LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather Jr. took more than 20 months off after knocking out Ricky Hatton before he defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009. He took another eight months off and then went out and dominated Shane Mosley in 2010.
On Saturday, after 16 months on the sidelines, Mayweather returned to make the World Boxing Council welterweight champion look like a rank amateur.
It leads one to wonder what the guy might do if he fought regularly.
"If I was active, I'd be good, real good," a beaming Mayweather said. "I'd be putting these boys away in the first round."
He's beyond good. He's spectacular.
Perhaps most importantly, he's a colorful, controversial figure who is beloved by some and despised by many. Those who love him were roaring their approval Saturday before a crowd of 14,687 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as Mayweather raised his record to 42-0 by dismantling Victor Ortiz.
Those who despise him were jumping out of their seats in anger after a controversial finish in which a left hook and a straight right hand put Ortiz out for the count of 10 at 2:59 of the fourth.
"What can I say?" a beaming Mayweather asked after the fight. "’Money’ May comes out and never lets you down."
[ Related: Mayweather KOs Ortiz in controversial fashion ]
He promised he would attack Ortiz, who on the night of the fight ballooned up to 164 pounds after weighing in Friday at the welterweight limit of 147. And Mayweather, who was 150 on Saturday after weighing in at 146 1/2, came out raking Ortiz with straight right hands.
He continued that throughout the fight and seemed to have Ortiz in trouble when he landed a flurry along the ropes in Round 3. But it was the finishing sequence – which began with an illegal and intentional head butt by Ortiz – that turned out to be the story of the fight.
Mayweather backed into his corner and Ortiz pressed forward, leaning chest-to-chest into Mayweather. As they were leaning against each other, Ortiz pulled back his head and butted Mayweather. Referee Joe Cortez immediately deducted a point from Ortiz for the intentional foul.
Ortiz hugged Mayweather and kissed him in the corner. As the fighters were in the center of the ring, Cortez said "time in" to restart the fight. Ortiz stepped toward Mayweather again to touch gloves and embrace. Mayweather touched gloves, but then threw a powerful left hook and a crushing right hand, both of which landed on the chin.
Ortiz went down and Cortez counted to 10. The fight was over but, as usual in a Mayweather fight, the controversy lingered on.
"The ref said something so I looked up and I was like, 'Huh?'" Ortiz said. "I thought he called a break or something. I'm pretty sure he did. Then he just caught me and I was like, 'Whoa.' Then I woke up after and it was like, 'OK, so this is going on.' [Expletive] happens, all right?"
Ortiz manager Rolando Arellano said he'd look at the tape before deciding whether to file a protest. But Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, staunchly defended Cortez's actions and Mayweather's right to punch Ortiz when he did.
"Joe pointed to the timekeeper and said 'Time in,'" Kizer said. "At that point, the fight is back on and they're free to punch each other. Joe had them separated, but Victor went to hug him four separate times. But the referee said 'Time in' and Floyd Mayweather threw a perfectly legal punch. I have no idea why Victor kept trying to hug him or embrace him. I guess he was feeling guilty because of the head butt, but hey, you're in a fight. Fight and then feel guilty later."
Ortiz and his fans were crying foul, but Mayweather was the one most negatively impacted by the finish. He was clearly on his way to a knockout without the controversy, but the way the fight ended took the attention away from a superb performance.
"The knockout was coming," Mayweather said, sloughing off the controversy. "Whether it was the fourth round, the sixth round, the eighth round, he was going to go. The knockout was coming."
Ortiz was 10 years younger and one of the hardest hitters Mayweather faced. He wasn't nearly quick enough, not close to wily enough and didn't have the chin to withstand many more of the clean straight rights he was eating.
"Floyd was hitting him with right hands, but Victor was sustaining them," Arellano said.
In the third, Mayweather backed Ortiz to the ropes. He ripped him with a hook, then followed up with a right-left-right that caused Ortiz to sag.
His eye was swelling and he gave all the telltale signs of a thoroughly beaten fighter, which is probably why he resorted to the head butt in the fourth. There were several other butts in the fight, though none as blatant as the one which caused the point deduction.
"I apologized to Floyd in the ring, and after it happened," Ortiz said. "It was in the heat of the moment."
Mayweather, who had a large lump behind his left ear that he said were the result of rabbit punches, was hardly bothered. Just as he did to Arturo Gatti in a 2005 fight in Atlantic City, N.J., he took advantage of a situation when his opponent left himself defenseless.
"Protect yourself at all times," Mayweather said. "That's what I was taught. [Expletive] happens. You live and you learn. Protect yourself at all times."
Mayweather once wrestled in the WWE, competing at Wrestlemania 24. He knows that nothing sells like controversy and the finish, though legal, has millions howling in protest.
He beamed afterward, noting he was happy with his performance. He didn't feel cheated out of a clean win and said he welcomed the buzz the finish created.
"Hey man, I'm good," he said. "Controversy is OK. Nothing wrong with some controversy to get the people talking. It's all good."
Where Mayweather is concerned, when you put him into the ring, it's a lot more than good.
There, it's all great.
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- Victor Ortiz
- Floyd Mayweather