Monday, September 19, 2011

That's My Bone


Victor Ortiz is a punk and, as such, got punked.

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about the ending of the fight. Public opinion seems to have converged on the feeling that while what Floyd did was not exactly sportsmanlike, it was entirely legal.

Here’s my recap:

  1. Ortiz gets badly outclassed the first four rounds.
  2. Ortiz tries to use his head on Floyd several times in the second and fourth rounds.
  3. After a fourth round in which he takes a bad beating, Ortiz – frustrated and outclassed – launches forward in one of the most egregious fouls I’ve ever seen. (absolutely could have broken Floyd’s jaw, concussed him) It should have been a two point deduction.
  4. Ortiz, overly conscious of his nice guy image, tries to make up with Floyd. Entirely disingenuous and performative.
  5. The referee resumes the fight.
  6. Ortiz again tries to hug Floyd, whose face shows his anger.
  7. Floyd, engages in the gesture of reconciliation, then takes the knowing cheap shot with the left hand.
  8. Ortiz takes the left, and then – who knows why – stares at Joe Cortez.
  9. Mayweather, whose original intent was merely to give Ortiz a well-deserved cheap shot, takes advantage of Ortiz’ idiocy.

The thing the Floyd haters are overlooking here, I think, is Floyd’s intent, versus the actual result. I don’t believe Floyd thought he was engaging in a fight ending maneuver. Against Shane Mosley or Juan Manuel Marquez, the opponents would have taken the left and then defended themselves. Even if they hadn’t defended themselves, they would have been hurt but survived.

Ortiz, a mediocre fighter, just crumbled. The apologies and pity afterward reminded me of Kermit Cintron’s notable antics. Ortiz seems like he has a bit of Cintron in him. I have very little interest in seeing him on a big stage until I see something new out of him. Quality.


* * *********************************************

Alright, with that out of the way, down to what really matters.

Floyd looked terrific.

Here’s what I liked:

* True, he was fighting an outclassed opponent, but Floyd dominated all four rounds. He would have been up five points on the judges' cards after the fourth, (including the point deduction) and had been landing bombs in the third and fourth rounds. I believe he would have knocked Ortiz out, (or inspired Ortiz to bitch out in some other manner) by the sixth or seventh round. I’ve read some people arguing that the fight was somewhat competitive. Look at the PunchStats; it wasn’t. Yeah the numbers don’t mean everything, but when you’re landing both more and better punches they do.

* Floyd’s accuracy was phenomenal. The lead right was beautiful to watch. It’s really outstanding now, better than ever. He throws it more like Hopkins does, just shooting it out as he comes in. Unlike Hopkins, Floyd’s handspeed is still outrageous. The punch is virtually unstoppable.


* For the first time in years Floyd really let his combination punching fly at the beginning of the fourth round. He only did it once, but it was beautiful to watch. Is he capable of doing it more than once in a fight? I don’t know, but we know he can still let his hands go when facing an outmatched opponent.

* The defense was as good as ever. Floyd got caught a couple times, but even on those he was moving with the punch. When he was up against the ropes Mayweather didn’t get hit cleanly at all. Just outstanding work, it’s the reason Ortiz resorted to fouling.

* Floyd is the master. I just love how he owns the ring. Mayweather has been in so many big fights it just seems like he belongs in there. Floyd hadn’t fought in 16 months, but he looked like he had never left. He is living portrait of control and mastery.

* Floyd was a fighter. All too often Floyd, by his own admission, simply fights for the money, plays the percentages. Here, though, there was a touch of evil to him. You’re gonna do that to me? I’ll pay you back, with interest. I love it. I even loved how he screamed at Merchant after the fight was over.

Hey, I like Larry, but the guy is a hater! Stand up for yourself, Floyd! Show the critics you're the best. Stuff it down their self-satisfied throats and dance on their graves.

Floyd is normally a bloodless operator, content to score points. This time - and there for all to see - was the genuine bad man, the pain doctor. Floyd is a fighter, it’s in him. Show it to us again! And soon.

I’ve said it before, but I’d love to see Mayweather suffer a loss soon. It would be tremendously freeing for him not to have to defend that zero. Like Hopkins after Taylor ended his middleweight title streak or like Roy Jones after his loss to Tarver, I think you’d see a greater willingness to test himself.

