The Best And The Worst: Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

How could you blame him? How could you not blame him?

You are left with a sense of being greatly unfulfilled, unsatisfied, frustrated. Yet who could deny they hadn’t seen something unforgettable — a spectacle, even entertaining, if perversely?

Those were the thoughts that filled one’s mind in the aftermath of Mayweather’s sucker punch sandbagging of “Vicious” Victor Ortiz, a fighter so vicious that he immediately apologized profusely for his intentional head butt, then proceeded to try and hug his opponent as a show of good will. After his amends were rebuffed in the form of Mayweather’s devious destruction, he sat on the canvas wide eyed, clearing the cob webs… and once those drifted away, the most vicious look he could muster was a sort of sheepish grin. More on “Vicious” Victor’s mental acumen in a minute…

Was Mayweather classless in the way he reacted to the blatant and certainly classless foul moments before by Ortiz? Or was “Money’s” malicious makeup maneuver justified?

The reaction by spectators ranged from outrage to admiration… from exultation to indignation. People were shocked. People weren’t shocked. Some stood and shouted, others sat quietly and shook their heads.

The dichotomy of the tumultuous moment is this: We admire courage and hard work, particularly in a sport like boxing. At a some would say, baser level, we also revel in eye for an eye justice.

Someone who deliberately fouls, deserves to get fouled back.

In many ways it’s a street mentality and virtually every one of us can relate to it at some level, whether our experiences come from the dregs of a depressed slum neighborhood or the manicured playground of private school elementary bullying.

There is something salaciously satisfying about watching someone get their comeuppance.

That Mayweather’s rejoinder wasn’t actually a foul at all, by the rule books — but only in the unspoken code of sportsmanship — only intrigues further.

With the warriors that we cheer for in the ring (strangely, given the savageness of the violence at times) we often hold them to a higher code of honor. We romanticize their courageousness when fighting injured or under duress. We marvel at the determination and will they exert while they battle and fight through adversity. We revere them for the strength of character they display when the chips are down, and the very best of them, we hold on a lofty perch as heroes and figures to look up to, with traits we aspire to have.

In the moment where Mayweather decided to pull out the decoy and feign reconciliation, when he walked calmly up to Ortiz and lulled him into thinking this was just a glove-touching-all-is-forgiven-in-the-heat-of-the-moment gesture, he took us in another confusing and incendiary direction. He didn’t do the honorable thing, or the courageous thing, he took an eye for an eye. No apologies.

If you have been following the sport or Mayweather for any amount of time you weren’t surprised by the actions he took. In fact as he stalked across the ring, the very thought of what he was about to do flitted across my mind: He’s gonna hit him on the break. That’s Mayweather.

And of course, he did that and more. Watching it, one was torn between disgust and admiration.

On the one hand, there was the natural breach of sportsmanship. It’s one thing to retaliate with a foul of your own. It’s something else when you pretend to extend a gesture of good will and then pull it away at the last second. It’s an underhanded move, and it’s something fans aren’t accustomed to seeing from their heroes. As I alluded to before, there was a fair amount of reaction from fans (even diehard Mayweather fans) who were left with a nasty taste in their mouth after the fight.

Conversely, there were certainly fans that saw the sucker punch as justified — again, feeding into that more primal reaction that we all harbor. Like a dark version of “do unto others,” it’s the type of reaction we all wish we could exhibit when someone does something to us. Instead of always being the “bigger man” about something or not stooping to the others level, Mayweather went far lower than even Ortiz had in some ways.

There is something about what Mayweather did that few of us could deny, if we’re entirely honest with ourselves, was appealing.

It was at once both justified and underhanded. Remarkable and regrettable. A fantasy of childish retaliation and a sternly warranted dose of turnabout is fair play.

It’s survival… It’s opportunism…

It’s a fight.

And you damn well better protect yourself at all times.

So let’s talk of Victor Ortiz for a moment.

His megawatt smile was on display from the moment he entered the arena until, incredibly, he finished his interview with Larry Merchant a knock out victim of rather embarrassing proportions. That smile and the good-naturedness exhibited by Ortiz really underlines the substance of his undoing.


“Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, ‘Why have you done this to me?’ And the snake answered, ‘Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake.'” — The Old Indian, the film “Natural Born Killers”

The welterweight showdown between upstart Victor Ortiz and pound-for-pound maestro Floyd Mayweather was interesting from the very toll of the opening bell, and it looked like we were headed for some breaking point by the time a few rounds had rolled by. Ortiz was getting hit with whipping lead right hands. Floyd was unleashing them like a coiled rattle snake, snapping them out with blurring speed. Ortiz absorbed them, undaunted, unbowed, unmoved.

The young man was starting to close the gap and getting closer to Mayweather, pushing him to the ropes and landing quick hard blows that Mayweather tried to play off with his trademark grinning smirk. Ortiz was making progress. The undefeated Mayweather was looking in turns comfortable and uncomfortable.

Along the ropes, Ortiz was starting to understand that he needed to make these moments count. Go wild and hit what you can while you’ve got the elusive legend pinned.

What exactly caused him to intentionally jump forward propelling the crown of his spiky-haired head into Mayweather’s mouth we can’t know for sure, but it’s probably safe to assume it was a combination of the frustration in trying to hit the slippery defensive maestro, coupled with the dismissive smile that was smeared across Floyd’s lips even while getting hit clean with something.

Sergio Mora, the former junior middleweight titlist and an Ortiz training partner and pal, told me that Victor has said a Mayweather elbow to the face made him react with the head butt.

