There’s a fine line between abusing the rules and using them to their advantage, and there’s a fine line between sportsmanship and excessive generosity toward your opponent. But Floyd Mayweather, Jr., was, to my estimation, on the right side of the line against Victor Ortiz when he stopped Ortiz in the 4th round with a left-right combination that left Ortiz staggered and put him down for the night while Ortiz was trying to apologize for a head butt. And Ortiz was on the wrong side of the other side of the line, being too kind toward Mayweather.
This was a close fight, closer than I expected, even though I didn’t think Ortiz was doing enough to make the fight happen the way it could’ve and should’ve to win the bout. But Ortiz’ speed and strength were giving Mayweather trouble through four rounds, and I had it even through the 4th, prior to the knockdown; Mayweather was, as expected, more accurate and landing a lot of counterpunches against a very wide-open opponent.
Then in the 4th, during a furious exchange, Ortiz backed up Mayweather and launched his head forward in what looked like a deliberate head butt. Refereee Joe Cortez promptly and properly deducted Ortiz a point, and at that time, Ortiz went above and beyond in apologizing to Mayweather for his actions, even kissing him on the cheek. When they reconvened the fight, Ortiz continued to apologize, and after breaking from a hug with Mayweather, Mayweather landed a left hook and straight right as Ortiz pulled back with his hands down. Ortiz couldn’t recover and didn’t get up at the count of 10.
I’m all for sportsmanship. Really. But in boxing, the rule is, “Defend yourself at all times.” Ortiz didn’t. And Mayweather took advantage. He scored a legitimate knockout, however much you might look down on him for doing so.
You don’t have to like Mayweather for what he did. I didn’t, but that’s a different question than whether he should’ve done it. Nor do I think HBO’s Larry Merchant was outside the lines for questioning him about the whole affair, and while I don’t like journalists interjecting themselves into the story, Mayweather was improperly contentious toward Merchant in a way that justified Merchant saying, “If I was 50 years younger, I’d kick your ass.” There comes a time when a man has to defend himself as a man. Merchant has always been hard on Floyd, but if Floyd can’t handle the questions, then that’s on him, not Merchant.
This fight isn’t going to satisfy anyone. It’s a fight that could’ve gotten interesting over the long haul. But it’s also a fight where one boxer was too nice, and the other fighter was a bit too mean, however justifiably. I would’ve liked to seen how it would’ve played out. But that’s not the world we live in. That world is a world where Mayweather legitimately, albeit objectionably, scored a 4th round knockout.
And let’s not get too excited about what this means for a Manny Pacquiao fight at welterweight. Mayweather-Pacquiao was already remote. This is a sidebar in that whole depressing saga.