Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Mayweather didn’t do himself any favors by stopping Victor Ortiz the way he did on Saturday night in Las Vegas. He was in the process of breaking down a vastly inferior boxer when he ended the fight with a big right after Ortiz let his guard down. The knockout was legitimate. Ortiz failed to follow one of the most basic rules in boxing — protect yourself at all times – and paid a stiff price. The crazy ending obscured Mayweather’s performance, though. We should be talking about how the most gifted fighter on the planet looked as sharp as ever even after a 16-month layoff, the beautiful rights he landed consistently and Ortiz’s inability to penetrate Mayweather’s legendary defense. Instead, we’re talking about how stupid Ortiz was and whether Mayweather was right or wrong to punch him when he wasn’t prepared to fight. Still, “Money” had a good night. He walked away with a knockout, the WBC welterweight belt, and is in prime position for bigger things in the near future.
Victor Ortiz: A one-sided loss – even a knockout loss – would’ve been OK. Ortiz could’ve said afterward, “Hey, I tried as hard as I could. I just wasn’t good enough to beat him tonight. I’m a young guy. I’ll be back.” No one would’ve held it against him. Instead, a poor performance combined with his wacky behavior leave him in a bad light once again. The fact he jumped into Mayweather with his head in the heat of battle – basically cracking under pressure – leads us to wonder once again about his mental toughness. Professionals keep their heads. He made it worse by being overly apologetic, embracing Mayweather and then kissing him on the cheek. And then, in the coup de grace, he spaced out and was knocked out. What a disaster! Ortiz is fortunate he has a strong promotional company (Golden Boy) behind him. He’ll get more chances. The now question is: Which Ortiz will show up in the future, the one who beat Berto or the one who flipped out against Mayweather?
The bizarre ending: Mayweather can defend the actions that ended the fight, his short left and big right with Ortiz’s guard down. Referee Joe Cortez confirmed that he told the fighters to box, although Ortiz claims he didn’t hear it. No rules were violated. And Ortiz was the one who turned a relatively clean fight into dirty one. Mayweather, his lip cut because of the head-butt, was angry and no one could blame him. Still, he was deceptive. He knew Ortiz was in the process of apologizing again. He could’ve cut the kid a break, especially because he was in complete control of the fight anyway. Afterward, I asked myself: “Would Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez have thrown those punches?” The answer is obvious: No way. One could argue that Mayweather is more of a bad-ass than Pacquiao and Marquez, a fighter whose job isn’t to be compassionate. That’s valid. One could also argue that Mayweather was being Mayweather, an objectionable character.
Paulie Malignaggi: I believe I have a keen sense of fair play, which is why my initial instinct was to criticize Mayweather in the column I wrote for RingTV.com after the fight in Las Vegas. He tricked Ortiz into letting his guard down and then took advantage of his young opponent’s stupidity by knocking him out. It didn’t seem fair. I was writing the column from that angle in the media center at the MGM Grand immediately after the fight when Paulie Malignaggi walked up. I asked for his take on what happened. He said in a nutshell: Ortiz can’t turn a boxing match into a street fight and then complain when Mayweather follows suit. That made perfect sense. It also quelled my anger toward Mayweather, which allowed me to think more clearly as I wrote. I still don’t like what Mayweather did but, in a sense, Ortiz deserved what he got. Malignaggi is a smart guy.
Mayweather-Merchant interview: Mayweather and HBO analyst Larry Merchant have a history of friction, which erupted in the ring after the fight. Merchant was asking Mayweather whether his actions were fair to Ortiz when the fighter suddenly became angry, saying “You never give me a fair shake” and “HBO needs to fire you. You don’t know s— about boxing.” Merchant’s first response, after the “fair shake” comment, was, “What are you talking about?” His final comment will go down in broadcasting history as a classic: “I wish I were 50 years younger and I would kick your ass!” I could write that both men should’ve behaved more professionally but I won’t. If Mayweather truly believes he isn’t being treated fairly, I don’t blame him lashing out. And Merchant? Listen, he’s near the end of a wonderful broadcasting career. He has nothing to lose. From his perspective, some punk got in his face and insulted him on national television. I thought his response was perfectly appropriate. And for the record: If he were 50 years younger, I believe he COULD kick Mayweather’s ass.
