LAS VEGAS – The words of wisdom reverberated across the MGM Grand Garden Arena after the crazy ending to the Floyd Mayweather Jr.- Victor Ortiz fight Saturday night.
“PROTECT YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES.”
Indeed. Victor Ortiz, new to mega-fights and in over his head, was brutally knocked out with one second remaining in the fourth round because he let his guard down in a moment of confusion and stupidity. For that he can only blame himself.
On top of that, he had purposely head butted Mayweather only moments earlier. It was an ugly moment, although one that probably can be attributed to a frustrated kid losing his head.
Again, though, he must take responsibility for his actions.
Ortiz clearly wasn’t prepared to fight at the moment he was taken out and Mayweather knew it. The two were about to embrace to signal the end of the rough play — or so it seemed — when Mayweather, not interested whatsoever in niceties, landed a short left.
Ortiz then looked at referee Joe Cortez, at which time Mayweather landed a right-handed bomb that put Ortiz on his back and ended the fight.
Mayweather can argue that he had a right to be angry after Ortiz's head collided with Mayweather's mouth, which is true even if Ortiz apologized by embracing and then kissing him on the cheek. Apologies don't compensate for a badly cut lip.
He can also argue that Cortez ordered the fighters to box, which Cortez later confirmed. He’s right again. The punches were legal. I believe he violated the spirit of sportsmanship; he tricked Ortiz into believing they were going to embrace and then smacked him.
However, Ortiz forfeited the right to be treated in a sportsmanlike manner by his actions. He can’t fight dirty one moment and then complain that his opponent did something dirty a moment later. It’s too late at that point.
“We came together. We touched (gloves). It’s fight time,” Mayweather said afterward, referring to the moments before the knockout.
The saving grace here is that the bizarre ending only prolonged the inevitable.
Mayweather (42-0, 26 knockouts) was in the process of breaking down Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) anyway, firing hard right hand after hard right hand and avoiding almost all of Ortiz’s punches. The younger man, no where near Mayweather's class, clearly was baffled.
That was Ortiz’s mind set when he momentarily trapped Mayweather in a corner, unloaded a flurry of punches and, in a shocking moment, then jumped in with his head in an obvious attempt to make contact.
Doesn’t get much dirtier than that.
Ortiz, immediately remorseful, apologized by embracing and then kissing Mayweather on the cheek in the same corner. Then, as the action resumed, Mayweather landed the short left when Ortiz let his guard down. Ortiz looked at Cortez, apparently confused about whether the ref had ordered the fight to continue, at which point … BOOM! The right instantly ended the night.
Ortiz couldn't say much afterward. He apologized publicly for the head butt and didn't place blame on Mayweather, although he did use the word "unfair" to describe the ending. He said he never heard Cortez say "box" to signal the fight had resumed. Thus, he was taken by surprise.
"There was a miscommunication with the ref and he blindsided me," Ortiz said. "… He threw the left and the right and that was it. I have to protect myself at all times. Nobody is perfect. This is a learning experience."
This was a significant step backward for Ortiz, who was coming off a sensational victory over Andre Berto that gave him the WBC welterweight title he then lost on Saturday.
Ortiz was accused of quitting against Marcos Maidana in 2009, after which many observers questioned his mental toughness and his commitment to the sport. He gradually rebuilt his reputation, culminating in the hard-fought victory over Berto.
Then this. The head butt was so outrageous — he cracked under pressure — that we must question his mental toughness again.
He looked fabulous for almost four full rounds, as good as he has ever looked. His speed, his defensive skills, his accurate punches, his underrated fighting spirit. It was all there. In my opinion, he remains the best fighter in the world at 34.
I don’t like what he did in the end. He could’ve stopped Ortiz without stooping to trickery.
He's not really the bad guy this time, though. He had a legitimate reason to be irate after what Ortiz did. Anyone one of us might’ve done exactly the same thing under those circumstances. And, again, he probably would’ve knocked out Ortiz anyway.
It was a bad night for Ortiz, a good night for Mayweather and a strange night for everyone else.