Victor Ortiz saw his welterweight dream turn into a nightmare last night when he was spectacularly–and paranormally–knocked out by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the fourth round of a scheduled 12 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The official time of the stoppage was 2:59, although how that figure was arrived at can only be a subject for guesswork, since referee Joe Cortez once again seemed to slip through some sort of stargate and into another dimension. When Cortez separated the fighters to deduct a point from Ortiz, he half-heartedly gave a signal for the fight to resume, and an unprepared Ortiz was drygulched by Mayweather for a brutal KO loss.
That is one bad mojo Cortez possesses, and if he can somehow bottle its essence, witchdoctors all over the world will never have to worry about missing another square meal again. These may be harsh words, but Cortez simply cannot be allowed to put the lives and livelihoods of boxers in danger any longer. He should be fired, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission should take this action immediately to avoid further weakening the confidence of bettors, spectators, and, most of all, fighters, who toil long and hard only to be faced with the possibility of having a rubber-stamped addlepate send them hurtling into disaster.
As for the fight itself, Ortiz, 146 1/2, looked more like the man who spent two years suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after being steamrolled by Marcos Maidana in 2009 than the keyed-up dynamo who smacked Andre Berto around last April with glee. Sure, Ortiz can probably give Berto the treatment every day of the week, including Sunday, but against Mayweather he looked tentative on the perimeter and often merely flailed when he had Mayweather against the ropes. He landed an occasional straight left and a few knifing hooks in close, but Ortiz never really looked like he was going to seriously threaten Mayweather, 147.
On the outside, Ortiz, fighting out of Oxnard, California, was ineffective, and when he stepped in to engage, he walked into a number of straight rights. He had some desultory success bumrushing Mayweather in the corner, however, and he attempted a few headbutts here and there as preparation for his tour de force of noggin knocking in the fourth round.
For his part, Mayweather, Las Vegas, Nevada, opened up his offense earlier than usual, raking Ortiz in the third round with some blinding combinations and dusting off his wicked but long-dormant uppercut for good measure.
Then came the blatant headbutt from Ortiz, who halted his own momentum by committing a foul. He also seemed to enrage Mayweather, who suffered a small cut because of the infraction.
Retaliation in boxing is nothing new, and if Ortiz was bushwacked by a cheap shot, it was one he should have seen coming. Of course, saying he deserved it goes far beyond good taste and sportsmanship. But to paraphrase William Munny in Unforgiven, “Deserve has got nothing to do with it.” Being a world-class prizefighter means more than just skipping rope, knocking out Vivian Harris, and blaming the media for all your troubles. Ring I.Q. is an edge Mayweather will have over 95% of his opponents, but against Ortiz, it was a no-brainer going in. If you make your own luck in boxing—a sport where participants actively forge their own destinies from moment to moment—then you can do the same for misfortune, and Ortiz worked hard to wind up staring at the ring lights.
First, the headbutt he shook Mayweather with was as deliberate a foul as has been seen in an American ring in some time. Then, almost before Cortez could dock a point from him, Ortiz, all apologies, was embracing Mayweather. One hug and kiss was enough contrition for the night, but Ortiz, 24, decided to double his pleasure—and our fun—by reaching out to whisper further sweet nothings to Mayweather once Cortez was done taking points away.
Finally, Ortiz, incredibly, was not sharp enough to read the expression of his oncoming opponent. Ortiz might be a competent boxer, but he will never be a good poker player. Replays showed Mayweather approaching Ortiz not with a look of love, but with one of anger. There also seemed to be a hint of payback in his eyes. Before striking with sidewinder quickness, Mayweather took a moment to see if Joe Cortez had any say in the matter. Naturally, Cortez was not even paying attention, and Mayweather was free to do what prizefighters, after all, are paid to do during three regulation minutes of every scheduled round: sock his opponent on the jaw as hard as possible.
Mayweather, 34, landed a ripping left that staggered the unsuspecting Ortiz—who looked to a goggle-eyed Cortez for help—and then followed up with a straight right-nasty snarl combination that dropped Ortiz in a heap. Cortez woke from his fugue long enough to count out the groggy fighter. One thing Cortez is still capable of is counting to “10,” although there is no telling when that specialized skill will desert him as well.
Ortiz, who slips to 29-3-2, entered the ring an enigma and seemed more puzzling than ever after the penlight had been taken out of his eyes. No sooner was Ortiz listing on his stool, in fact, than he broke into a lopsided smile. Like Dr. Sardonicus, nothing, it seems, can wipe the perpetual grin off of his face–not being knocked senseless, not being shown evidence of his dishonesty, not being choked at a press conference. Sooner or later, someone is going to have to ask the question, “What the fuck is so funny?”
With the win, Mayweather improves to 42-0 and solidifies his standing as one of the most talented lightning rods for controversy boxing has seen since the Mike Tyson era ended. Still feeling pugnacious, Mayweather lambasted Larry Merchant during the post-fight interview, saying that the veteran journalist, who began covering boxing in the 1950s, should be fired. This ugliness could have been averted if only Mayweather had been interviewed by a member of fighthype.com instead of Merchant, whose inability to gladhand has offended cross-eyed forum barkers for years. Still, it was a fitting conclusion to a strange fight, one whose surrealist air began when a nine-year-old Victor Ortiz, somewhere in Garden City, Kansas, first dreamt of fighting Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in some sort of parallel universe moment that was just too true to be good.