Go ahead and hate Floyd Mayweather Jr. He's getting richer on the act.
The chaotic conclusion to his knockout of Victor Ortiz on Saturday night was the latest example of this marketing genius with mad boxing skills turning the bizarre to his benefit.
As referee Mr. Magoo looked the other way, Ortiz engaged in an extended center ring, kiss-and-hug-apology-session for deliberately head-butting Mayweather.
Mayweather went along, then seeing an opponent with his hands down and face open, took the opportunity to drill him. A short left, a straight right and Ortiz was knocked out, fight over.
The crowd erupted. Mayweather feigned surprise at the reaction and even got into a heated verbal battle with 80-year-old broadcaster Larry Merchant. He left the ring to a chorus of angry boos.
In truth, the man who calls himself “Money” couldn’t have drawn up a better conclusion.
“Nothing wrong with some controversy,” he told Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole.
[Photo gallery: Mayweather's controversial knockout of Ortiz]
Mayweather has built his pay-per-view appeal on being the "What me?" villain of sports. This was the ideal buzz-worthy conclusion to what was on the way to being a lopsided victory.
It’s the same way Mayweather has figured out the perfect excuse – rid boxing of performance enhancing drugs – to hold up a fight against Manny Pacquiao that he very well may not want.
“I mean, it’s like this,” Mayweather said of Pacquiao’s past refusal to strict drug testing, “if you don’t got nothing to hide, take the test.”
Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum says his fighter will now submit to Olympic-style blood testing, although there remain endless roadblocks about who tests what, when. Until that’s settled, just like in rocking Ortiz, Mayweather can look right even if his intentions are all wrong.
The best Hollywood villains, or heels in the parlance of pro wrestling (which Mayweather has dabbled in), manage to twist arguments into moral and legal issues in which they somehow have the high ground.
They may not actually care about doing what’s proper. But when they can claim it, they will. Repeatedly.
Mayweather (42-0) is a light-punching, defensive-style welterweight (at most) who has managed to turn himself into boxing’s biggest pay-per-view draw. He’s done it not just with unbeatable ability, but also outrageous antics, course comments and a series of well-planned publicity stunts designed to make many despise him.
Burning $100 bills on camera to flaunt his wealth is right out of Vince McMahon’s playbook.
So is dropping a naïve opponent and then being able to rightfully point to the cardinal rule of boxing – protect yourself at all times.
Was Mayweather’s victory a little cheap? Sure. Was it unsportsmanlike? Probably. Was it legal? Absolutely, 100 percent. Boxing requires brains, not just brawn, and Ortiz was a fool to stand there like that. Mayweather had a somewhat similar incident in the first round of his 2005 victory over Arturo Gatti.
Look, the way Floyd was firing off lead rights to Ortiz’s head, there was little doubt where this fight was going. It probably explains Ortiz’s desperation head butt, which remains the ugliest act of their four rounds at the MGM Grand.
“Protect yourself at all times,” Mayweather said. “That’s what I was taught.”
When it comes to fighting Pacquiao, Mayweather has found the ultimate protection. He’s long been suspicious of how a one-time light flyweight moved up 40 pounds and managed to develop the punching power to flatten bigger, stronger men.
Pacquiao is currently suing Mayweather for defamation over the PED claims.
Mayweather will say otherwise, but there is reason to question whether he actually wants this fight. And you can hardly blame him.
Here is what happened to some of Pacquiao’s last seven opponents:
Antonio Margarito, pummeled repeatedly, broken orbital bone, sent to hospital. Miguel Cotto, pummeled repeatedly, TKO, sent to hospital. Ricky Hatton, knocked out cold, sent to hospital, hasn’t fought since. Oscar De La Hoya, pummeled repeatedly, TKO’d, hasn’t fought since. David Diaz, pummeled repeatedly, TKO’d, sent to hospital.
The other two (Joshua Clottey, Shane Mosley) essentially refused to fight, covered up for 12 rounds and accepted lopsided losses by decision.
Pacquiao doesn’t just defeat opponents; he punishes them right into an ambulance. Mayweather, attempting to spin the argument, notes that he beat most of those guys before Pacquiao and claims he “softened them up.”
Perhaps. It’s also possible Mayweather sees the destruction Pacquiao can do to a man’s health, reputation and career, and wouldn’t mind avoiding him completely.
Only Floyd knows for sure.
It's a moot point until Manny signs an agreement to stringent drug testing, the way Ortiz and Mosley did when they fought Mayweather.
Mayweather is correct to demand his opponents are clean. You cheat in baseball and someone hits a 600-foot homerun. You cheat in boxing and someone can die.
So with that same Cheshire cat grin he wore after smacking Ortiz, Mayweather has been able to hold Pacquiao at bay with, of all things, an argument on ethics.
It’s just one more way that Floyd Mayweather Jr. has made himself the ultimate box-office villain and the can’t-ignore personality the sport so desperately needs.
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