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[Update: Analysis updated below]
I haven’t had a chance to watch the fight again, but what just happened was crazy. Floyd Mayweather Jr just KOed Victor Ortiz in the fourth round of their WBC Welterweight title fight with a left-right combo many perceived to be cheap or even sucker punches.
Mayweather had won the first three rounds against Victor Ortiz (at least two of the three, anyway), and towards the end of the fourth Ortiz finally put together a decent string of punches and pinned Mayweather in the corner. Perhaps frustrated that he couldn’t do any serious damage, Ortiz launched an obvious and clearly illegal head butt at Mayweather, which led to a point deduction from referee Joe Cortez.
Ortiz apologised to Mayweather several times (including a hug and a kiss on the cheek) and the two ended up in the centre of the ring. While Cortez was still talking to the ringside officials, Ortiz again went to Mayweather to touch gloves, and then went in and gave him a another little hug near the centre of the ring. When Ortiz pulled back, Mayweather immediately assaulted him with a hard left, then added a punishing right hand that landed flush on Ortiz’s jaw. Ortiz never saw the punch coming (he appeared to be looking at Cortez, or at the very least he was still trying to apologise), and neither did Cortez, who was still communicating with the ringside officials when both punches connected. Nevertheless, Ortiz was struggled to get up and was counted out.
Boos showered the ring and in the post fight interview Mayweather refused to answer HBO interviewer Larry Merchant’s questions about the perceived cheap shot. When pressed, Mayweather exploded into a tirade and said that HBO ought to fire Merchant. He also said “you don’t know shit about boxing”, “you ain’t shit” and “you’re not shit” in Merchant’s face, before trying to turn away. Merchant said he wished he were 50 years younger so he could kick Mayweather’s ass.
Perhaps even stranger than the KO itself and Mayweather’s reaction was Ortiz’s — he seemed kind of content about the whole thing, smiling, saying that one could look at it in two ways (ie, dirty or not dirty) and that it was a learning experience for him.
I will post more detailed thoughts on this after rewatching the fight, but my initial reaction is that Ortiz has no one to blame but himself. He threw the head butt that landed put him in the predicament in the first place. He was the one that tried to apologise too much AND dish out a hug, which was not necessary. Cortez had re-engaged the boxers when the punches landed (even though he was still talking to ringside officials). And they always say, “Protect yourself at all times.” Was it a cheap shot? Probably. But it was legal. However, from a publicity perspective, it can’t be good for Floyd’s already crumbling image.
More to come. In the meantime, check out this YouTube replay of the KO while it still lasts.
[Update: as expected, the video has been taken down from YouTube]
Okay, I’ve now had time to watch a replay of the fight.
Ortiz was clearly the bigger guy (he was at the 147 limit at weigh-in but came into ring at 164, while Mayweather weighed 146.5 and came in at 150 — so a massive 14 pound difference!) but he didn’t really fight like one. From the outset, Mayweather seemed like the sharper, more focused fighter, while Ortiz was more plodding and looking to land wild punches.
I wouldn’t say Mayweather ‘dominated’ the first two rounds but he did enough to win them in my book. The straight right hand was his best punch and he connected them several times against Ortiz’s head. The third round was a clear Mayweather round as he tagged Ortiz numerous times and evaded most of Ortiz’s big swings. Ortiz never looked hurt or anything but he just didn’t appear to be on par with Mayweather either in terms of technical ability, speed or defense.
I was particularly amazed that Mayweather did not back away from Ortiz at all, and at times was even backing Ortiz up. On the other hand, Ortiz didn’t try and impose his size on Mayweather like I thought he would, and he very rarely went to the body.
The fourth round was all Mayweather from the start, but Ortiz kept throwing and eventually landed a few of his own. Mayweather shook his head as if to inform Ortiz that they didn’t hurt him. Then, with about 20 seconds left in the round, Ortiz caught Mayweather with a good shot, which sent Mayweather retreating along the ropes. Ortiz followed and pinned Mayweather in the corner but most of his power blows were either dodged or deflected. Frustrated, Ortiz threw a silly (because it was so obvious) intentional head butt that cut Mayweather’s bottom lip.
Referee Joe Cortez stepped in and called time immediately. While he tried to make a ruling Ortiz went up to Mayweather to apologise, hugging him and even pecking him on the cheek (not sure if the kiss connected though). Cortez pulled Ortiz away and signalled a point deduction and said to him, “Don’t be doing that!” Cortez could then be heard to say, “Let’s go,” and signalled time on, but he continued to look towards ringside as Ortiz and Mayweather made their way to the centre of the ring and Ortiz initiated a glove touch and another hug.
