FLOYD Mayweather exposed his seldom seen ruthless side in Las Vegas with a chilling, disturbing and deeply controversial clean knockout of Victor Ortiz to regain the World Boxing Council welterweight title.
Mayweather had dominated the three completed rounds and was easily swiping away Ortiz's lunges, and at the same time honing a counter with ominous precision in the fourth, before the first of two incidents led to the fight's dramatic endgame.
Ortiz deliberately butted Mayweather on the mouth, splitting his lip and forcing the veteran referee, Joe Cortez, to stop the action and deduct a point. Ortiz apologised, the pair embraced and words were exchanged as both boxers stood either side of Cortez with their gloves at their waists.
Cortez, who will be 68 next month, appeared to shout "box on" and then a fraction of a second later realised that he had not instructed the timekeeper to start the clock again. Cortez took his eyes off the two boxers, who were having one final hug, and was clearly searching out somebody at ringside when the boxers separated. At this point, with Cortez looking a bit flustered as he looked out of the ring and away from the boxers, Mayweather raised his gloves and connected with a short left hook to Ortiz's exposed jaw. Ortiz's legs sagged, his hands remained down and he was turning to look at the referee when Mayweather unleashed a sickening right hand that dropped him for the full count.
"Boxing is a dirty business," admitted Mayweather. "He bust my lip with his head and I took him out. It says in the rules of boxing that a fighter must defend himself at all times. My mouth was split open and this is the hurt business. I did what I had to do."
Cortez defended Mayweather's decision to take the two free shots and seemed oblivious to the chaos his indecisive handling had caused. "A fighter has to defend himself at all times," Cortez managed to say.
Amazingly, when the dust had settled and the ring had been invaded by Mayweather's swollen clan, there were no complaints from anybody in Ortiz's team. It is hard to imagine such hardliners as Frank Warren or Don King accepting the ugly ending if one of their boxers was on the receiving end of such a dubious and unedifying knockout. No doubt the purse, thought to be in the region of $2.5m ((pounds sterling)1.6m), which is 200 per cent more than he received for winning the title, eased Ortiz's pain.
Mayweather, meanwhile, will now seriously consider a quick fight and is unlikely to just vanish from the scene, which he has been doing after fights since 2007. On Saturday he looked destructive and would no doubt have ended the fight by about round six; instead the boxing world was sent a grim reminder of his personal savagery.
On the same night, at the fabulous King's Hall in Belfast, the current British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Tyson Fury survived a frightening third round when he was sent on an unplanned boogie across the ring after taking a wild right hand from the American Nicolai Firtha.
Thankfully Fury was sufficiently cute to hold, wiggle out of danger and survive long enough for his head to clear before changing the direction of the fight. In round five Firtha's face was smeared with his blood, he was getting caught with ease and the entertaining scrap was called off by the referee.
Fury remains unbeaten but his determination to be in terrific fights is dangerous, and at the same time refreshing in a heavyweight business dominated by far too many cautious men.
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