be a bum, living off welfare, generosity and handouts.  He must be self-sufficient, even though he can accept the occasional ‘freebie’ if it is something he would have accepted ‘normally’ anyway (like if a friend asks him over for dinner).  So for example, he uses Freecycle to get himself a free caravan that the previous owner wants to get rid of.  He goes foraging for wild food, works for grain, and goes ‘skipping’ in supermarket dumpsters (it’s all edible, packaged food thrown out because of legal use-by dates).  He doesn’t bar himself from using products manufactured by the capitalist world, as long as it doesn’t cost him a dime — eg a mobile phone that can only receive calls, or a laptop run on solar power.

The book is written like a memoir with an essay tinge to it, plus there are plenty of practical tips for people who may want to try living in a more environmentall friendly, and money-saving manner.  Even though Boyle is not a mindblowing writer or anything like that, he tells his story with a much-needed sense of self-awareness and humility.  He knows (to some extent) how he must look to most of the civilised world.  He doesn’t proclaim to have all the answers and he tackles the tricky grey areas head on without self-righteousness.  While he is definitely an idealist, there’s still a little bit of a realist in him somewhere.  As a result, the book is refreshing and fascinating, and thankfully not an in-your-face condemnation of the way you live your life.

Of course, you don’t do something like this and not have your fair share of critics.  Just speaking to friends and reading around online, it seems most people start off with a very cynical stance towards Boyle.  Is he just seeking attention?  Is he a delusional hippy who has lot touch with the practical realities of life?  Isn’t he a hypocrite for signing a book deal that will earn him money?  And is this just an experiment or will he continue with it at the end of the 12 months?  (For those wondering, he does address the last two questions, and you may be surprised by the result)

It’s easy to call Boyle a hypocrite (as many of his critics have done), but so what?  That doesn’t make what he says about excess consumption and wastage any less truthful.  Instead of trying to pick holes in his philosophy, perhaps we should start thinking in a more positive, more constructive way.

I wouldn’t call The Moneyless Man a life-changing book.  Most of the stuff that Boyle does and proposes in the book are too extreme for the vast majority of the population.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t take away a little something from his year of freeconomic living and try to make a few changes in our own lives.

3.5 out of 5