By Jason Pribila: On Saturday Night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Golden Boy Promotions presented “Star Power” Mayweather vs Ortiz. The dust settled, and once again the sport of boxing was left to defend itself as a relevant player on the sports landscape. The controversial ending again cast its shadow over an evening that was aimed at showcasing one of its biggest stars.
A fight whose outcome seemed predetermined when the ink on the contract dried quickly became a shot of adrenaline for boxing scribes across the world. The inflated price tag ($69.95) again left many consumers with buyer’s remorse.
This weekend HBO will televise Mayweather – Ortiz for those who have yet to see the bout. For those who have not at least seen round four and the post-fight interview you have my permission to venture away from Secondsout.com and experience youtube.com. However, first I ask you bear with me as I share my take on Mayweather – Ortiz.
5. Jasmine Villegas – The American teen vocalist did not have the resume or name recognition of Jamie Foxx, who performed “American the Beautiful” in the same ring prior to Pacquiao – Mosley. But her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” should guarantee that the soul singer of Filipino and Mexican decent will land a return gig if her spot on Justin Bieber’s tour doesn’t spawn any career opportunities.
4. HBO Fight Coverage: The HBO brass welcomed boxing fans back to the Mayweather-driven “24/7” series. While many felt this infomercial has long since “jumped the shark”, they struck gold by capturing the explosive confrontation between father and son during the final moments of the opening episode. The show failed by never catching up with Floyd Sr., but as fight night approached it again provided a platform for boxing fans to countdown the weeks preceding the fight.
Where HBO succeeded (no doubt influenced by Showtime’s Fight Camp 360) was keeping the cameras rolling after the weigh in. HBO offered a “24/7 Overtime” on the eve of the fight, and turned their HBO Zone channel into fight day headquarters highlighted by going live to Las Vegas hours before the PPV began. On Saturday night they will also air an additional “24/7” episode to capture the emotion of fight night and its aftermath.
When Ross Greenberg stepped down, Yahoo.com’s Kevin Iole suggested that HBO offer fans a magazine-type show to highlight upcoming bouts. This weekend’s “live” offerings were a good start.
3. Golden Boy Match-Making: Golden Boy and Top Rank continue to invest in undercards and on this night it delivered despite top junior welterweight Lukas Matthysse being forced to withdraw from his bout against Erik Morales due to illness.
Prospect Jessie Vargas remained undefeated by rallying late to eke out a decision against Josesito Lopez. Erik Morales and late sub Pablo Cesar Cano put on a see-saw blood-letting that would have stolen any PPV of recent memory. And “Canelo” Alvarez overcame a slow start to eventually stop the ever game Alfonso Gomez.
It is still unclear if the extra effort given to supporting bouts is translating into PPV buys, but is nice that the voice of the boxing fan is starting to be heard.
2. Erik Morales: I never would have guessed that we would have seen Erik Morales competing at a high level following his defeat to David Diaz in August of 2007, and I would have put money on Marcos Maidana retiring “El Terrible” when they met in April.
Congrats to Morales for making another statement at a time when most expected that he would be penning his Hall of Fame induction speech.
1. Floyd Joy Mayweather Jr.: Those who paid money with the hopes of witnessing age finally catch up with Mayweather were left with another reason to declare that they won’t spend another nickel on a Mayweather fight. Until he laces them up again, perhaps in May of 2013.
Mayweather fought a guy who was coming off a career win and ten years his “Jr.”, and dismantled him in the middle of the ring. Floyd did not show a hint of ring rust, and landed 49% of his power punches (61 of 125). He accomplished this without sacrificing his defensive wizardry, seeming to only be hit by head-butts and rabbit punches.
No matter what you feel about how he ended the fight, one thing is certain. He will demand yet another career high payday to face Manny Pacquaio or anyone else promoters could sell to the public as having a chance to defeat him.
Sure “Batman” is the super-hero that Hollywood studios invest in, but audiences still line up to see the villain.
5. Lukas Matthysse: After coming up short in questionable decisions against Zab Judah and Devon Alexander, Matthysse’s luck seemed to be changing for the better when the skilled Argentine found himself as the favorite against legend Erik Morales. [Soft Break][Soft Break]This time Matthysse’s fate was decided by a viral infection that forced him to pull out of the bout. While boxing fans may have benefitted by seeing a more competitive fight, one has to imagine that Matthysse was once again robbed of a signature win.
