Originally published: September 22 2011
FLOYD MAYWEATHER is destined to play the villain. In smashing Victor Ortiz to the canvas at the MGM Garden Arena, he didn’t violate the rules of boxing but he did offend the sensibilities of sporting fans.
Not that “Vicious” Victor conducted himself as a gentleman, far from it. Bamboozled by a masterful “Money”, in the fourth round the southpaw finally landed a punch of note. His heavy left hand struck Floyd’s head and Mayweather retreated fast. Leaping at his chance Ortiz raced after him, releasing a frenzy of punches. But even with his back to the ropes, Floyd is in command. He swayed in the rigging, letting those Ortiz fists flash past, spent, before tying up the younger man’s arms.
Contained, his rush exhausted, Ortiz fouled blatantly. He jumped clear off the floor to butt Mayweather in the mouth.
Before the fight Floyd, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, had made no secret of his desire to knock out the WBC welterweight champion. Dabbing at his cut chin Mayweather shook his head, his fury palpable. Ortiz acknowledged his foul and rushed over to kiss Mayweather on the cheek, a curious gesture of apology. Floyd didn’t notice and wouldn’t have cared for it if he had.
“I’m in the zone,” he said later, “everything is blocked out.”
Referee Joe Cortez guided Victor by the hand round the ring, deducting a point. The two fighters came to the centre of the ring. Cortez signalled them in. Ortiz once again tried to say sorry, touching gloves with both hands, almost reaching for a half-embrace. His face set, Floyd was hardly going to be in forgiving mood. Ortiz stepped back, hands hanging foolishly at his sides.
Fist in the air, where it was after the gloves had touched, Mayweather snapped a hook across. The left turned Victor’s head. Ortiz’s eyes stayed on the referee, appealing to Cortez at the unfairness of the strike. Mayweather’s eyes never left his mark. He slid forward, fired his unerring right cross and Victor had left himself completely exposed.
It blasted through Ortiz. Flat on his back, Victor rolled on to his hands and knees but, crawling from side to side, face blank, he found no way to beat the count. If he had made it up, he could have recovered – the time was 2-59 in the fourth.
But there is no reason to suppose Ortiz could have changed the outcome. Instead of a systematic beating, Mayweather subjected him to a cold, cruel finish. But Mayweather, convincingly, said, “He could not take brutal punishment like that for 12 rounds. If he did he would never be the same again in his whole career.”
The right hand that closed the matter had tormented the champion all evening. It zeroed in time and again, flush as a lead.
Floyd was in gear from the off. His left had Victor’s southpaw jab under control and as his lead hand worried Ortiz, Mayweather lashed him with his right. In stark contrast, Ortiz’s own power punch couldn’t ruffle his foe. A cross-armed defence shielded him and Floyd had the movement to snap his body forward to let Victor’s left pass harmlessly overhead. His swift footing let him glide back, as a lead right hook from Ortiz touched nothing but air.
The man from Ventura, California, did fare better in the second round. He stood off more, not doing what Floyd wanted of him. This patience could have been his only hope in the face of such an expert counter-puncher. It did not win him the round though. Mayweather advanced, his face a picture of focus. Ortiz directed his left to the body but registered not so much as a blink. An occasional smile from Floyd marked moments when Ortiz’s blows tried, and failed, to catch hold of him on the ropes.
Floyd chose his ground, his rear hand darting home three times in succession. He could see when Ortiz was preparing to punch. Whenever Victor’s lead flicked a fraction down, Mayweather’s cross flew in with exceptional accuracy.
At the start of the third, the Mayweather jab rapped on the champion’s nose. With Ortiz trying to force his way forward, a left hook turned him into the corner. On the outside now, Victor endeavoured to fight his way in but couldn’t get his fists round Mayweather’s guard, whose gloves were up, moving where they needed to be.
Victor looked sturdy. 10st 7lbs at the weigh-in, half a pound heavier than Mayweather, he would have put on more by fight time. But Floyd’s constant rights must have chipped away at his resistance. “Money’s” rear hand slashed up and Ortiz, in sudden danger, backed off. Maybe that shot convinced the 24-year-old he was out of his depth.
In the fourth, Mayweather held ring centre, advancing. A double left hook sprang in, opening a clear path for the right. It’s an irony that, in the build up to the fight, Ortiz’s trainer Danny Garcia had accused Mayweather of being “dirty”. On the night it was Ortiz leaning in with his head, which Cortez had already warned him once for before that wild foul.
The retribution Mayweather exacted may have been cynical but if Cortez had called time in, as later claimed, then it was not illegal. The referee prompted them together. It was Victor’s choice to touch gloves again and there is no rule that obliged Mayweather to spare him.
Afterwards Mayweather showed the cuts on his chin and inside his mouth, as well as a large lump on the back of his head, well behind the ear – certainly not a legitimate target. Ortiz made the fight dirty. Having taken it down that path, he tried to back out of a street fight. Mayweather showed he can win one of those if required.
But what the conclusion won’t do is win “Money” any affection. Floyd is the opposite of a brawler. He fights with a pure class that demands to be admired. The lack of sportsmanship in the ending will overshadow the rest of his majestic exhibition. The knockout may have been ugly, but until then his boxing had been beautiful. For the performance, a more artistic finish, of which clearly he is more than capable, would have made it perfect. But if winning is all that matters, the now 42-0 Mayweather can’t be faulted.
Unrequired judges were Jerry Roth, Adalaide Byrd and Glenn Trowbridge. Ortiz, 29-3-2 (22), can at least use the controversy to pitch for a rematch. But with Golden Boy discussing a welterweight tournament, featuring the likes of new signing Devon Alexander, there are other options.