Great athletes astonish us by pushing boundaries but last night in Las Vegas Floyd Mayweather pushed too far. Falling foul of fair-play standards during the fight, and being foul-mouthed afterwards, the greatest fighter of his fistic generation confirmed he’s also one of its biggest embarrassments.
Mayweather stuck to his pre-fight promise of aggression and served his hapless foe with a masterclass in how to hit and not be hit in return. After more than three rounds of painful instruction, “Vicious” Victor Ortiz, remembered his own ring name. Unfortunately, the most he could muster in response was to headbut Mayweather during a clinch. The fact that his target was “Money’s” mouth offered us no consolation. Referee Joe Cortez, somehow still awake, penalised Ortiz with a one-point deduction. In apology, the latter clung to Mayweather like a long-lost brother. When Cortez called for the fight to resume, Ortiz apparently took this as an invitation for additional apology. Floyd pulled back from their embrace, looked to confirm that Cortez was asleep, and unleashed a left hook that effectively ended the fight. A dazed and confused Ortiz, abandoned all attempt at defence, and looked to the referee for support before Floyd finished proceedings with a straight right. Cortez emerged from his slumber, just as Ortiz was flirting with his own, and remembering how to count to ten, if not exactly where he was, he waved the farce over.
There’s no doubt that the final two punches Floyd threw were legal, the referee clearly called for the fight to resume, and it’s also the case that fighters should adhere to the precept to protect themselves at all times. Furthermore, Floyd was fully entitled to be mad at Ortiz for his flagrant foul. But it’s remarkable that a fighter so concerned with an abstract concept like ‘legacy’ should be so short-sighted about associated notions like ‘fair-play.’
If additional evidence were needed in support of this charge, then Mayweather offered it in spades during his post-fight interview. Angered that analyst Larry Merchant would dare to question his propriety, Mayweather ended events by shouting a stream of invective at his interviewer. Merchant managed to maintain his composure and turned to interview Ortiz, whose ‘just happy to be here’ demeanour told its own sad story. His refusal to complain about the manner in which the fight ended suggests he was either embarrassed at his own error or afraid to upset Mayweather anymore than he already had. Neither option is optimal for a defending champion.
As for Mayweather, what he appears to lack in sportsmanship or moral decency, he more than makes up for in promotional savvy. Although he has obviously undermined any claims that his bad boy image is merely a creation to sell tickets, sell them it does. That he hasn’t fought a foe in years with a legitimate chance to beat him doesn’t seem to slow sales. Remember, protect yourself at all times.