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"Barely Legal" Shots Undeniably Dirty
(I've been largely supportive of Mayweather's actions in the Ortiz fight since its controversial ending. ESPN's Dan Rafael wrote a like-minded article that I thought was excellent. Here's a dissenting viewpoint by Rafael's colleague that I believe makes some very valid points. The argument rages on....)
"Barely Legal" Shots Undeniably Dirty
By Jason Langendorf
There's black and there's white. Legal and illegal. Right and wrong. Right?
Wish it were that easy.
In the world I actually live in, there are nearly endless shades of gray: borderline, questionable, dicey, sketchy. In almost everything -- both our actions and intentions -- there's room for interpretation.
But what Floyd Mayweather Jr. pulled on Saturday? There's only one word for it: dirty.
Let's quickly go over the fine print: Yes, Victor Ortiz shares some of the blame for the whole ugly mess. Absolutely, referee Joe Cortez lost control of a prizefight whose oversight was his to uphold. And, sure, the punch Mayweather landed to short-circuit Ortiz's senses was undeniably legal.
Doesn't make it right.
Look, I won't pretend to know precisely what was going through Floyd's mind when he unleashed what may be the most ferocious combination he's ever thrown in the ring. And I won't turn this into a treatise on the erosion of our collective morality as a society. I'm not sure there's anything deeper at work here.
But let's not be naive: Mayweather knew what he was doing.
After Ortiz landed the head-butt (and, yes, it was deliberate), Cortez called timeout to no one in particular and turned his back on the fighters (and, yes, this was negligent) as Ortiz tried to make amends to Mayweather. The referee never properly sent both fighters to opposite corners, and after docking a point from Ortiz and offering a half-hearted "Let's go," he turned away again.
Meantime, Ortiz tried to offer one last apology for the butt while Cortez apparently joined in a coffee klatsch with ringside officials. At this point, as Ortiz approached, if Mayweather had pummeled him into next week, you wouldn't have heard a peep out of me. No matter how botched the handling of the break, Cortez had given some sort of indication that the fight was back on, and Mayweather had every right to immediately channel his fury back at Ortiz.
Instead, Floyd allowed Ortiz a last conciliatory gesture, drew him in, placed his gloves on either side of the kid's face and, while the two were still nose to nose -- and only a fraction of a second after Ortiz had turned his eyes back to Mayweather after seemingly ****ing his head to hear Floyd speak -- coiled and swung a left hook that Ortiz never saw.
The straight right that followed might have been the most off-balance punch I've ever seen Mayweather throw. But why not put everything into it? Ortiz, either entreating Cortez or just plain seeing stars at that point, was no threat to retaliate.
And spare me the "protect yourself at all times" righteousness. If you fail to lock your door when you leave the house, does a passerby deserve to walk away with all your worldly possessions? Found money isn't always clean money.
Was Floyd, coveting that right-column zero he's always ranting about, too blinded by "his legacy" to keep his actions in perspective? Maybe. Are the stench of the fight's ending, the $64.95 pay-per-view cost and Ortiz's bizarrely content demeanor after being sucker-punched in the biggest fight of his life the latest harbingers of boxing's creeping demise? Who knows. These controversies always twist journos' knickers in a bunch ... until a juicier one comes along.
But I'll say this: If you can compare a punch to ****, something's askew.
And in this case, one Vegas business isn't all that different from the other: I might have a hard time defining dirty, but I know it when I see it.
No doubt the punch was legal. Barely legal. And dirty as sin.
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