Who's sorry now?
LAS VEGAS – Francisco Lorenzo's actions at the end of his fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center with Humberto Soto on Saturday were cowardly, revolting and disgusting.
That means little, though, because he did the one thing he was required to do to claim the interim WBC super featherweight title:
Specifically, he won by disqualification with an acting job the likes of which haven't been seen since Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets" in 1997, but the point is, he won.
And, because he won, he should have been presented with the green WBC belt as its champion.
The WBC, though, opted to ignore the official verdict, however tainted it may be, and declared the title vacant.
"After watching the instant replay, I believe that there is no one in the world not thinking that a disqualification was one of the greatest mistakes ever in boxing," WBC president Jose Sulaiman said.
Now, it's easy to understand why the WBC wouldn't want Lorenzo as its titleholder. The last four men to hold the belt – Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, are all headed to the Hall of Fame. Previous WBC super featherweight champions like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Julio Cesar Chavez are locks for the Hall, too. Champions such as Alexis Arguello and Azumah Nelson are already enshrined.
It's hard to imagine Lorenzo standing shoulder to shoulder with men like that. He was beaten like a rag doll and clearly overmatched by Soto, who was on the verge of one of his most impressive knockouts.
Soto never got that knockout, though, as a mistake by referee Joe Cortez started a bizarre sequence that resulted in Lorenzo feigning a head injury so as to win a fight he was about to lose.
Lorenzo had been knocked down once in the fourth round and was on the verge of going out as Soto pursued him into a corner. As Soto moved in for the kill, Cortez jumped between the fighters, apparently to stop the fight.
"It was definitely a mistake and Joe acknowledges that," said Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Cortez almost as quickly backed away, though, resulting in momentary confusion and giving Lorenzo a precious few seconds to regain his senses. When Cortez ordered the boxers to continue, Soto threw a series of punches and Lorenzo voluntarily went to a knee.
As Cortez moved in to begin the count, Soto threw a right uppercut which missed and then a left that landed on the back of Lorenzo's head.
Cortez ruled that Lorenzo was injured from the force of the punch. That is another mistake. Sitting less than 10 feet away, it hardly seemed like more than a swat to the back of the head, not a blow intended to concuss.
HBO's replays appear to support the contention that it was an inconsequential blow.
It was, however, late. And it came with Lorenzo already on the canvas.
Soto refused to concede he'd fouled, pointing to the replay that showed him clearly to be incorrect.
"Watch the tape," Soto said repeatedly. "The punch was already gone (when the referee jumped in)."
Unfortunately for Soto, that is not even close to being true. For whatever reason, Soto momentarily lost his self control, an action which cost him a significant victory.
Cortez, who was traveling and could not be reached for comment, ruled that Lorenzo was unable to continue. And so, according to the unified rules, that meant the referee's only option was to disqualify Soto once Lorenzo was given five minutes to recover and was still unable to fight.
"Had the referee determined that Mr. Lorenzo could have continued, then he would have been ordered to fight (at the end of the five-minute recovery break) and if he said he couldn't, he would have lost by TKO," Kizer said.
Lorenzo's corner was encouraging him to stay down, realizing his best chance to win would be by disqualification. And so Lorenzo, who first took a knee to avoid punishment, went down to the seat of his pants to rest once Cortez told him he had five minutes to recover.
A couple of minutes into that time, Lorenzo laid flat on his back, not moving. He was milking the situation, hoping Cortez would rule he could not continue.
When the bout ended, Soto was apparently unaware of what the ruling was, because he walked to Lorenzo's corner, pulled him from the floor and embraced him. Lorenzo then sat momentarily on his stool before getting up and parading around the ring with his arms over his head.
It's galling to have to give a guy a belt who was so thoroughly outclassed and who disgraced himself and his sport by behaving like he did. But the rules are the rules and they can't only be applied when it's convenient.
The fight's promoter, Bob Arum, wholeheartedly supported the WBC's decision. He was nearly apoplectic when it was suggested to him that the WBC should have given Lorenzo the belt.
"Are you out of your mind?" Arum bellowed. "Of course they shouldn't have given him the belt. He didn't win that fight and it would be a disgrace to give him the belt. It's ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous, to say otherwise."
Of course, it's not ludicrous. Upholding an official's judgment call is a fundamental truth in sports. This was a judgment call by Cortez, however faulty, and it should be upheld.
Sulaiman said he wasn't seeking to overturn the verdict, but did not feel bound by it when it came to awarding the WBC belt.
"While we respect the authority of the (Nevada commission) for a decision of the fight, we are the only ones to have the authority to decide on the decision relating to the WBC world title," he said.
Cortez had the discretion to rule that the fighter could continue and to penalize Soto two points. That would have been irrelevant, because Soto would have stopped him when the fight resumed and claimed the belt.
But Cortez chose – incorrectly, it says here – to rule that the force of the blow had enough of an impact upon Lorenzo that he was unable to continue. In that situation, he had no choice but to disqualify Soto.
Lorenzo doesn't deserve respect, praise or credit, but he does deserve one thing:
You just wonder if the Mexican-based WBC would have made the same ruling had it been Soto, a native of Mexico, who had been fouled and won by disqualification, and not Lorenzo, a Dominican.
As it is, Lorenzo got the victory but not the belt. And that is as much a travesty as Lorenzo's bad acting was.