By Terence Dooley
Veteran trainer Billy Graham has leapt to the defence of Floyd Mayweather after the media storm that followed Floyd’s fourth round knockout win over Victor Ortiz. Floyd clocked his foe with a perfect one-two during a moment of confusion caused by referee Joe Cortez’s mishandling of Saturday’s encounter at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
Clearly out-boxed and discouraged, Ortiz landed a few shots in the final session yet Floyd proved elusive when his 24-year-old opponent tried to land a follow on blow. The Oxnard-based youngster pushed his head into Floyd’s face, a point was deducted, Cortez called “Box on” before looking towards the timekeeper to check if there was any time left in the round, allowing Floyd to tee off on Victor, who had dropped his hands to look at the official.
Graham believes that Floyd was bang on the money, citing Cortez’s decision to take his eyes away coupled with Victor’s lapse of concentration as vital factors in the finish. ‘The Preacher’ telling me that the post-fight furor, which included an argument between Floyd and Larry Merchant, has obscured a fine performance.
“It was par for course with Floyd – he is magical,” purred Graham. “Ortiz is a huge guy, a good fighter and he put 16lbs on overnight, but Floyd knew what to do with him immediately. Floyd backed him up, took the steam out of Victor and didn’t put a foot wrong. It was wonderful.”
As for the finish, “Ortiz deliberately head butted him, he was incredibly frustrated and you could see him thinking, ‘What the fuck am I in with? What the fuck is all this?’ You could see in his face that he was dispirited.
“Ortiz did a deliberate butt, a foul, what Floyd did was cheeky but it happens in boxing, protect yourself at all times. Cortez is someone I always thought was a really good ref, ‘firm but fair’ as he says, but I’ve been disgusted with him since the Hatton-Mayweather fight.”
Joe was the third man during Ricky Hatton’s WBC welterweight title challenge to Floyd in December 2007. The overly officious official harassed ‘The Hitman’ throughout the contest, warning him early and often for holding whilst overlooking some of Floyd’s roughhouse tactics, much to the disgust of Graham.
“The way he treated Ricky was terrible, I’ve got no time for him whatsoever anymore as a world class referee. Everyone goes past their sell-by date. Joe has no place in big time fights,” his brutally honest opinion of Cortiz.
Floyd’s two shot salvo ran contrary to the spirit of the game, however it was well within the rules. Ortiz was too busy apologizing to get his hands up, his desire to hug Floyd a few times by way of apology in the seconds following the infringement carried a ‘Please don’t hurt me’ message. Floyd did what most fighters would do; he took out his own brand of retribution on Ortiz.
Victor’s disturbingly sunny pre-fight persona cracked on the night yet his WBC welterweight title challenger did him a massive favour. The knockout and Floyd’s rant at Merchant – ending with a “You don’t know sh*t about boxing” chide – took the spotlight away from Victor’s dangerous and deliberate foul.
“I’d have done what Floyd did,” insists Graham. “I’d have thought, ‘You’ve just blatantly butted me so I’m giving it to you’. There’s no big controversy, Ortiz was as sick as a f*cking parrot in there already so Floyd chinned him and did him a favour.
“Listen, people want to think about Saturday night when they’re talking about how Ricky performed against Floyd. Ricky’s in there performing as well as he could with the ref all over him, threatening to stop it just because he got hit, you didn’t see Ricky getting discouraged. Ortiz was discouraged immediately – you could see it.
“The chance was there to be taken. Floyd’s just been blatantly fouled, the ref was like whispering Bob Harris when he was telling them to fight on and Floyd fought. Ortiz didn’t complain, why? Because he knew he was in for a long, painful night otherwise.
“I never bollocked a fighter but if one of my guys had a foul like that done to them and a chance to take those shots came up I’d tell them to take it, if they didn’t they’d get told off in the corner. You see a chance and you take it. How can he not take advantage of that? I’m a fan of Ortiz, always have been, but he tried to badly foul his opponent.
“I actually enjoyed seeing Floyd show a bit of spite. I prefer [Sugar Ray] Leonard to Floyd because Ray had that edge. Floyd can do it (be ruthless) too, he doesn’t do it often but I hope we see more of it in the next fight. Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns had that venomous streak that Floyd’s lacked. He’s always had fast hands, reflexes, great balance and a really smart brain; he never showed that vicious instinct until recently. Now he has added that I can’t see anything beating him apart from age.”
Amir Khan insists that Floyd is slowing, however the 34-year-old would have to slip considerably in order for ‘King’ Khan to post an upset win. Consider, Floyd had massive punch success stats against Ortiz, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marque; Amir often registered in the low twenties against Paul McCloskey and an ancient Zab Judah; in terms of accuracy the two fighters are on different planets.
Still, some argue that the IBF and WBA light-welterweight titlist need only up his output to increase his accuracy, chances are that he will throw more and miss more, all the while leaving himself wide open for counters. Amir has no business going in with Floyd right now, when it comes to this one only the ‘Money’ makes sense.
Graham believes that Khan’s best chance of beating Floyd is to pay heed to the maxim ‘Time destroys everything’. “The longer Amir waits the more chance he has,” predicted Graham.
“Amir is improving physically and in other ways. But I just don’t think that anyone but Old Father Time beats Floyd. I’ve always known how great he is; he never had enough venom for me but that may have changed.”
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