4. Jim Lampley – On an evening that saw Larry Merchant caught up in a classic verbal sparring match with Mayweather, it was Lampley that had a night to forget. It is completely understandable for an announcer to allow inflection in his voice when an underdog is doing better than expected, but there were some instances that Lampley seemed to be calling a different fight.
With 13 seconds remaining in the third round Ortiz misses with a left cross and is countered with crisp right counter and an uppercut that forced Ortiz to get on his toes in retreat. Lampley called the action as follows, “Good left cross by Victor Ortiz. He is quick enough to fight with Floyd Mayweather.”
When a frustrated Ortiz illegally launched his head into Mayweather’s jaw, Lampley declared, “Ortiz is jumping on him.”
Lampley has been the best at what he does for a long time, but this was definitely an off night.
3. Atmosphere at MGM Grand: Investing money in quality undercards is not going to pay dividends when combatants are going toe to toe in an empty arena. Seats in casino settings are usually filled by high-rollers who show up in time for the main event. This translates poorly to the home television audience, and kills any attempts of winning over new fans tuning into their first PPV.
Morales – Cano was edge of your seat action, but when it takes place in an empty arena, it fails to capture the imagination of the home viewer. Imagine if that fight had taken place at the Staples Center?
It speaks volumes that Top Rank is ok with the fact that the main event of the UFC’s debut on network television will air prior to Pacquiao – Marquez entering the ring. It screams buzz kill for anyone expecting much of an undercard on November 12.
2. Victor Ortiz – Many questioned if Ortiz had the physical ability to perform at the highest level, but being able to control his emotions would determine his ceiling. He got caught up in “The Mayweather Experience” and he started to unravel quickly. By round two Ortiz seemed to resign to the fact that he was only able to find a home for his fists (behind Mayweather’s head) and his head (under Mayweather’s chin).
At the 1:17 mark of round four, Ortiz squatted against the ropes and used his head to get separation. That infraction prompted a warning from referee Joe Cortez that Ortiz chose not to obey. He completely lost his cool when he launched himself to Mayweather’s chin that finally caused him to lose a point.
He then made the critical mistake of letting his guard down in the middle of the ring against a fighter who openly admitted during the final press conference that boxing is a dirty sport. Sure the left hand stunned him, but why he did not cover up to avoid the right that followed is inexcusable.
Luckily, Ortiz is still young and will have time to enjoy his career high payday. When he returns, he will have plenty of options and opportunities to put the pieces back together again.
1. Joe Cortez: Once again a referee’s assignment is questioned prior to a fight, and once again a referee becomes part of the story and outcome. There is no excuse for a referee in boxing (perhaps professional wrestling) to need to look at a replay to witness a two punch combination that ended a fight.
When Cortez motioned for action to resume, he looked to the time-keeper and asked if the bell rang. If he was unsure, he should have again called time-out to be sure. The surprised look on Cortez’ face when Ortiz hit the canvas should be hung up in the Nevada State Athletic Commission when someone suggests giving him another main event.
Even if you were on the fence on Cortez, the fact he slipped in his tired catch phrase “firm but fair” during fighter instructions in the locker room is reason enough to hit the "unlike" button. He has now become the Barney Fife of officiating. Give him a bullet for his shirt pocket and hope he never needs to use it again.
Winners and Losers: Overtime
Unlike people’s opinion of Mayweather’s “legal – sucker punch”, I have found a figure that lands in a grey area.
Larry Merchant: The broadcasting legend’s deliberate delivery has frustrated some fight fans for years. But for me, Merchant deserves the Joe Paterno treatment from HBO. Let the man choose when he feels it is time to retire.
Merchant and Mayweather have had a history of “butting heads” after prize fights, but there is no one I would rather conducting an in-ring interview. On Saturday night, Merchant allowed the crowd and his personal opinion to influence his line of questioning.
When Mayweather over-reacted, Merchant delivered a line that has made him a youtube.com legend.
There are some who would like to see the boxing roles of Merchant and Mayweather reduced. However, after Saturday, Merchant joins Floyd as being the two boxing figures that fans can’t wait to hear from next.
Jason Pribila is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on twitter @PribsBoxing.