LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather launched into a furious tirade at legendary television analyst Larry Merchant in the immediate aftermath of his controversial knockout victory over Victor Ortiz on Saturday night.
After Mayweather ended the fight in the closing seconds of round four with a two-punch combination, Merchant, the HBO Pay-Per-View commentator, challenged him over the fairness of his winning blows. Mayweather unloaded with both fists a split-second after the fighters had hugged following a headbutt for which his opponent was deducted a point, and Ortiz was unprotected and unaware when the strikes landed.
Merchant suggested that his tactics may have been either illegal or outside the spirit of the fight game, and then Mayweather vented his ire, referring to the 80-year-old broadcaster by an expletive and barking that he should be fired from his television position.
“You never give me a fair shake, all right, so I am going to do you a favor and let you talk to Victor Ortiz,” Mayweather said. “You never give me a fair shake. You are [expletive] and HBO should fire you. You don’t know [expletive] about boxing. You ain’t [expletive].”
Merchant, however, a veteran of more than 50 years in boxing, got the last laugh with a witty retort to Mayweather, whose victory earned him Ortiz’s World Boxing Council welterweight belt.
“I wish I was 50 years younger,” said Merchant. “I would have kicked your [expletive].”
Mayweather has already come under fire in boxing circles for refusing to agree to a fight with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and Saturday’s events could serve to further tarnish his reputation.
By picking on an elderly and respected figure such as Merchant in what can only be seen as a classless and unnecessary move, he did nothing to improve boxing’s image.
Merchant insisted that Mayweather’s motivation for sparking the verbal sparring session was because he feared facing any more tricky questions.
“I don't really think I could have kicked his [expletive] 50 years ago, but I would have tried it,” Merchant said. “What happened? I think Floyd Mayweather knew that the next question was going to be about why he won’t fight Pacquiao. That's still the question that will linger long after this fight.”
Mayweather was in total control of the fight at the time of the stoppage. Two judges had given him each of the first three rounds, with a third scoring it two rounds to one.
The controversy began when Ortiz enjoyed a rare flurry of success, backing Mayweather up against the ropes in the fourth round. However, he then struck Mayweather with a headbutt for which he was punished by referee Joe Cortez.
Ortiz attempted to apologize to Mayweather and hugged him near the center of the ring. However, Cortez had already called for time to be restarted. Mayweather let fly with a left hook that stunned Ortiz, then knocked him to the canvas with a straight hand.
“It was kind of controversial, kind of unfair to some,” said Ortiz. “I would love a rematch. I fouled Floyd and I apologized to him in the ring and after the fight. It happened in the heat of the moment. To a sense it is a payback, but I agree and disagree, I guess.”
Mayweather, though, was adamant that he was within his rights to act as he did. “Boxing is boxing,” Mayweather said. “You have to protect yourself at all times.”
[Photo gallery: Mayweather-Ortiz welterweight title fight]
The newly crowned champion stood by his words at the post-fight news conference.
"Everyone is tired of Larry Merchant, everyone is tired of him. It is out with the old and in with the new. We need some young hungry reporters doing this now. It is a new era. I don’t regret saying it. I am not saying they have to fire him, but I am saying he needs to be fired."
This controversy will rumble on for some time.