Floyd Mayweather's KO of Victor Ortiz Was Legal, but We Can Still Be Angry
Saturday night was painful for boxing fans. But the pain began long before the bout did, and before the headbutt, and the KO, and the Larry Merchant interview.
The pain was because we boxing fans are an eternally hopeful bunch, and our hope was betrayed.
It was a pain to see one of the world's two best fighters co-headlining a pay-per-view with a clearly second-rate opponent—a guy who is one fight removed from non-contender status.
It was a pain because Ortiz fell short of our expectations. He did it first by doing what looked like an intentional headbutt toward Floyd. Then he fell short of our expectations by forgetting to defend himself.
It was a series of mistakes by Ortiz that led to his loss, and it was unfortunate because we knew he was capable of major mental lapses, but we hoped for the best from him anyway. We thought he might have turned things around after the Berto fight. We thought that his lovably ineffective trash talking might be part of his guise, that somehow justice would prevail and the nice guy wouldn't finish last—despite all indications that he indeed would.
Was It Unfair?
In a word, no.
My friend and colleague Tyler Curtis posted a video as well as an excellent analysis of why Floyd's conduct wasn't unfair. Rather, it was smart.
Cortez had signaled (by gesturing his palms toward each other) that the fight had been restarted. Mayweather went along with Ortiz's desire to hug him a third time in order for Ortiz to not look like someone who dealt a cheap pot shot in the heat of battle. After that, any fighter should have been on guard.
Ortiz, who is now becoming known for his mental lapses as much as he is for his rare athletic gifts, failed to do that.
Referees invariably say two things before a fight: Obey my commands at all times, and protect yourself at all times. Someone not being able to protect themselves is a reason for stoppage. That's why the TKO is possible: if you can't protect yourself, the ref should stop the fight.
Even when action isn't going on, a fighter should protect themselves. Ortiz, who had just gotten a penalty by doing something intentionally infuriating (and illegal), should have known better. His inexperience showed.
Was Larry Merchant Mad at the Decision?
No, Larry Merchant was mad at Floyd Mayweather, continuing a long run of contentiousness between the two. Both are stubborn and pig-headed. Merchant is notoriously brash and blunt, and Floyd is known to try to reinforce his "bad guy" persona. It's the kind of stuff we all love to hate, but it's what keeps us watching.
If the fight hadn't ended that way, then Floyd's response would have been simply considered good TV. However, fans' pain was palpable, and so Floyd just dug another dagger in further. He does that. He's good at it. It's what helps him sell fights, and bring in bigger PPV numbers than Pacquiao does (on average).
But Larry Merchant was not mad at the decision. All Merchant said was "Ortiz was apologizing, and Mayweather was punching." Larry Merchant has been around long enough not to be offended by what Floyd Mayweather did. Floyd Mayweather did whatever it took to get his 42nd straight win. He's a professional fighter, for heck's sake.
How I Knew (and You Did Too) That This Could Happen
But it still doesn't feel good, to be a fan who put up their hard earned money to have the farcical nature of this fight shoved back in their face, and so I hope we can learn from this, and prevent it from happening in the future.
I posted a widely-overlooked article earlier this week previewing this fight, and I listed a bunch of reasons why Mayweather wouldn't lose, and why it was best to ignore the people who kept insisting that Ortiz had a shot.
On Saturday, I felt somewhat robbed, but I also felt vindicated. I decided to not buy the full pay-per-view, but to go for a cheaper viewing option—paying a small cover charge at a sports bar. In witnessing the main event, I saw a lot of what I had predicted come through.
This isn't to gloat, but rather to provide perspective, and out of this, I hope that boxing fans can accept this last fight for what it is, and move on.to more of the exciting upcoming fights we have (and there are many—Pacquiao-Marquez, the Super Six Finals, a Sergio Martinez and Andy Lee card, Nonito Donaire vs. Omar Narvaez, Hopkins-Dawson among them) without getting too thrown by this. Bad fights happen, and in some cases, like this one, we know that they do.
In one way or another, all of my 12 predictions came true on Saturday, and if we can look at how that is true, it's easier to overcome the anger of what we saw.
