Attention benefit: The value of Mayweather’s ‘sucker punch’

Heck of a job, Joe Cortez

I’d say it’s pretty safe to say it’s probably not a good idea to kiss Floyd Mayweather on the cheek in the middle of a fight.

I had people text me after Saturday’s fight with that old tired talking point, that the fight wasn’t worth the admittedly exorbitant price tag – though Tecate trimmed that to a more reasonable amount. But all things considered, it’s hard to say we didn’t get our money’s worth, despite the truncated main event.

What a showman!

At 24, Victor Ortiz had seemed too inexperienced and undisciplined to hold his own against a virtuoso boxer and a cerebral assassin – Floyd does, after all, consort with Triple-H. Ortiz seemed hand-picked for that reason: He’d bring energy, aggression, a southpaw style, likability and a compelling – if perhaps trumped up — backstory, but his weaknesses of technique and mental toughness would allow him to carry zero threat to derail the Mayweather money train.

Mayweather is a magnificent technical fighter and a physical marvel, showing little to no ring rust despite having left 30 way behind him and not having fought in 16 months. By the fourth round, he’d settled into his usual rhythm of administering punishment while taking little in return. Ortiz’s occasional flurries against the ropes, while viscerally pleasing, resulted in virtually no substantive landed punches.

When Ortiz lost his patience far sooner than you might expect, bloodying Mayweather’s lip with a headbutt many compared to legendary pugilist Balrog, it was stunning but hardly out of character. Ortiz is talented but has inherent fatal flaws for his line of work; when the pressure is on, he responds bizarrely, as he did when he quit the match – and nearly the sport – following a brutal beating by Marcos Maidana.

De facto advisor 50 Cent on the dais

Ortiz’s signature win over a generally scorned Andre Berto was not deemed impressive at the time, but if anything, it becomes more so given the intensity of that fight and what has since been confirmed about Ortiz’s inherent mental state.

Regardless, the surrealism built toward a crescendo after Ortiz again renewed his status as the butt of jokes, literally. He apologized by kissing a stunned and irate Mayweather on the cheek. He then deemed it necessary for some reason to apologize again after a clueless Cortez restarted the match and conveniently cast his vacant gaze at the timekeeper.

When Mayweather proceeded to demolish Ortiz with a left and a right, it really was reminiscent of Tyson biting Holyfield’s ear in terms of shock value. And though you might consider those to be sucker punches, they were completely justifiable. With the match having officially restarted, Floyd had every right to coldcock an already loopy Ortiz given that for all he knew, Ortiz could do the exact same to him. It’s not as if Ortiz had been exhibiting normal behavior prior to that.

A pair of highly entertaining postmatch interviews put us further into the Twilight Zone. Mayweather infamously provoked SportsAngle favorite Larry Merchant into suggesting that he’d “kick [Floyd’s] ass” if he was 50 years younger — though when he cooled off slightly, he recanted with a laugh. Meanwhile, Ortiz wore a goofy, spaced-out grin and acted as if he had just fallen off his surfboard.

The match technically screeched to a halt eight rounds early, but the result was a foregone conclusion – Mayweather was settling into his typical pattern of quiet domination, and Ortiz’s flurries, minus his headbutt, were far more sound than fury. Floyd was definitely going to win, he just cut to the chase, and was justified in doing so after Ortiz proved himself to be on another planet.

*****

When you purchase or attend a fight, you kind of know what you’re getting yourself into by this point, for both better and worse. This isn’t to say that boxing doesn’t force you to put up with its fair share of indefensible nonsense — there’s always the chance you get Kermit Cintron flying out of the ring against Paul Williams — but along with that comes the opportunity to witness in real time a water cooler moment of the highest order.

TMZ found Merchant in the airport

Non-boxing fans always want to justify not having purchased an event by dismissing it as a waste of money. Personally, I’d have been disappointed if I hadn’t witnessed it. With three good undercard bouts, an albeit brief but rapidly dwindling opportunity to observe the brilliance of Mayweather, the polarizing finish and the comedy of the postmatch interviews, and all things considered, it was a solid evening of entertainment, perfect to watch with a room full of friends or family.

Was the event diminished by the negation of a sure-fire eight rounds of total Mayweather dominance? Though I do enjoy watching Floyd at the top of his game, the answer is an unequivocal no.

I still think that when Mayweather believes Manny Pacquiao is near enough to the end, we’ll see that fight come together. Will it be a letdown? How in the world could it not be, after a three-year accumulation of people’s imaginations running wild? Yet everyone from the most casual observer to the most hardcore fan has a particular appetite for this fight that they need to have whetted.

The great part about Floyd as a self-promoter is that he has come to embody the credo of any publicity being good publicity. He gained a whole lot of people on Saturday that want to see him lose because he “sucker punched” Ortiz. That’s good for business.

This wasn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. It goes with the territory.

If you feel like what went down on Saturday night is an example of what’s wrong with boxing, you have it explicitly backwards.

And given that bizarre finishes are not exactly new to boxing and the biggest events still draw enormous pay-per-view numbers, I’d be willing to assume most of you will be back.

Esoteric

3 Comments

  1. Good for business, maybe … but not
    good for his legacy. And that’s not good, because the ‘Money’ we’ve
    watched for years is driven by two things: paychecks and a clearly
    defined legacy. We’re talking about him because he sucker-punched
    (albeit legally) some tin can named Ortiz, not because he is adding to a
    long list of virtuoso performances. As you said, had it gone the
    distance, it would have been another landslide decision in Floyd’s favor
    … which would mean next to nothing in terms of his legacy. (An aside:
    My fear is that this and his tirade against Merchant are truly the
    first real evidence of him going over the edge. Tyson bit an ear because
    he realized he had nothing else to offer Holyfield; Floyd
    sucker-punched Ortiz (partly) because he realized he had nothing to gain
    from standing in there for 8 more rounds. His 16-month layoff tells me
    he probably already knew that. Then being picked on a little by Merchant
    after the fight, he flipped. How he manages his obvious frustrations
    going forward will be interesting.)

    The Floyd Mayweather Jr. we knew needs
    to be done. Standing back and being a precision-punching defensive
    specialist against unworthy contenders will yield him only 1/2 of what
    he’s been chasing his whole career: paychecks. Either he reinvents
    himself as some sort of tactical knockout artist to fight the list of
    nobodies that are out there, or he stops dodging Pacquiao. If he doesn’t
    reinvent himself, the latter will be the only time we ever see the
    ‘Money’ we’ve watched for years fight again, because it’ll be both
    paycheck generating and legacy-defining. Everything else will only serve
    to feed 1/2 of what Mayweather himself claims as his driving forces,
    and that would be a real shame. And, seemingly, even he is starting to
    realize it.

    • Great counterpoint. I agree with you that this fight does absolutely zero for his legacy. And though he still attracted a whole lot of attention — which is what this version of Floyd thrives on — he’s going to have to figure something out soon because that will get old. 

      Interesting take on his comments to Merchant, I was basically just brushing those off.

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