LAS VEGAS – The sole mistake that Floyd Mayweather Jr. made on Saturday came about 90 minutes after he disposed of Victor Ortiz and claimed the World Boxing Council welterweight championship with a ridiculously easy fourth-round knockout before 14,687 stunned fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Forget the left hook and right hand that ended the fight and have raised so much anger among fans, particularly among the large contingent that despises Mayweather and worships Manny Pacquiao.
Mayweather's punches to an unsuspecting and undefended Ortiz's chin clearly weren't the most sporting moments of his career, but they were completely legal.
Referee Joe Cortez had ordered the fight to resume and when he did, each man was 100 percent within his rights to wallop the other. Ortiz, though, tried to embrace Mayweather. Mayweather chose to fight, and the difference in reactions cost Ortiz his title.
It was clear from the early moments of the fight, though, that it was only a matter of time before Mayweather would finish Ortiz. He was brilliant from start to shocking end.
Mayweather's only error Saturday came not in the ring but in a ballroom at the post-fight news conference. He was asked, as is he every time he appears in public, whether he'd fight Pacquiao.
It's the only fight for either of them that really matters. Yeah, Mayweather and Pacquiao each can make mega-millions by fighting others, but nothing either of them do from this point forward means much in terms of enhancing their respective legacies unless they fight each other.
Mayweather didn't say yes – but he didn't exactly say no, either. He whined about a lack of respect from the media and complained he's never given his due for what he's accomplished.
He trashed his former promoter, the man who now promotes Pacquiao, Top Rank's Bob Arum. He also intimated that Pacquiao is using performance enhancing drugs.
Significantly, though, he never gave a direct answer, which is all anyone wanted.
He was given a check for $25 million Saturday night and will earn millions more, likely around $40 million. But Mayweather teased about his pay, never saying what he expected to earn for the blowout of Ortiz. Maybe it will wind up at $70 million, he said, his eyes dancing. Then again, it could be $90 million, he added with a wry smile.
But he wasn't too eager to talk about Pacquiao and reacted angrily to insinuations his career would be incomplete if he didn't face the Filipino congressman.
"Once again, if I fight a guy 10 years younger than me, he don't have enough experience," Mayweather said. "So if I fight somebody my age, he's too old. If I fight a guy going up in weight class, he's too small. I'm always in a no-win situation. All I'm going to do is go out there and keep kicking ass."
He went on and on. He noted that he's "not ducking and dodging no opponents," but he was sure ducking and dodging the question. Finally, he was asked, "Tell us exactly what it will take for you and Pacquiao to get in there."
And given the opportunity, finally, to trot out his favorite line: "If you think you're the best, take the test." He again began to bob and weave.
Anyone who was hoping for a simple yes or no was disappointed.
"I mean, we've been talking about this for the longest," Mayweather said, shaking his head. "Like I said before, we knew Sugar Ray Leonard [and] we knew he was great from his Olympic days. We knew he was going to be a great professional. Michael Jordan, from college, we knew he was going to be a great professional. Floyd Mayweather, from the beginning of his career, from the '90s, we knew he was going to be a great professional.
"Look at all these different athletes. Kobe Bryant in high school, you knew he was going to be a great athlete. Now, you ask yourself, a fighter just don't get 25 and all of a sudden become great. A fighter don't just become 25 years old and pop out of nowhere. You know what? 'I'm knocking junior middleweights out. I'm knocking middleweights out.' That just don't happen. That just don't happen."
Mayweather is facing a defamation lawsuit from Pacquiao over allegations he made that Pacquiao was using performance enhancing drugs.
As he continued speaking, he made it abundantly clear that he's suspicious of the one-time flyweight champion's training methods.
"I mean, it's like this," Mayweather said as a group of sycophants applauded, whistled and cheered. "If you don't have nothing to hide, I just want to be on an even playing field. That's it. Even playing field. If you don't got nothing to hide, take the test."
Arum said last week that Pacquiao would indeed submit to the Olympic-style random blood and urine testing that Mayweather has demanded of his recent opponents. Arum said Pacquiao, who spends the first part of his training camp working out in the Philippines, would agree to the testing with no restriction, supervised by the World Anti-Doping Agency when he was in the Philippines and the United States Anti-Doping Agency when he moved his training to Los Angeles.
Pacquiao once asked for the testing to be stopped at some point before agreeing, but he is no longer making that demand, Arum said.
"All we ask is that the results are given to the relevant agency that is governing the fight," Arum said. "If the fight is in Nevada, give it to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That's all we're asking. But Manny will do the testing with no questions asked."
Nothing, though, will apparently satisfy Mayweather in that regard. He's so enamored with "being my own boss" that he's letting it affect his decisions. He wants to make everyone, from the HBO Sports television executives who have built his career, to the promoters who have aided him, to the media that has covered his rise to superstardom, to the fighters who want the same chance he was given, to jump through hoops. When he tells them to jump, he wants them to ask "How high?"
Mayweather was always a marvelous talent. He was a bronze medalist at the 1996 Olympics, but was robbed of a gold when he lost to Bulgarian Serafim Todorov in one of the worst calls in Olympic history.
In his sixth pro fight, he met Robert Giepert on April 12, 1997, on the undercard of a fight between Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas. In his locker room at the Thomas & Mack Center after the bout, Mayweather told a reporter he wanted to fight De La Hoya, who was then on his way to replacing Mike Tyson as the biggest draw in boxing.
Mayweather said on that night that he believed he could have beaten De La Hoya and, if truth be known, he was probably correct.
He knows what it is like to be an exceptional young talent who is desperate to fight the established superstar, but he wants everyone in his chain to kowtow to him before agreeing to fight.
Mayweather was masterful in the ring Saturday and is one of the two or three highest-earning athletes in the sport.
Acting this way demeans him. If he doesn't want to fight Pacquiao because he truly believes in his heart that Pacquiao is using performance enhancing drugs, then say so. It will disappoint millions of fans worldwide, many of whom are his fans, but it's his choice to fight whomever he wants.
And in what can truly be a life-or-death situation like boxing, no one could blame him if he said no to a fight if he is convinced Pacquiao is doping. This crazy tap dance he's playing, though, has to end.
For all the great things that Floyd Mayweather Jr. has done in his career, his response to that one question continues to be his only losing move.
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