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Zach Yanowitz

Floyd “Money” Mayweather defeated “Vicious” Victor Ortiz to winthe WBC World Welterweight championship Sept. 17 at the MGM GrandGarden Arena in Las Vegas. Mayweather advanced his undefeatedrecord to 42-0, while Ortiz dropped to 29-3-2. This is whathappened on paper.

What happened in the ring is a different story. The 34-year-oldMayweather, a 5-1 favorite, is known for both his loudmouthed,bling-flashing personality and his ridiculous natural talents. Oneof the best defensive fighters of all time – and certainly the bestof this era – Mayweather utilizes the “shoulder roll” technique, inwhich he stands sideways against his opponent to limit his targets,blocking with his shoulder and pivoting out of the way of puncheswith almost unnatural fluid grace. After frustrating all attemptsto penetrate his guard, Floyd shoots out strong jabs and straightrights, demoralizing his opponents and breaking them down. There’sa reason he’s never lost.

This is exactly what happened against Ortiz, a babyfaced24-year-old Kansas-born fighter of Mexican descent. Ortiz, a quiet,family-oriented guy who raised his five siblings after his parentsabandoned him, is significantly less experienced and talented thanMayweather, but makes up for it with power and determination.Still, the fight was generally considered a high-profile tune-upfor a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown.

Everything was initially going as expected until the fourthround. Mayweather was winning on every scorecard, swatting awayOrtiz’s blows and controlling the pace of the action. Then, at theend of the round, Ortiz finally landed a series of punches thatforced Floyd back into the corner where he put up his defenses. Afrustrated Ortiz, seeing his best opportunity vanish before him,leapt up and headbutted Mayweather.

Much has been made of this by mainstream sports media outlets,but the point is that headbutts happen all the time in boxing, andthis was one of the tamer blows in recent memory. Nobody’s eyebrowsplit, nobody’s vision blurred, nobody collapsed to the ring inagony. Referee Joe Cortez paused the fight to take a point awayfrom Ortiz, who immediately apologized to Mayweather, kissing hischeek and embracing him.

After a moment the two met back in the middle of the ring totouch gloves and resume the action. In the final seconds of theround, Ortiz again hugged Mayweather to ensure there was no badblood, and, as he stepped back, Floyd shot a quick left hook intoOrtiz’s jaw. For a moment, the crowd collectively held its breath.Ortiz had an instant to glance over at Cortez – who wasn’t evenpaying attention – before Mayweather wound up and launched amassive straight right hand, knocking Ortiz to the canvas and outof the fight.

If Cortez had been paying closer attention to the fight, thespecifics would be clearer, but what Mayweather did was technicallylegal. The action had officially resumed, and one of theoft-repeated mantras of boxing is “protect yourself at all times.”It did, however, violate the spirit of the game and ofsportsmanship itself. There was never really any doubt thatMayweather was going to win the fight, and it’s a shame that it hadto end this way. Ortiz is a classy fighter, a throwback to agentlemanly era where fighters respected one another and when itwas about the glory instead of the paycheck. Anybody watching thefight could tell that Ortiz was caught up in the moment andimmediately, genuinely apologetic. Even after the knockout, he wasstill saying sorry for the headbutt. Perhaps Mayweather was tryingto make a statement – and he certainly succeeded – but what doesthat say about the state of the fight game?

The “sweet science” has devolved to the point where one of itsbiggest stars is completely unapologetic about one of the mostblatantly gratuitous cheap shots in recent memory. It was a suckerpunch, pure and simple. It’s a shame to see such an outlandishlytalented boxer resort to such thuggish tactics, and it’s a smear onthe storied history of a sport that has given us such peerlessfighters as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Leonard and Manny Pacquiao.


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