Floyd Mayweather improved his record to 42-0 with a bizarre fourth-round knockout of Victor Ortiz on Saturday night. Near the end of the fourth round, Ortiz had Mayweather in the corner and he suddenly, ridiculously lunged forward, almost jumping off the ground, catching Mayweather's chin with his head.
Referee Joe Cortez separated the fighters and deducted a point from Ortiz. Ortiz immediately went to apologize to Mayweather, offering the conciliatory hug and a peck on the cheek. When Cortez motioned for the fighters to continue, Ortiz went in for a second embrace, and in the ultimate feint Mayweather leaned in as if to reciprocate then ripped off two hard punches on the helpless Ortiz that knocked him down for the count.
The move was not sporting, as it's typically customary to step back from a moment like that, some fighters even throw a pawing jab to signify their intention to resume the action. Mayweather went right for the heavy artillery.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he had just been the victim of a hilariously obvious and intentional headbutt from Ortiz. He had already accepted Ortiz's apology moments before, as soon it happened and most importantly, Cortez had motioned, in a typically Cortezian bumbling way, for the fighters to continue.
Things happen fast in a ring, and as far as Mayweather knew, the fight was on, his opponent had the responsibility to defend himself, Ortiz did not do so and he took full advantage. It was a cheap shot, and not every fighter in his position would have taken it, but this isn't patty-cake. It's a fight.
In the end, what cost Ortiz more than anything was his laid-back, surfer-dude mentality. It's possible he panicked in that moment, knowing the headbutt was bad and the point deduction costly, and was so profusely apologetic because he didn't know how else to rectify the situation. A more mature fighter would know to move on and issue your apologies later. Ortiz made a serious mistake in the biggest fight of his life. He knew he messed up with the headbutt and he went overboard trying to atone for it. Mayweather justifiably made him pay.
Up to that point, it was an interesting fight that was bringing out the best in Mayweather. His speed and slickness were on full display, peppering Ortiz with straight right hands throughout the brief affair. Mayweather's genius lies in his ability to maneuver away from punishment, and he slipped, ducked and blocked most of Ortiz' flurries.
Make no mistake, Ortiz was not out of this fight. He found moments of success. He stayed within himself and was able to pressure Mayweather, bother him to a degree and he was walking through Mayweather's punches, not once staggered or wounded.
If the bizarre knockout sequence had occurred after the third round when Mayweather seemed to step it up and was doling out a masterclass, it would have been a lot easier for me to say "Well, I think Ortiz was overmatched and about to go the road of the 10-2 unanimous decision."
In the fourth, despite taking some shots early in the round, Ortiz rallied to catch Mayweather a couple times and continued to bring the aggression. Mayweather was mostly successful in evading the punches, but if Ortiz had a chance to eventually wear him down, we'll never know.
Given that brief opening on account of Ortiz's overly gentlemanly inexperience, Mayweather ended the fight. From the perspective of being a winner at the highest level, he did exactly what he needed to do. Judging from the four rounds, Mayweather was the better fighter. The best part was, Mayweather was fighting. Ortiz's youth, speed and power may not have been enough to beat Mayweather, but it was enough to push him and bring out his best. It's a shame we couldn't have seen that over 12 rounds.
In the end, Ortiz has no one to blame but himself. He might nit-pick Joe Cortez looking outside the ring and asking for some kind of instruction after he told the two fighters to continue, which may have distracted Ortiz or made him think they were still in break. Who knows?It wasn't Cortez's finest hour either.
Part of me feels like under the circumstances, it would be honorable to give Ortiz the rematch. I wouldn't mind that fight, just like I didn't mind this one, but that cannot be the priority. The most encouraging thing from last night was that Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers of this generation, looks like he's still at the peak of his powers, making the dream match with Manny Pacquiao more tantalizing. It has to happen, as soon as possible. The more time that passes, the farther out of their primes both men get.
Ortiz has business with Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana, and others and he also needs to realize, and Pacquiao is the best role model for this, you can be the nicest guy in the world outside of the ring but inside, the "aw shucks, I'm sorry bro" attitude is a detriment.
The "Vicious" moniker was a complete misnomer last night. Ortiz acted like a dude just playing a sport against his buddy, there was a little dirtiness, so he had to go over-the-top and apologize, let him know it was all cool. And Mayweather acted like a fighter, at all times.
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