* This should cause a bit of a reevaluation of Floyd’s recent opposition. People are quick to dismiss Marquez, Mosley, and De La Hoya as relics, but at least they were great fighters, at least they had quality. Talk all you want about “young guns,” but when you’re talking about guys like Ortiz you’re talking about guns without any bullets in the chamber. I’d rather see Manny and Floyd fight guys like Marquez than jobbers like Ortiz or a Devon Alexander. (saying that, though, I have to admit a Mayweather-Khan and Pacquiao- Bradley future wouldn’t be entirely uninteresting.)

What I didn’t like

* Ortiz just doesn’t belong in the ring with a top fighter. He doesn’t behave like a fighter, he behaves like a child. The only thing I found more disgusting than his egregious butting was his apologetic demeanor and smiling face after the fight. Be a man! Curse and scream and kick. It meant enough for you to cheat, act like it! Unfortunately, this is by far the best result he could have gotten, and he will receive residual sympathy and future good fights. What he deserved was a Gatti like whipping, and a seat at the back of the line.

* As such, it was a waste of time for Mayweather. This was the first truly wasteful fight either Floyd or Manny has fought since Pacquiao met Joshua Clottey. (and, as context, I think Clottey beats Ortiz) Floyd fights so rarely this seems to me a minor tragedy. I love seeing Floyd squash an outmatched foe, as long as I get to see him in two real fights a year.

* With Floyd’s lack of activity in mind, and again, noting that I don’t think Floyd intended the fight to end there, I sure do wish we would have seen the fight go on a bit. I would have loved to see Floyd go in for the exacting finish.

* Now here’s the big one: does Mayweather still have his legs left? Roach mentioned it a few fights ago, but Floyd doesn’t move with the same fluidity he used to. It certainly hasn’t hurt his performances, but can you imagine Floyd putting on the type of dancing master class he did against Chico Corrales?

I can’t, which is perfectly understandable; that was ten years ago. But what can he do? Floyd simply doesn’t move anymore. He’ll give you a little angle here or there, but most of the time he simply walks forward behind his Philly shell, or retreats backward behind it.

It’s the retreating that I’m interested, and slightly concerned with. He goes back in straight lines and snuggles against the ropes. I'd love to see him use his angles a bit when he's going in reverse. It's a dangerous game the way he's doing it.

Floyd doesn’t get hit often, not against a guy like Ortiz, but what if he were fighting someone with especially quick feet? Somebody with a terrific straight left hand? Someone who knows what to do when he gets an opponent against the ropes?

I’m speaking here of the little Pacman, of course. I still think Mayweather would be the favorite, but Manny’s path to victory has never been so clear in my mind’s eye. Every time an opponent gets Floyd against the ropes and flails the crowd goes wild; even when they don’t land punches. Can’t you see Pac doing that, and actually landing a couple? Couldn’t he sneak a few controversial rounds that way, even if Floyd is landing the better shots? I know, it’s not the most lovely or inspiring vision, but it’s one that has come to me over the last few years.

Like all of us, I just hope I get to see it – or any other imagined outcome - in waking life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Lonesome And Quarrelsome Hero

I’ll speak about the fight proper in a moment – frankly, I think most know the score on that bit – but first, a little about atmosphere.

Floyd is the best on 24/7. He rightly crows about inventing the show. He gives the people what they want, just the right amount of braggadocio and easily digestible hate nuggets; those moments of self-reverence that our moral side abhors.

I like it, usually. I love seeing the boasts and the sillyness, and for the most part it’s all in fun.

Something strange happened this time, though, for me at least; genuine sadness kicked in. I can’t watch the grim reality shows, the ones like Intervention. It’s too sad and raw and voyeuristic and troubling. Floyd wasn’t like that on this episode of 24/7. His persona is too strong. There’s no way to really break through.

But even more frightening, this was the first time it felt to me that there wasn’t anything beneath the persona; there is only this desperate artifice. Like an actor playing a part for so long that he begins to lose his own character.

Or like every man who ever tried to sally forth inviolate from his father’s shadow, and inevitably - and by his own will to separate - became that same figure.