Whatever the reason, what was confirmed by the eminently likable Ortiz’s head butt is that his mental strength is flawed, first rearing its head in the form of his implosion against Marcos Maidana where he gave up in the face of pain and a difficult and trying fight. The lapse in judgment in launching your head like a torpedo at your opponent, in this case, is in someways more blameless in that it was a heat of the moment physical manifestation of his increasing mental frustration.

The weakness in this case was uncontrollable; it was a built-in flaw that Ortiz must fully own… but can also disown almost as you would a reflex. He cannot, however, play it off as some sort of accident brought on by the sudden movement of Mayweather, which he unconvincingly tried to allege in his post fight interview on HBO.

The bigger mental failing on the young beltholder’s part however was in treating his opponent as a friend in the ring after the foul. You apologized once, fine, don’t forget what you’re in the ring to do….

…and in this case, who you’re in the ring with.

Floyd Mayweather doesn’t make apologies, and he doesn’t accept them, either.


What was crystallized on that Saturday night in Vegas was a truth about Mayweather as a man and of his career, and it is this — when tough questions start to get asked — that Mayweather has always found an easier route.

There is blame in that sentence. There is admiration in that sentence

Imagine Manny Pacquiao in the ring with Ortiz. Victor headbutts the Filipino. Pacquiao winces, then he slides along the ropes as the ref jumps in and separates them.

One is reminded of his second bout with Barrera when after a foul, Pacquio seemed to be genuinely hurt, wincing profusely and resting his head on the ropes in the corner taking a few moments of rest, slumping into the protector pad with an unusual verve.

In truth, in a sport of warriors and hard men, Pacquiao has at times seemed a bit skittish, perhaps even overly dramatic conveying the pain or discomfort he is in. Getting fouled by Barrera in their second bout, cut by Morales in their first, you can see the discomfort on his face and in his eyes. Sometimes the demonstrativeness of the pain has looked almost theatrical.

What is also apparent, however, is that a man like Pacquiao would not feign a reconciliation with his opponent only as a ruse to catch them off guard for a sucker punch combo a la Mayweather. No… Pacquiao would likely touch gloves, bounce up and down a few times and then fly forward, hell bent for election to put honest pain on his opponent. He’d earn it all, swarming his foe like a whirlwind. He’d take the injustice of the foul and convert it into energy.

Pacquiao would take the much lauded and revered “high road.”

Mayweather is a different animal. He’s a man who has no qualms in getting nasty. He isn’t guided by an honorable principle, or a certain dignity of sportsmanship. He is governed by the notion that you do what you got to do. If he can steal it right now and get away with it, what’s the point of working for it? All is fair in a fight, and if any further prodding were needed, Ortiz waived it on when he head butted the once “Pretty Boy” in the face.

Just as Ortiz seems to have built-in personality and mental traits that are simply a part of who he is and have now affected drastically the outcome’s of two of his most important fights, Mayweather has his innate behaviors that have formed the way we view his entire career.

It’s a talent of some kind, it must be, because he has found uncanny ways, in the ring and out to find the path of least resistance… but always with at least a semi-legitimate justification.

When Antonio Margarito was terrorizing the extraordinarily talented welterweight division, Mayweather found his way out of a showdown with the “Tijuana Tornado” or any other more dangerous opponent by facing Carlos Baldomir, a limited plugger who had found himself with the legitimate welterweight championship after upsetting an overconfident and aloof Zab Judah. The fortuitous set of circumstances allowed Mayweather to inexplicably face Judah even after his title had been lost and then Baldomir. Baldomir clearly was not the best fighter in the division, but with the lineal title at stake Mayweather had a legitimate reason to claim a fight with the tough but ordinary Argentinian and sidestep the much more talented fighters clamoring for a date with him.

Many also believe that Mayweather’s sudden retirement announcement following the Baldomir bout… and then the Oscar De La Hoya bout…. and then the Ricky Hatton bout… were convenient ways to let some of the better fighters of the welterweight division beat up on each other for a while.

Margarito, Miguel Cotto, Paul Williams, Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Carlos Quintana… it was a talented group, and many of these men found their way into the ring with each other while Mayweather laid back and let them put on entertaining bout after entertaining bout, all while decimating their own ranks and cleaning out the tough division.

It’s much easier to defend not fighting some tough and worthy opponent when you have the option of merely saying that you are retired.

It’s smart.

Perhaps no fighter is smarter than Mayweather when it comes to maneuvering his own career.

But like so many elements involved with this latest fight of Mayweather’s volatile and soaring ride in the sport, there is a duality even in Mayeather’s often-criticized career moves.

Was not fighting Margarito or Cotto or whoever the flavor of the day was truly a situation of ducking a tough opponent, or a matter of making a smart financial risk/reward decision?

Was retiring a means to dodge difficulty or a need to take a step back from the sport that had filled every waking moment of his life since being a toddler?

The truth, if that word means anything in a conversation like this, is that all of those answers are both right and wrong. They all ring true and they all ring false.

Was choosing to retaliate against Ortiz with sportsmanship subterfuge a diabolic display of disgusting deceitfulness or a dynamic denizen of sneering iconic comeuppance?

A clever knockout or a crappy cop out?

In fact, the Ortiz fight and outcome encapsulates and sums up Mayweather’s entire career. It’s emblematic of the promise, the disappointment, the love and the hate that he has engendered from fan and foe alike.

He is the champion who can beat anybody and faces nobody. He is the stirring dynamo who could match the ferocity of the most livid opponent, but douses the match in technical droning mastery. He seduces with coquettish talk of beat downs and violence… but leaves us unfulfilled with performances of riskless chastity.

To be lauded or shunned? Revered or repudiated? A living legend or an ostentatious opportunist?


Yes to them all.

Floyd Mayweather.