12. Mayweather Has Low Mileage - it's true. He does. He was fresh, and fit, and could take the best punches from Ortiz.
11. Huge Upsets Tend to Come From Older Fighters - Ortiz didn't have the experience to see the obvious restart, and to keep his guard high. If the fight had gone longer, who knows what would have happened, but Ortiz was clearly off his game.
10. Mayweather isn't Berto - He takes hits better, he moves, and bobs, and weaves, and holds. And apparently tonight, that was enough to provoke Ortiz into headbutting him.
9. Ortiz's Stock Is Inflated Right Now - It was.
8. Floyd Wanted This Fight - Hate him as you will, but Floyd might be the smartest man in boxing right now. He has a ton of experience, and he has always known how to win. Floyd knew not to risk the excitement of his comeback on a truly dangerous opponent. He wanted one like Ortiz - well-regarded, but unquestionably beatable.
7. Mayweather isn't Tyson - Floyd toys with us constantly because we want to think he's like an overconfident Mike Tyson or a satisfied Rocky in Rocky III. But we knew he would come prepared. He always does.
6. Mayweather Thinks Faster - It was something we knew about Floyd, and it was something he proved. Floyd was thinking ahead. It's an advantage he has. We may have wanted him to win "fair and square," but let's not forget that he did. He won a fight according to well-established rules, and he didn't even initiate the dirty fighting. It's not Mayweather's fault Ortiz wasn't ready. If Mayweather had held off and Ortiz had swung instead, we would have thought it was a mental lapse on Floyd's part.
5. Defense - Not much to say. Floyd's wins are always facilitated by defense.
4. Mayweather is Clutch - He didn't get much of a chance to show it, but he definitely made some heads-up plays this fight.
3. Ortiz Hasn't Been Here Before - It showed.
2. Cinderella Stories Don't Exist in Mayweather's Mind - This is the observation I'm proudest of. I think it's an important aspect of understanding the psychology of "Money" Mayweather. He wasn't going to fall for Ortiz's "good guy" act. Ortiz headbutted him, and then tried to apologize three separate times, including one after Joe Cortez restarted the bout. Floyd wanted to punish Ortiz for his cheap shot, and wasn't going to put up with Ortiz's game.
1. Floyd Always Does This - "This" being the lead-up that makes him look vulnerable, and then the dominant in-ring performance that reminds us why he is the best. We all knew Floyd could do the things he did tonight, and I'm not sure why everyone was so shocked when he did them.
So What Do We Do Now?
First, we should learn from the experience, and not get overly hopeful about a bout like this.
As a person who has spent a good deal of his time writing about boxing over the past 12 months, I share in the immense frustration with the lack of great options afforded us by the top fighters of our time. The two guys who should be fighting each other aren't, and the two guys who are willing to fight anybody (Sergio Martinez and Nonito Donaire) can't find quality opponents.
Secondly, we can choose not to play along. Mayweather, in and out of the ring, likes toying with people. He always likes to show that he's more clever than you, and he usually wins. We let him win on Saturday. But we don't have to do this again. If he doesn't fight against Pacquiao in his next bout, we, as the consumer, have the ability to not pay to watch it.
He can sell all he wants (see item No. 1 on my list above), but if we're aware of what happened to us tonight, then we don't have to bite.
Third, we can increase the pressure on Mayweather to take the Pacquiao fight. We have a surprising level of access to change the way the fight game is played. We can contact the promoters' companies, we can sound off on the message boards and on Twitter, we can write articles like this (Bleacher Report happens to be an open platform), and we can choose what to buy and what not to buy.
And finally, I'd like to make my declaration, in the best way I know how—by writing.
Floyd Mayweather, you are a smart man, and possibly the greatest fighter in the sport today. What you did against Ortiz was fair and legitimate, but I'm on to you. No more fights with second-rate opponents, no more nonsensical build-up, or else you get no more business from me. Until you fight Manny Pacquiao, I will not spend another dime on your boxing matches.
Through knowledge, reflection, and self-empowerment, we can all prevent ourselves from falling victim to this pain again.
Dave Carlson is a UCSD Physiology and Neuroscience student and boxing historian whose boxing articles have amassed over 250,000 reads since September 2010. He is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and a columnist for KissingTheCanvas.com. His article on the Top 100 Pound-for-Pound Boxers of All Time has been referenced over 100 times by various sports websites.
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