It's been a little over a week since WBC welterweight title-holder Floyd Mayweather 42-0 (26) stopped former title-holder Victor Ortiz 29-3-2 (22) at the end of the fourth round. And from the moment Mayweather dropped and stopped Ortiz with a perfectly placed left-hook and right cross to the chin, there's been much written about Joe Cortez's ineptness as a referee and Mayweather's unsportsmanlike behavior during the bout.
Let's get Cortez out of the way first – yes, he clearly was out of position and did a horrible job governing the fight at the end. But that had no effect on the result, that blame goes to Victor Ortiz. Did Victor really think he could try to headbutt Mayweather and then try to make friends with him and perhaps suck him into falling for his own bending of the rules conduct later in the fight? As we saw Ortiz learned the hard way because Mayweather was too experienced and smart to be bettered by Ortiz at that game.
It's been agonizing hearing and reading the cookbook analyst banter back and forth saying what Mayweather should've done or what they would've done in that situation. As most know this column has not treaded lightly when it comes to objective criticism and critique of Floyd Mayweather the fighter. But I can't, nor should anyone else yell fire when there isn't a whiff of smoke in the air just so they can jump on Mayweather because they don't like him.
During the past week it's been written a thousand times how the first thing fighters are taught when they go into the gym is “protect yourself at all time.” Yeah, in a perfect world that sounds great, but it's not true, simply because a fighter coming into the gym for the first time is so far away from fighting that it's not even a thought. That aside, it is repeated by the referee before all fights in the dressing room and at ring center before the start of the bout. Actually, it's the last thing a fighter hears before the bout. However, that doesn't matter for this discussion because the focal point is more centered around whether or not Mayweather did anything wrong or illegal – to which the answer is, no!
Some have referred to the left-hook and right hand that Mayweather stopped Ortiz with as a sucker punch. But only if you allow yourself to get suckered. More importantly it was also legal and many past all-time greats would've done exactly the same thing Floyd did in that spot. The object in fighting is to win, and that means by whatever it takes to do so within the rules. If a fighter gets a free shot at his opponent and the opponent is too distracted to protect himself from being so vulnerable, you better believe nine out of ten times he's getting clocked. In a fight there are many unknowns and if a shrewd fighter like Mayweather can end it before he gets cut or head-butted a second time, you better believe he's going to take his shot and go home with the win. Once Ortiz touched Mayweather's gloves after Cortez deducted a point from him for his attempted head-butt, it was on and shame on Ortiz for being a dope. Could you see Mayweather being caught like that if the situation were reversed? Not in a million years would Mayweather leave himself at the mercy of his opponent.
Professional fighting isn't war, but it's also not about making friends or giving an opponent a break once the bell rings. If fighter A could hit fighter B low three times a round and not be disqualified or penalized, you better believe he would, with his thought being it'll take something out of his opponent and give him an edge later in the fight. Some of those reading this are probably huge fans of Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Bernard Hopkins, Michael Spinks, Jack Dempsey, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. So I ask, how many fighters did they ever give a break to? And could you really see them not doing the same thing Mayweather did in the same situation? I can't. Every fighter mentioned did whatever they could to incapacitate their opponent as fast as they could within the rules so they could get out of the ring uninjured and with the “W”. They just weren't as lucky as Mayweather was in as far as having an opponent in front of them in a big fight who left themself so wide open to get whacked so cleanly the way Victor Ortiz did.
When world class fighters get in the ring, so much is riding on the outcome and it's so dangerous and hard to win at that level, it's takes a rare breed of man who won't seize on every opening his opponent gives him. Knowing the way Floyd Mayweather approaches boxing and with so much riding on the outcome when he fights, how could he not nail Ortiz with two clean finishing punches after Ortiz tried to head-butt him? Once Victor tried to butt him during the fight, Floyd became a little fearful because that never happened to him before. It made him view Ortiz in a completely different way and he then realized that Victor was going to do whatever it took in order to give him his first defeat.
Personally, I believe even if Ortiz hadn't tried to butt Mayweather, Floyd still would've cut loose with the left-hook right hand combo that he knocked him out with in that spot. However, once Victor escalated his presence during the fight, if there was a chance that Mayweather was going to let him off the hook, that was gone. And that's because Floyd Mayweather is a real fighter and doesn't have any dog in him. When he's in the ring he's all about winning, and if you scare him or try to intimidate him, he won't try and make friends with you, instead he'll try to legally cut your throat, something that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career.
At the end of the day, Mayweather scored an impressive knockout and lives on to fight another day for millions of dollars, regardless of who the opponent is. Sure, there's plenty to rip Mayweather the fighter about. Obviously he's picked his spots and hasn't met the best available opposition when they were there to fight him and at or near their prime. His insistence on making Manny Pacquiao submit to Olympic style drug testing before they fight is just a ruse and a means to gain an edge in the ring on fight night. Floyd's been an even greater manager in some aspects than he is a fighter. So there's plenty that Floyd Mayweather the fighter/boxer can be called on, but his conduct during his bout with Victor Ortiz last week shouldn't be on the list. He won the fight fair and within the rules and in a manner that many past idols and greats would've.
Many of the beloved greats from the past weren't altar boys in the ring when they fought and neither is Floyd Mayweather. The fact that he was brazen enough to take the free shots that Ortiz gave him showed me a little something more about his character as a fighter. Remember, there was some risk in doing that. What if Ortiz didn't blink and turned to him after the right hand crashed against his jaw and said, “now what Floyd”? However, that thought never crossed Mayweather's mind because he was intent on getting Ortiz out of there and would've just hit him again.
Professional fighters don't win by being nice guys and making friends with their opponents in the ring. Unfortunately for Victor Ortiz, he thought by buddying up to Mayweather he could con Floyd into not embarrassing him later on during the fight. And to Mayweather's credit, he saw right through that subterfuge and put him away the first chance he got, legally and justifiably. Just as Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and countless other all-time greats would've done.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com