As Ortiz stepped back from the semi-embrace (Mayweather appeared to be pushing him a little), and while Cortez was still communicating with ringside, Mayweather threw a left hook that landed clean. Ortiz may have been looking at Cortez when that hook landed, but he was definitely looking Cortez’s way when Mayweather followed up with a vicious right straight hand that knocked Ortiz off his feet and into the corner.
Cortez didn’t seem to process what had happened until Ortiz was already on the ground, but he proceeded to count anyway. Ortiz never really looked like he was going to make it, and sure enough, the count reached 10 and the fight was officially over at 2:59 in the fourth round!
The crowd went nuts and there was confusion all round, including from the commentators. Ortiz got up and sat down in the corner, and Floyd went over and the two exchanged words. Ortiz smiled at whatever Mayweather said, completely unlike someone who just got KOed by two cheap shots.
Mayweather was announced the winner (now 42-0 with 26 KOs) and Larry Merchant entered to interview him. The largely pro-Ortiz crowd (despite the fight being in Mayweather’s home town of Las Vegas), having seen the replay a couple of times by now, was booing loudly as Merchant asked Mayweather about the controversial ending.
Instead of answering the questions, Mayweather (who made $25+ million) said whatever he wanted, thanking God, thanking the audience and PPV customers. They then watched the replay together and Mayweather said that fighters are supposed to protect themselves at all times, that it was not about what Ortiz did dirty or what he did dirty, and that if Ortiz wants a rematch he can have one.
The 80-year-old Merchant continued to press on, at which time an agitated Mayweather got into his face and said, “You never give me a fair shake…HBO needs to fire you! You know shit about boxing! You ain’t shit! You’re not shit!”
Merchant responded with, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your ass!”
(This really happened — I’m not making any of this up. The funniest thing was watching Leonard Ellerbe, one of Floyd’s “yes men” who is clearly deeply in love with him, sticking his fat head in and adding comments like, “You heard him!”)
Floyd and his entourage left the interview, and a smiling Merchant turned to a smiling Ortiz (now 29-3-2), whose face was swelling up under the eyes. Seriously, if I had just tuned in, I would have thought Ortiz had won the fight judging from the smile on his face. He did not look like a man disappointed after a somewhat dodgy KO.
When questioned, Ortiz said it wasn’t his fault, the ref called a break and he did exactly as he was told, but when he looked up, “Boom!” and he was out.
Regarding the head butt, Ortiz made up some lame excuse about it not being intentional. When they watched the KO again, Ortiz said, “It’s okay,” and when Merchant asked him what he thought of the controversial ending he said, “You could look at it two ways. At the end of the day, you know what? I came out here to show the fans a good time and as far as I’m concerned I think they did have a good time, except for that little miscommunication there by the ref. But hey, it happens. I’m not perfect, no one is, and neither is the ref. So I have no one to blame for it. It’s a learning experience.”
The public reaction has been mixed. The anti-Mayweather fans labelled the KO punches cheap shots and sucker punchers and used it to back up their assertion that Mayweather is classless. Everyone else agrees that it was a legal blow and it was Ortiz’s fault for not protecting himself at all times.
I’m far from a Floyd fan (I appreciate his ability though) but I have to agree with the sentiment of the latter. Ortiz definitely did a stupid thing there with the intentional head butt, which clearly angered Floyd, who looked like he was ready to take his game up another notch. You could see it in his eyes as soon as Cortez called time on. Ortiz, perhaps still embarrassed by what he did (how else could you explain the excessive apologising?), left himself wide open, and Floyd took advantage. It wasn’t classy but it was within the rules, and besides, Ortiz was the one that resorted to cheap tactics first.
Perhaps this later quote from Ortiz summed up how he felt. “I apologised to [Mayweather] after the fight as well. It was in the heat of the moment. In a sense, it was a payback.”
I have to say I’m disappointed in Ortiz (who came away with a cool $2+ million for 12 minutes of action)– not for the head butt, but for the way he reacted after the loss. It was as though he had secretly expected it all along and it didn’t even sting to be KOed in that fashion. Perhaps he knew he was being outclassed and thought that going out in this controversial manner was better than being pummelled for the rest of the fight.
Now, all we have to do is wait for Pacquiao vs Marquez III in November, and hopefully if Pacquiao wins we can start looking forward to Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2012. According to Pacquiao in recent interviews, random blood testing is no longer an issue, so barring any unforeseen circumstances this fight will finally happen!