The boos rang into the night and may not stop for months to come.
Boo on boxing.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. won his mega fight against Victor Ortiz in the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, and each ought to be ashamed of himself. Any resemblance between sportsmanship and boxing vanished on a night of mugging and dirty play.
It happened like this.
In a fourth-round flurry, Ortiz got Mayweather in a corner and was pounding away. OK. That is boxing.
But then, in the middle of it, he suddenly lunged head-first into Mayweather’s mouth, a butt that cut the 41-0 superstar. Mayweather recoiled in shock and indignation and anger. Rightly so.
Referee Joe Cortez stepped in and immediately assessed a penalty point against Ortiz. Correctly so.
Then, after Ortiz went to Mayweather, smiling and apologizing, Cortez gathered the two in the middle of the ring, they touched gloves and each backed off a step for an instant. Then, with Cortez not even looking at the fighters and Ortiz looking like he was still waiting for some signal for the action to continue, Mayweather stepped forward and hit him with a shot in the mouth. Big left hand.
That sent Ortiz staggering backward and, in a flash, Mayweather followed with another shot, a huge right, that put Ortiz down and out for good. Cortez, who probably didn’t see either shot, then counted Ortiz out and the uproar and boos cascaded down.
The fight was over. What Mayweather had done was basically legal. The fight was back on and the niceties were over. Mayweather was the more experienced fighter. He has lived through the wars and knew that when there is an advantage, you take it.
Cortez said afterward, “Time was in. The fighter needed to keep his guard up. Mayweather did nothing illegal.”
The first thing Mayweather said in the ring afterward was, “You have to protect yourself at all times.”
Ortiz said, “I obeyed [the ref] as I was told. Then, boom, he clocked me.”
It got uglier.
HBO’s Larry Merchant tried to corral Mayweather to interview him. Mayweather suggested Merchant just talk to Ortiz “since you’ve never given me a fair shake.” He then used an expletive and questioned Merchant’s knowledge of the sport, to which Merchant replied, “If I was 50 years younger, I’d kick your [rear].”
Merchant is 80.
And so, in a matter of seconds, a greatly anticipated boxing match — one that will pay Mayweather at least $25 million and perhaps as much as $40 million after they count the pay-per-view revenue — disintegrated into what looked like a brawl without rules or reason.
Ortiz got $2 million for his part in this and said, somewhat lamely afterward, “You can look at this a couple of ways. One is that I came to entertain the fans, and I did that.”
The smell of a rematch is all over this one. The sales pitch is clear: Saturday’s fight didn’t really show what both can do, over an entire fight. How it ended leaves questions. And those questions can only be answered if we do it again. Golly, let’s see if we can get people to pay for this TWICE!
In a postfight news conference, Ortiz demanded that rematch and said, “It wasn’t a fair fight.”
This one may, however, give fans great pause. They will be less interested in what was legal, as they are at what looked horrific — on both ends. Boxing made a lot of money Saturday night and may have lost a lot of friends and future customers. If you were a casual fan, maybe even paid the outrageous $59.95 pay-per-view fee, you left with a bad taste in your mouth.
This was more freak show than sporting event.
No, they aren’t all like this. But this sort of thing makes ultimate fighting look like a tea party.
When the next big fight comes around, the hype starts and the talk implies an upcoming event of athletic skill and splendor, ponder buying tickets to the opera.