OPINION: The nature of Floyd Mayweather's win over Victor Ortiz means a match-up with Manny Pacquiao is now essential, if the five-division champion's legacy isn't to be forever tainted.
The 34-year-old Mayweather has placed himself at the very top of the tree. Forty-two wins in 42 fights, 26 by knockout, with 10 world titles, "Pretty Boy" has taken the art of not getting hit to a new level. Perceived as somewhat arrogant, he's not everyone's cup of tea - but his distasteful knockout of Ortiz on Sunday has left a very sour taste.
Top prize-fighters are forever engaging in 'trash talk'. Think Haye-Klitschko (although that was pretty pointless from the Englishman), Lewis-Tyson, Benn-Eubank... some of it's genuine but most of it is to publicise the contest and push ticket/pay-per-view sales. But once the fight is over, the pugilists embrace and there is an obvious respect - these guys are just taking care of business. Mayweather totally abused those unwritten rules against Ortiz.
Admittedly the 24-year-old head-butted Mayweather. Referee Joe Cortez dealt with the issue and deducted a point from Ortiz, who was apologetic for his actions. He went to hug Mayweather, even looking for a kiss. The ref took his eyes away from the action, presumably to check the judges had deducted the point. Cortez said "Let's box" but Ortiz was obviously not fully focused and had his hands by his side. Then Mayweather pounced...
He threw a left hook that disorientated his opponent and then a punishing right that ended the bout in brutal fashion. Ortiz was never getting up. The WBC welterweight belt was taken from the young pretender - and the crowd seemed stunned at what they'd seen. The constant booing then reflected their mood.
Now Mayweather had been wronged... the headbutt came out of nowhere as he defended himself on the ropes. But the ref was dealing with the situation and deducted a point. Even when you feel aggrieved at your opponent's tactics, you have to maintain discipline. The piece of ear Mike Tyson relieved from Evander Holyfield in their rematch can testify to that.
The major disappointment is that Mayweather had won the first three rounds, he was cruising. At least Tyson could say Holyfield was butting him constantly - a major complaint from their first bout. There was no reason for Mayweather to do what he did.
His post-fight interview with seasoned interviewer Larry Merchant perhaps implied Mayweather knew he'd made a mistake. He rants at Merchant, swearing at him, claiming he's never given him "a fair shake". And Merchant responds with: "If I was 50 years younger, I'd kick your ass!"
But if Mayweather is such a great fighter, why does he care? Because he wants respect. He wants a legacy. He wants to go down in history as one of the greats - in 2007, the often shy Mayweather said: "I respect what [Sugar Ray] Robinson and [Muhammad] Ali did for the sport. But I am the greatest and this is my time."
Well almost 15 years to the day of his first professional bout, Mayweather battered an exposed opponent to the canvas. If he wants that legacy, he simply has to make a clash with Manny Pacquiao happen. Good vs Bad, the puncher against the mover... quite simply the biggest fight of the last 30 years, if not ever. Come on Floyd, do the right thing for once.
- © Fairfax NZ News