Joe Cortez: I could be wrong but I believe one of the duties of a referee is to be certain that both boxers are ready to fight before he allows them to do so. I’ll take Cortez’s word for it when he says that he ordered Mayweather and Ortiz to box after the bizarre head-butt incident even though Ortiz said he didn’t hear it. And I’ll accept that technically no rules were violated. That said, Cortez should’ve recognized that Ortiz – obviously still stunned as a result of his own actions — wasn’t prepared to fight moments before Mayweather punched him. Cortez could’ve gotten his attention and asked, “Son, are you ready to go?” I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the strange events unfolded quickly, though. And it would’ve difficult for Cortez to see what was about to happen. Cortez is a veteran, though, a Hall of Famer. Maybe I just hold him up to higher standards.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez: Things looked shaky for Alvarez, who was being outworked by Alfonso Gomez and didn’t seem to know how to respond in Los Angeles on the split-site Floyd Mayweather Jr-Victor Ortiz broadcast. Then, out of nowhere, Alvarez landed a short right uppercut and a straight right that hurt Gomez badly. He then followed with a ferocious flurry of about a dozen punches, prompting referee Wayne Hedgpeth to stop the fight 2:36 into the sixth round. Just like that, Alvarez turned a perplexing performance in a spectacular knockout, sending his many fans at Staples Center into a tizzy. No one is going to remember the five rounds in which Alvarez struggled to get rolling, during which observers began to think the underdog had a chance. They’ll never forget the way it ended, though, with Gomez defenseless in a blaze of fire. That’s how you attract fans, by giving them high drama. Alvarez has a flair for the dramatic.
Alfonso Gomez: The former participant on The Contender series and talented rap singer knows a few things about entertainment himself. For five rounds, it appeared he had the ability and game plan to give his less-experienced opponent a run for his money. He seemed to gain confidence with each round. Then it all changed in an instant. He was caught with a few good punches and the dream died. Afterward, his head hanging, he was devastated. Gomez has nothing to be ashamed of, though. He came prepared to fight and gave a rising star a tough time as long as it lasted, even if he wasn’t destined to come out on top. Gomez, 30, clearly loves boxing. And there’s no reason for him to stop doing it. He has plenty to give if he so chooses.
Erik Morales: Many believe that Tim Bradley was unfairly stripped of the WBC junior welterweight title for which Morales and Pablo Cesar Cano fought on the Mayweather-Ortiz undercard. And Morales’ victory would’ve been more dramatic had it come against Lucas Matthysse, his original opponent. We must give Morales his due, though. The future Hall of Famer stopped Cano after 10 rounds to do something none of his great Mexican predecessors were able to do – win a world title in a fourth weight division. Not Ruben Olivares. Not Julio Cesar Chavez. Not Carlos Zarate. Not even contemporaries Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez. Only Morales was able to do it. And “El Terrible” did it in a most-improbable way. His career appeared to be over after he suffered four consecutive losses between 2005 and 2007, after which he “retired.” However, he returned 2½ years later and ultimately made history. Morales should be immensely proud of himself.
Jessie Vargas: The unbeaten junior welterweight prospect was more active than opponent Josesito Lopez, which apparently is why he won a controversial split decision on the Mayweather-Ortiz undercard. He had tremendous difficulty handling his opponent’s strength advantage and took the much bigger shots, which is why most of those at ringside thought Lopez won the 10-round fight. The decision was greeted with boos even in Vargas’ hometown. He clearly was lucky to come away with his perfect record (17-0, 9 KOs) intact. We shouldn’t be too hard on Vargas, though. He was taking part in only his third scheduled 10-round fight. And the first two went only one and two rounds, respectively. Plus, he was in with a tough, more-experienced opponent. He should be applauded for absorbing everything Lopez dished out and actually winning the fight in the final round, which he took on all three scorecards. His future remains bright.
BIGGEST LOSER III
Josesito Lopez: Henry Ramirez, the trainer of Lopez, said after the fight that he had no problem with what appeared in the arena to be a controversial decision. He acknowledged that Vargas earned the decision because he was the busier fighter. That said, I feel sorry for anyone who fights Lopez in the future. The junior welterweight contender is a very good boxer with uncommon ferocity and resilience. He’s a beast. Ramirez pointed out that Lopez threw an average of only 51 punches per round, according to CompuBox, which is low output for a 140-pounder. Vargas averaged 85. That can be fixed, though. Lopez will have learned that he can’t allow his opponent to outwork him. That adjustment and perhaps a few others could be all it takes for Lopez to realize his vast potential. This kid is a good fighter, good enough to win a world title someday if he doesn’t get discouraged.
Ortiz: “I was looking at Joe and he said ‘break’ or something and I’m like, huh. Whatever. Bottom line is I had fun. It was fun.” Fun?