The Mayweather Ortiz fight is over in bizarre fashion, producing a moment second only to Mike Tyson biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear in terms of outlandishness.  Although Mayweather was the author of the bizarreness, to be sure, the sequence started with Ortiz head-butting Mayweather in apparent frustration as he pummeled Mayweather in the corner of the ring, but couldn’t land a clean shot on Mayweather. Referee Joe Cortez immediately, and properly, stopped the fight and awarded Mayweather a point. Ortiz apologized once, touched gloves a second time, setting the stage for the bizarre ending that followed.

The ending (see Youtube video below while it lasts) went like this:

  • After signaling the judges that a point was to be deducted from Ortiz score, Cortez signalled the fight to resume, gesturing for the fighters to come together and fight. He did not appear to give any verbal command — just brought his hands together in the familiar movement that boxers understand to me “Box”.
  • Instead of fighting, Ortiz went forward, apologizing again, touch gloves and embracing Mayweather while Cortez was looking away from the boxers to the ringside referees.
  • Mayweather seemed to accept the apology and Ortiz stepped back, still acting as if he was waiting for Cortez to resume the fight.
  • Mayweather sucker punched Ortiz with a left hook.
  • Ortiz looked to the referee — who was still looking away, making eye contact with the two ringside referees, asking them “Are you ready” (why had he resumed the fight if they weren’t ready, and why was he not watching the boxers if the fight was back on?)
  • Mayweather hit Ortiz with a haymaker right while Ortiz was completely defenseless, looking to the referee.
  • Ortiz couldn’t get up – the fight was over.
The debate is on and it seems that by the strict letter of boxing law, Mayweather acted within the rules.  Cortez — normally an excellent referee– clearly mishandled the situation and was caught off guard as much as Ortiz was.  Why did Cortez signal the fighters to resume and then (and only then) look away and check to see if the ringside timekeeper was ready to resume?  Isn’t this backwards?  I’m not a boxing referee and am willing to be corrected – but logic dictates that after a stoppage, the referee would first get his own house in order, then order the fighters to resume and watch them (duh!) as they resumed fighting.  The fact that Cortez was looking away  and not watching the fighters in and of itself seems to suggest that in spite his motion for the boxers to resume, he was in fact still in the process of getting it re-started when Mayweather did what he did — i.e. this is as much about a referee losing control of the fight as it is about anything else.  But had it been anyone other than Mayweather, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
And of Mayweather — if it was within the letter of the boxing law, what about the spirit, and what about Mayweather’s legacy that he so covets, to be remembered as one of the greatest if not the greatest boxer of all time.  How does this square with that?  Sure, he enjoys playing the villain — but in the end boxing is not street combat, it is not thuggery, it is a sport.  While what Mayweather did was within the letter of the law of boxing, it also revealed his character, or lack of it, for anyone who hadn’t figured it out already.  The fundamental purpose of pugilism is to carry out a rituatlized combat according to rules that make for a “fair fight” — exploiting those rules to sucker-punch someone into submission misses what most of us who love boxing would consider to be the central nature of the sport — a fair and honorable combat between two evenly matched participants. Hammering an unprepared opponent not once, but twice, flies in the face of that and if it didn’t cost Mayweather this fight, it certainly further tarnished his legacy.  While Manny Pacquiao will be remembered (among many other things) for the empathy, grace, and humility of how he handled a complicated situation with Antonio Margarito,   Mayweather will be remembered for his thuggishness in his tainted victory over Ortiz.
The question that comes to mind — even if “protect your self at all times” applies, can anyone imagine Manny Pacquiao taking advantage of a situation like that and doing what Mayweather did?  Even if you are a Mayweather fan, you have to concede that.  Pacquiao just wouldn’t do it.
For that matter — can anyone imagine Pacquiao doing what Ortiz did — head butting his opponent in a moment of frustration?  I don’t think so.
This is really bad for boxing.  I’ll probably have more to say tomorrow.
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