Floyd Mayweather Didn't Throw a Sucker Punch; Victor Ortiz Was the Sucker
On Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather stepped in and administered a lethal left-right combination to Victor Ortiz that produced the most stunning knockout of Mayweather's professional career. That he would have punched a guy who simply wanted to hug him seems to have offended millions of viewers around the world, including longtime HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant.
They can all go to hell.
Let me be clear, I'm not a Mayweather fan. I think he's an obnoxious, spoiled brat. But that has nothing to do with his actions in the ring Saturday night.
HBO is busy taking down the video clips of the spectacular ending to the welterweight championship fight, but while the above clip is still functioning, click on it to see the part that everyone is calling "controversial." (If it doesn't work, don't blame us.)
Since you may not be able to go to the video, here's a description: Mayweather definitely won the first three rounds. He wasn't dominant, but he was certainly in control. Since Ortiz was reputed to be the heavier puncher, there was still plenty of suspense going into the fourth round. Ortiz, though, was getting visibly frustrated by Mayweather's hand speed and ability to slip punches. Bulling Mayweather against the ropes, he clearly head-butted the champion. Referee Joe Cortez momentarily stopped the fight and made it clear he was deducting a point from Ortiz.
Ortiz seemed embarrassed by his boorish behavior and began to apologize profusely. But he did protest too much. First, he leaned over and kissed Mayweather on the cheek. Then, after Cortez signaled that the break was over, Ortiz put out his arms as if to hug Mayweather.
First, there's a rule in boxing that you're told the first time you step in the ring — the first time I strapped on my headgear in a Philadelphia gym, my handler slammed me on the shoulder, looked me in the eye, stuck a finger in my face and said, "Remember, protect yourself AT ALL TIMES!". And "all times" means exactly that.
What the hell did Ortiz think he was doing? Did he think that if he made nice-nice to Mayweather he could get the point on the foul erased?
The rule in boxing is no punches during a referee's break, but it doesn't say anything about after the break. (Was Mayweather supposed to trust that Ortiz wasn't going to butt him again or throw a punch instead of giving him a hug?)
Anyway, when you watch the re-broadcast this weekend (of if you can find a clip of the whole thing), see HBO showing the ridiculous exchange between Mayweather and Merchant. In the wake of Merchant's postfight commentary, Mayweather tells him that HBO should fire him. The 80-year old Merchant shoots back that if he was 50 years younger, he would kick his ass.
Yeah, right. When I was 18 I was a gopher for Merchant at a newspaper office, and man, did he take long "lunch" breaks. Put it this way: What Merchant didn't get done before "lunch," he didn't get done at all.
It looked to me as if Merchant had taken another long lunch break before the fight, and, frankly, I think Mayweather was right: Merchant should be fired for his comments.He was in the wrong. Nothing Mayweather did was illegal.
Leave it to Mayweather to be in the right and still make everyone hate him.
After the fight, he made the unbelievable accusation that Manny Pacquiao has been ducking him for the last two years and that he won't fight him unless Pacquiao "takes a drug test" — the implication of course being that Manny is so sensational that he must be taking steroids. (Has Mayweather thought that one through? Every time he repeats it, he's simply flattering Pacquiao.)
Note to Floyd Mayweather: Manny Pacquiao is no Victor Ortiz, and when you step into the ring with him — perhaps I should say "if" — the last thing he'll have on his mind is hugging it out.
By the way, Bert Sugar, the dean of American boxing writers, reminds us that there was one other major controversy over a foul in the ring. In 1927, Jack Dempsey, having lost his heavyweight title on a decision to Gene Tunney, fought the number one contender, Jack Sharkey, to earn a rematch with Tunney. In round seven, Sharkey turns to the ref to complain of a low blow — the claim has never been substantiated, and it's hard to tell in the film whether the punch was above or below the belt — after which Dempsey flattens him with one of the most devastating short left hooks you'll ever see. Give it a watch:
The clip from the archives of the late Jim Jacobs shows both the sixth and seventh rounds, so be patient.