OK, so I confess to being a Boxing geek or whatever ahead of time, just for the sake of transparency and all that.
Now, with that out of the way, I’ve gotta say my peace regarding Saturday night’s Mayweather mayhem.
For my money, Floyd Mayweather is the greatest Boxer on the planet. Undefeated. Unbowed. Untested, really. Yeah, he plays the arrogant dickhead role in the promotion of all of his fights, but he does it well. Yeah, he’s been largely inactive for the last 3 years. His prerogative, I say. Consider it the spoils of having cleaned out the Welterweight division, after having done the same in two other weight classes before that. Forgive him if he doesn’t want to fight no-names for substantially less money than he got for puncturing the Rickey Hatton myth balloon or fighting past-their-best tough guys like Shane Mosley or Juan Manuel-Marquez.
Fact is, Manny Pacquiao’s recent list of victims is a whole lot less impressive. In fact, many of the names are guys who Mayweather softened up before manny got them, namely Mosley, Hatton and De La Hoya, all three significantly easier to deal with after the beatings Floyd put on them.
Still, it’s Mayweather who has to hear the cries of critics claiming he fights safe opponents, despite the fact that Victor Ortiz was probably the least safe guy out there for him, and he took on the challenge coming off a 16 month layoff.
Such is life for a fighter who loves to be hated, and gets paid really fucking well to do so. Not gonna shed any tears for Floyd per se, but it’s also not impossible to see the kind of bizarre double-standards people invoke in criticizing him. Even if Mayweather gets most of his bad guy tricks from Pro Wrestling or a your average TV drama, the fact is that the public has swallowed the persona whole. Now let me be clear here by saying I do believe alot of what we see is the real Floyd, but the rest of it is a guy who knows that sometimes there is more money in getting people to pay to see you lose, and he’s embraced it.
Now then, the fight.
To give the credit where it’s due, HBO did a great job in selling Ortiz’ chances in this fight, as they always do with their 24/7 series. Even if you thought Floyd would win, you might have been a little less certain than usual, what with all of the ingredients needed for an upset in play. Ortiz was younger, hungrier and better than ever, fresh off a dazzling, gutsy victory over one of the most highly touted prospects in all of Boxing, Andre Berto. Floyd is now 34 and hadn’t fought in well over a year. Maybe he’s lost a little? In boxing, a guy getting old usually happens suddenly, and without warning. One day he’s unbeatable, the next he’s laying flart on his ass. It’s a custom as old as the fight game itself. Nothing lasts for ever in this sport.
Wishful thinking for the anti-Floyd set in hindsight, but it’s not hard to talk people into watching Floyd Mayweather get beat up. People want to believe in it, like Santa Claus or the Houston Texans. Depending on how much of the hype you bought in to, either Mayweather was in for the fight of his life or he was merely gonna get a mild workout before doing away with a talented but overmatched kid.
Nobody could have counted on what we got, which is the beauty of pugilism, for better or worse. What we got was a cheap, tainted finish, an undeserving scapegoat and a chorus of “LOL boxing” that hardly seems justified.
The quick and simple explanation of what happened can be summed up thusly: Victor Ortiz likely had a mid-fight meltdown as a result of being outclassed by a truly great fighter. The result was one of the dirtiest and most blatant headbutts I’ve ever seen in all of my years watching fights. The guy basically squatted down and launched himself at Floyd as if he was trying to head a soccer ball.
After Referee Joe Cortez issued a one-point penalty to Ortiz, and after Ortiz’ numerous, bizarre apologies that ranged from hugs to a kiss on the cheek, and back to hugs again, Cortez signaled for the two to resume fighting. Ortiz went for yet another hug, and Mayweather promptly stepped back from said hug and knocked him out with a left hook-right cross combination.
Fight over, just like that.
Nutty climax, to be sure. In the pandemonium that ensued, Mayweather accused HBO’s aged commentator Larry Merchant of a long-standing bias (there is at least some truth to this accusation) and suggested Merchant knows little about the sport, to which Merchant responded “If I was 50 years younger I’d kick your ass” or something thereabouts.
When the dust cleared, most would agree that the fight was a spectacle, but almost nobody could be happy with the result, and Mayweather’s bad guy credentials had received an HGH-like boost.
Crazy talk, all of it.
Forgive me for seeing it a different way altogether. I saw a frustrated, in-over-his-head kid looking for a way out. Well, either that or tightly-wound dude having a borderline mental breakdown under the bright lights. However you see it, that was a nasty foul, the kind usually reserved for a dastardly villain like Ric Flair.
So how does Mayweather respond? Well, like an angry guy who just got headbutted in his teeth, more or less. Watch the fight again and it’s clear that all he was focused on was eschewing his normal “box ’em into submission” style in favor of getting this clown out of there in a hurry. All Ortiz did was make it easier for him but not putting his fucking hands up, despite being told to fight by Cortez. Protect yourselves at all times, indeed.
To dismiss Mayweather as a cheap shot artist is to ignore the context in which all of this took place. At worst, he was a pissed off fighter who had lost his temper and was left to figure it out on his own, thanks to a distracted referee who took his eyes off the action after telling the fighters to continue in a scene that actually reminded me of the first Roy Jones/ Montell Griffin fight, where Jones suffered his first professional defeat largely due to the referee having is head up his ass. (Jump to 4:00 in)
For what it’s worth, Joe Cortez himself placed the blame squarely on Ortiz, saying he can’t fathom why he refused to put his hands up after being told to resume boxing. Yeah, Cortez blew it pretty badly himself, but he’s not wrong about Ortiz’ brain melt.
The way I see it, the guy was a victim of a cheap shot, and his intention was to get Ortiz out of there in an authoritative way, not a cheap one. Only circumstance and the incompetence of the other people involved conspired to frame his actions as cheap.
Why then, is Lions’ share of the blame being placed on Floyd?
The answer is more than a little complicated, if there even is a clear answer. Is it racially motivated? Is it a product of Mayweather’s villainous persona? Is it ignorance?
Ask me, and I’ll say it’s a little of all of those things, and more. Be upset at the finish if you chose. bemoan the fight for not giving you your moneys’ worth, even though I reckon it over-delievered, at least in the dramatic sense. Blame HBO for the high price, blame Ortiz for losing his mind or Cortez for having a senior moment.
Just Don’t blame Floyd.
John Hathwell can be reached at Sonsofsambowie@yahoo.com