Monday, September 19, 2011

You Don't Tug on Floyd's Cape

Photo: AP/Eric Jamison


Home Box Office has carved a space in the world of outstanding production in a few different areas, and especially boxing. 


Aside from HBO Sports though, its original programming is consistently the type of stuff that wins Emmys. It's just accepted at this point. 


A few years back HBO aired a program called Carniv├ále - an award-winning show about a traveling carnival and sideshow in the Dust Bowl Era. 


On the surface, Carniv├ále was a grimy, realistic take on how your average degenerate survived in extremely tough times. The show touched on much broader, cryptic issues though, most of which unfortunately never got resolved, as the show was canceled after a second season for casting reasons. 


But in a particularly memorable episode of the first season, the sideshow exacts what it refers to as its own "carnival justice," forcing a potential murderer to play a twisted version of Russian Roulette when unable to rely on outsiders to uphold the law. 


There weren't many bearded ladies or reptile people in the MGM Grand on Saturday night (Cirque de Soleil notwithstanding), but Floyd Mayweather relished the role of villain as he doled out his own kind of justice over a foggy-headed Victor Ortiz, with a surreal finish nobody could have seen coming. 



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If you've seen any Floyd Mayweather fights in recent years, then you know the drill. 

Whether the opponent is legit or not, Floyd's pre-fight hollering, a string of HBO 24/7's and an impressively absurd media circus will go a long way in making you believe the other guy is worthy of the challenge. 

Some handful of rounds later, the product is usually some folks walking away dazzled by a great fighter's bag of tricks, while many others shake their heads, underwhelmed by what they'd hoped could be a performance that matched the hype. 

Mayweather vs. Ortiz deviated from the formula in a few surprising ways, though, as a decent fight was beginning to unfold, before a series of shenanigans cut the fight short, and now has boxing discussion in the wake of a Mayweather fight centered on something other than Floyd's oft-boring style for the first time in years. 

The "Star Power" undercard actually produced its share of good action and intrigue despite the letdown of the Morales-Matthysse cancellation. 


To sum up, Josesito Lopez may have been shorted a bit on the cards in losing a split decision to still unbeaten Jessie Vargas in an entertaining first bout of the broadcast, followed by all-time great Erik Morales' trinket-winning matchup with unknown Pablo Cesar Cano - a typical "El Terrible" fight in which Morales struggled early and roared back later to stop Cano in the 10th. 


Undefeated Mexican superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez' TKO6 over Alfonso Gomez at the Staples Center in L.A. - the other venue on the split-site card - wasn't without action itself, but Alvarez looked sluggish, and probably a bit fortunate to earn a stoppage that seemed a tad quick. 


All told, certainly not the worst way to start the evening. Coupled with the nonsensical pre-fight buildup, the undercard whetted the appetite sufficiently enough to ready fans for the perceived climax. 


The first round of this "title fight" cleared up any confusion as to how rusty or faded Mayweather was when he basically used a lead right hand as a jab and made Ortiz miss attempted counters dramatically. 


Ortiz appeared more intent on forcing a fight in round 2 though, and he took advantage of moments where Floyd went to the ropes, firing away combinations - and a few sneaky, face-grinding head clashes. A few shots scored, but replays confirmed Mayweather was rolling with or picking off most. Regardless, the effort won Victor the round on the scorecards of many. 


Round 3 was mostly Floyd walking Vic into hooks and snapping right hands, and Ortiz' face told that exact story at the close of the round. 


Surprisingly, bonehead referee Joe Cortez was suppressing his natural tendency to become an unnecessary part of the fight for the most part to this point, only doing his patented mumbling commentary when applicable, and actually letting them fight on the inside.  


But round 4 opened the door for the usual "black eye for boxing" hysterics to kick the whining into high gear. 


Floyd started quickly, smacking Ortiz with hooks and a few rights in the first minute or so before Vic charged forward into a clinch and rammed his head into Floyd's face, drawing a warning from Cortez. When action resumed, Floyd woke up his uppercut, causing Ortiz to bull forward again and chuck, landing little but exciting the crowd. Another clinch led to Ortiz again drawing a warning for liberal use of the forehead inside, where he smothered most of his shots. A brief lull in the action looked to just be Floyd regaining control. 