Of course, the most dramatic moment was the confrontation with Floyd Sr. Even for those of us with complicated relationships with our own parents it was a little troubling. The way they look so similar, their personality so similar. The haunting screeching voice of Sr, almost inhuman, as he lost face before the more powerful man. So cruel and raw. Floyd Sr. isn’t the most estimable person, not really deserving of all that much sympathy, but still, to see the fractures and fragility in a proud man’s construct is hurtful.

Almost sadder, though, was the rote poetry of consumerism. The cash phone, the new car, and the celebrity friends. In the earlier incarnations of the show it almost felt performative, the self-aware stylings of a music video, but now, it seems that is the only language Floyd is capable of speaking.

It just seems so terrible lonesome to me; so deeply sad. The man who got everything he ever wanted but lays down to sleep each night dissatisfied, and not even knowing why.

I’m not making a moral judgment here. To be young, rich, and spectacularly famous is an impossible situation. I don’t know how any of these people don’t turn into Martians. What a strange existence to be surrounded by people on your payroll. I don’t know how relationships are possible at that point.

People are always shocked to find how far from reality a dictator is, but really, aren’t they the only logical product of their reality.

Maybe that’s how it has to be, for the truly gifted, the ones loosed from tethers by talent. I’m not fit to judge him, nor are you.

But strangely, this time, and for the first time, I found my complicated feelings for Floyd had moved beyond admiration, amusement, and contempt. This time, what I felt, really, was pity.

* * *

If this were the picture business Floyd would lose against the young and hungry Ortiz. The lost soul that is Mayweather would learn humility, and the painful lessons of the human condition. He would be humbled, and from that experience, would grow.

But this is the hurt business. This is the sweet science. The only judgment here is that of blood and bone.

It’s about quality. Floyd may be an empty vessel, but he’s got quality.

And really that’s all that needs to be said. Ortiz is strong, young, and a lefty, but we’re talking about levels here. With fighters on the same level some analysis is needed, some thought and imagination, Mayweather and Ortiz don’t overlap.

In Ortiz’ three biggest fights he is 1-1-1. Maidana, Berto, and Peterson are all good fighters, probably top-five in their division. Ortiz, I think, is a guy who goes 1-1-1 against that level of opponent. As context, if this were a few years ago and Ortiz had fought say… Collazo, Clottey, and Cotto, I’d expect him to post similar results.

That’s pretty good, in fact, that’s excellent. I expect Ortiz to be a title contender for quite a few years. He’ll win several belts, defend them a few times, and lose. A really good fighter.

But Mayweather, he has quality. Mayweather wins all those fights, he wins them without much drama. Ortiz has a lot of things going for him, he’s got some real strengths; Mayweather, he has talent, he has ability, he is quality.

A great fighter beats a good fighter. This isn’t about morality, it’s about justice; it’s the better man What Wins in this sport. And that, to me, is the only form of righteous I’ve ever seen.

I expect there to be some excitement early, exacerbated by the HBO team who are desperate for Floyd to be challenged. I see Ortiz as a slightly slower - but more compact version of - Ricky Hatton, and I expect the fight to progress in that way. Ortiz landing a few and causing excitement with forward motion; all while Floyd is doing the quality work.

Lampley will scream, “He’s making Floyd fight his fight!” but that’s not really what will be happening. The man whose gloves touch the other man’s flesh is fighting his fight; and Floyd always fights his fight.

I see Ortiz winning a round or two early, but once he slows a bit and gets tagged a few times I expect Floyd to give him a scientific and fine whipping. I think it’ll be lovely, I think you will see real quality, the gulf in class.

I hear some belittling Floyd’s wins over Marquez, Mosley, and Hatton, (and there were some mitigating factors) but those were great fighters. Ortiz is younger, in his prime, but he’s not a great fighter. Floyd eats those guys alive, could beat one a month for a decade. Floyd’s gonna chop him up, nice and proper.

I’m not quite sure if we’ll see a stoppage. I envision Ortiz’ corner, or the ref, pulling him out late, but that’ll largely depend on Floyd’s mood.

It’s cruel to say, but I’m looking forward to this one. I don’t feel the anxiety of a big event, more the anticipation of a long awaited performance.

Quality made flesh. Maybe there’s nothing else there, but the quality, that’s enough.

Floyd Mayweather UD 12 119-107 Victor Ortiz.