If you’re a fan of the sport of boxing the high points have been far and few between in recent years. The heavyweight division is about as exciting as waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, with the Klitschko brothers continuing to plod through sub par opponents in lackluster fights.
Yes we have Manny Pacquiao. Yes Bernard Hopkins is making things interesting as a bit of a novelty act. And yes the boxing powers that be are hoping that Andre Ward, Sergio Gabriel Martínez, Andre Berto and Amir Khan can somehow serve as defibrillators and jolt life back into a sport that is itself lying face up on the canvas.
This past weekend boxing attempted to regain some traction with its offering of the Pacquiao consolation prize, the much hyped Floyd Mayweather, Jr. / Victor Ortiz pay-per-view event. Instead, it succeeded in shining a spotlight on some of the issues currently plaguing the sport. Here are three things that marred what was supposed to be a great boxing showcase.
The Early Stoppage in the Alvarez vs. Gomez Bout
I realize that the boxing world is intent on making Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the current WBC super welterweight champion, a marketable star. However, that was no excuse for what occurred in this undercard bout. I had the fight scored a draw through five rounds. With less than 30 seconds left in the sixth round, referee Wayne Hedgpeth rushed to stop the fight after a barrage of punches from Alvarez put Alfonso Gomez, known mostly from “The Contender TV series”, on the ropes. The problem with the stoppage was that Gomez was not “out on his feet”, but in a protective position. If the referee felt Gomez was in trouble, with less than thirty seconds left in the round, he could have administered a standing eight count and then allowed the fighter to attempt to continue. If the underdog is game and might actually be lucky enough to throw a monkey wrench in the plans with an upset, then more power to him. Give him his shot. In all likelihood, Alvarez would have won in the next few rounds anyway.
Ortiz’s Blatant Intentional Headbutt
Near the end of round 4 as Victor Ortiz began to let loose with a series of punches after cornering Floyd Mayweather, he inexplicably stopped punching and launched himself head first into Mayweather. Ortiz is no rookie, he’s fought 34 professional bouts. His headbutting Mayweather was inexcusable and completely unnecessary. There is no place for intentional headbutts in boxing. Period.
Mayweather’s Unsportsmanlike Cheap Shots
Yes boxers are cautioned to protect themselves at all times, however, Mayweather was in the wrong even though what he did was within the rules. It can’t be called anything but a punk move when a boxer gives the impression that they are about to accept an apology by touching up gloves or coming together for an embrace and then cheap shots their opponent, not once, but twice! Mayweather was supposed to be the superior fighter and is the more experienced fighter and should have been able to allow his skills to “get even” for him over the remainder of the bout. As for Ortiz, I’ll just say this: if you look away and keep your hands down after someone you just headbutted sucker punches you, then you deserve to get knocked out by the follow-up sucker punch.
Floyd Mayweather didn’t stop with Ortiz. For an encore he verbally assaulted HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant after he became flustered by a line of questioning that he perceived to be, but was not antagonistic in any way. Merchant merely asked him if he felt he had unfairly taken advantage of Ortiz not being prepared to defend himself.
One Positive Note
In the earlier undercard bout between Erik Morales and Pablo Cesar Cano, referee Kenny Bayless could have stopped the fight due to how battered and bloodied Cano was. Bayless, however, wisely called a ring physician over to examine Cano and when the fighter was cleared, let the action continue. He then went over to Cano’s corner after the round and gave them the choice of deciding to allow their fighter to continue. This was great work by Bayless refereeing a championship match. He did not allow his officiating to decide the outcome. He actually let the boxers determine it. As the lead-in to Alvarez/Gomez, this made Hedgpeth’s handling of the bout that much more egregious.
What Does The Future Hold?
Boxing fans want to see Mayweather vs Pacquiao. Not Mayweather vs Ortiz. Not Mayweather, Jr. vs. Mayweather, Sr. Not Mayweather vs. Larry Merchant…well maybe that one, but the point is that there is one fight and one fight alone that can resuscitate boxing. If Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight, we have to expect at least two bouts. And that’s if the one fighter goes 2-0 in their match-ups. We could find ourselves treated to trilogy that could rank up there with the greats. Or Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao could become another one of those great bouts that should have been?