First came the left hook, so fast it was barely visible before impact. Then the big right hand followed, crunching into flesh and bone. Within less than a second, welterweight champion Victor Ortiz crumpled to the ground and his fight with Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather was over.
It was Saturday night, September 17th, 2011, in the fourth round of their world title fight. Mayweather's blazing fast, simple, and effective two punch combination took Ortiz off guard. After touching gloves with his opponent, Ortizappeared to be waiting for referee John Cortez to restart the fight after a temporary stoppage when Mayweather's two punches flashed into the air and knocked him out cold.
Was Mayweather'sKO dirty? Did he take Ortiz off guard in an unsportsmanlike way? Mayweather's hit certainly took Ortiz by surprise. The champion was waiting for a strong signal from the referee to start but he was wrong to do so, once you touch gloves it is open season in boxing. As Floyd Mayweather himself pointed out after the fight, 'you should never let your guard down.' As the best defensive fighter of his generation, Mayweather practices what he preaches. Ortiz was already dazed by the residual impact of several strong right hands from Mayweather in rounds 2-3 and his loss of focus for that brief moment was crucial. He was in a completely defenseless position for more than a second and paid the price.
Dirty hit? It's a dirty sport. Boxing is an individual sport that is about dealing punishment to an opponent. It is a sport of tactics, angles, strategy, and speed but the objective is to dole out pain. It's not fencing; there is no etiquette in place stating that fighters must wait a certain amount of time after touching gloves before doling out punches. Mayweather's KO combination was not the most artistic moment in boxing history but it was legal. Its dirty lack of artistry did nothing to diminish its devastating impact.
Dirty hits are an integral part of boxing. They happen in many major fights. The most significant recent fight before the Mayweather-Ortiz bout, Amir Kahn's thrilling win over Zab Judah, ended with an on-the-belt-line KO punch that was quite close to crunching into Judah's groin. Its spot of impact was low enough to cause the maximum amount of incapacitating pain and secure a knockout but it was above the belt and legal. Indeed, Mayweather's opportunity came after a stoppage caused by Victor Ortiz's own dirty head-butt of Mayweather less than a minute earlier. That is the reality: some fights are filled with artistry but many more are filled with punishment. Mayweather's KO was not artistic but, like so many others, it was certainly legal.
Mayweather is now an undefeated 42-0 and again a world champion. Victor Ortiz's meteoric rise since 2009 has now ground to a halt. He will look to challenge Andre Berto or Marcos Maidana in a rematch to regain his mojo and, perhaps, another world title. As for Mayweather, options abound including Amir Kahn, Andre Berto, and Timothy Bradley. But there is only one opponent that anyone wants him to fight: Manny Pacquiao. So, will it happen? And, if it does, will it end with a dirty hit? In a sport like boxing, who knows?
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