With less than a half-minute to go in the round, Ortiz appeared to catch Mayweather while partially off-balance and attempt a rally to end the round, having some quick success before, catastrophically, he loaded up and sprung his head right in the direction of Floyd's mouth, then attempted two more punches. 


As referee Cortez called time to address the situation, Vic had already meandered over to a clearly surprised Floyd and gave an apologetic hug and kiss on the cheek. Cortez took a point for the flagrant foul, and Ortiz began to pull away from his grasp to again apologize to Floyd. 


A call of "Let's go!" from Cortez resumed the action, and again Victor Ortiz walked forward to embrace Mayweather, who obliged reluctantly with his guard still up, ready to fight. As Joe Cortez fumbled around looking at the timekeeper, Ortiz pulled back with his hands down as if trying to still talk to Floyd, who popped Vic with a left hook to the cheek, paused, and followed up with a nasty straight right hand to the jaw. 


Ortiz, now 29-3-2 (22 KO), crashed to the canvas, at which point Joe Cortez decided to rejoin reality and count Ortiz out. 


The backlash was swift, and the boos were loud. 


During the post-fight interview, HBO analyst and former journalist Larry Merchant prodded Mayweather, now 42-0 (26 KO) and new WBC title-holder, to offer an explanation for the "cheap shot," prompting Floyd to belligerently lash out against Merchant, who ended the interview with, "I wish I was fifty years younger, and I'd kick your ass!"


The ability to render fouls as blatant as Ortiz' moshpit attack a tertiary talking point is probably a uniquely Floyd Mayweather trait, but it was an outcome that blindsided even his closest followers. 


Saturday night's story centered more around Floyd's revenge move and post-fight hissy fit rather than the events that caused them. 


Lost among the debate over wording of rules, ineptitude of officials and the "protect yourself at all times" jargon is the fact that almost nothing that happened should have been all that shocking. 


Ortiz has made spectacle of himself in other fights and comes off as certifiable - grinning wide while describing getting knocked out and offering up a half-assed apology for his fouling; Floyd has never been afraid to take advantage of an opening, sporting or not, as evidenced by decking Gatti early in their 2005 bout as Arturo looked to the referee, and swatting at Shane Mosley during one of the excessive glove-touching incidents in their fight; and Joe Cortez' laundry list of idiotic offenses joined the Hall of Fame with him. 


Putting these three drama magnets in the same ring at the same time and not expecting some kind of international incident is the height of lunacy. 

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Victor Ortiz ended up a vehicle to prove what many of us had been saying for a while: if you rankle Floyd Mayweather in that ring, you're liable to get the crap kicked out of you. 


Ortiz' foolish actions actually wound up saving him from a slow bloodletting, with "The Headbutt" (which wasn't the first nor even second of the fight) falling by the wayside in conversation, even though it appeared to many as his way of bailing on the fight. 


Ultimately, dissecting Floyd's "foul" and citing all sorts of rules is unnecessary, as the fight headed down that road as a direct result of Victor Ortiz' inability to control himself. 


As for Joe Cortez and those choosing to focus on another woeful performance of his...please continue. He deserves to have every abysmal outing placed under a magnifying glass at this point. He delivers far more rubbish than satisfactory work these days. 


But it's unclear how the outcome would have been any different with or without him. Floyd's move lacked class, but was well within the rules, and perhaps even deserved.


Also lacking in the class department was Floyd's reaction to Merchant's unique method of being roundabout with a question, but expecting a straightforward answer - also not an apparent surprise. Larry doesn't like Floyd, and he's never been shy about it. Past that, Floyd doesn't like when people don't placate him.  


And boxing? 


Boxing is not defined by this fight. Boxing isn't even defined by its biggest seller, Floyd Mayweather Jr., as much as he'd like it to be. 


Those claiming that such blunders hurt the sport that much suffer from the same short-term memory issues as the folks who complain about Floyd's fights, then buy the next one a year or so later. Buying this particular PPV card and expecting something other than idiocy is the mark of someone who really hasn't been paying attention to what the sport of boxing currently is at the mainstream level. 


The closest thing to tragedy on Saturday night at the MGM was that the overall entertainment value of the card, and the fact that the undercard was very solid, are generally the last things mentioned.  


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2 comments:

  1. Good article. Only mistake i saw was when you used the word "may" instead of way. Good ish.

    ReplyDelete