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A Note on Mayweather-Ortiz…HAUSER

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Bart Barry wrote last year that the marketing plan for Floyd Mayweather Jr’s fights has become, “How can we fool the public again?”

With that in mind, there came a time about a month ago when I tuned out Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz. I didn’t read the conference-call transcripts. I didn’t go to Las Vegas for the fight. I didn’t buy the pay-per-view. On fight night, I was curious enough to follow the action via short texts posted at brief intervals on ESPN.com. On Sunday morning, I watched the now-infamous fourth round and its aftermath on YouTube.

Mayweather is a superbly talented fighter. “Anything my mouth says, my hands can back it up,” he states. “Once you put me in that squared circle, I’m home.”

Floyd also has a penchant for anti-social behavior, having been criminally convicted twice for beating up women. He is currently under indictment for assaulting the mother of three of his children (in addition to physically threatening two of the children). He has engaged in racist homophobic rants; burns hundred-dollar bills in nightclubs to flaunt his wealth; and demeans opponents as a matter of course.

“I’ve been in a lot of fights,” Arturo Gatti said before fighting Mayweather in 2005. “But I’ve never been in a fight where my opponent was talking like he is. He has no class, to speak about another fighter like he does.”

The June 28th kick-off press conference for Mayweather-Ortiz began with a promotional film that praised Floyd as “pound-for pound, the best fighter in the universe; [a man who] always fights the best and stands alone as the shining star in boxing.”

Promoter Richard Schaefer advised the assembled media that Floyd is a “gentleman” and promised that Mayweather-Ortiz would be “the greatest pay-per-view card in the history of boxing.”

Not to be outdone, World Boxing Council representative Jill Diamond said that Floyd “bleeds green” but has “a heart of gold.”

The “bleeding green” was understandable, given the sanctioning fees that the WBC expected to reap from Mayweather-Ortiz. There are some battered women who might disagree with the “heart of gold” part.

Ortiz seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all.

The “high point” of the pre-fight marketing campaign was a profanity-laced confrontation between Floyd and his father on the first episode of HBO’s Mayweather-Ortiz: 24/7. Floyd’s conduct in that exchange was reminiscent of Mike Tyson’s onstage tirade at the Hudson Theater during the build-up to Iron Mike’s 2002 fight against Lennox Lewis.

The low point of the promotion was Mayweather’s attack on Oscar De La Hoya after Ortiz said in the second episode of 24/7 that Oscar is his idol. That engendered a Mayweather tweet: “De La Hoya is a drug user, dresses in drag, committed adultery, and drinks alcohol; and Ortiz looks up to this guy.”

At that point, Richard Schaefer balanced the competing interests of De La Hoya (his dear friend and partner) and Mayweather (a source of income) and resolutely declared, “I’m not going to get into the middle of that. I have a very nice relationship with Floyd. We work very well together. When Oscar came out with his statement [admitting to having been photographed by a stripper while wearing women’s lingerie at a time when he was under the influence of cocaine], there were a lot of people who were very supportive of Oscar and wished him all the best with rehab. There are always those who will have a different opinion.”

Meanwhile, it should be noted that, whenever De La Hoya and Mayweather appear jointly at a media event, Oscar has the look of a man who is trying to smile while chewing on glass.

Mayweather was established as a 7-to-1 betting favorite over Ortiz.  Thereafter, Victor’s chances (such as they were) took another hit when the Nevada State Athletic Commission designated Joe Cortez as the referee for the fight.

Cortez (who has legally trademarked the phrase “I’m fair but I’m firm”) was once regarded as one of boxing’s better referees. But in recent years, there have been times when “unfair” and “infirm” have attached to his name. More specifically, he has engaged in questionable conduct that altered the flow of several big fights; most notably, Mayweather vs. Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana.

The assumption was that Cortez’s style of refereeing was likely to favor Mayweather over Ortiz. Carlos Acevedo put the matter in harsh perspective, writing, “Cortez, whose incompetence has been steadily growing, is now one of the perpetual black clouds of boxing. Among his peculiar habits is an inability to break fighters at the appropriate moment. Why let Cortez, whose reverse Midas touch has marred more than one big fight recently, in the building at all on Saturday night?”

Fight-night attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena was 14,687; well short of a sellout.

Mayweather dominated the first three rounds, which was bad news for Ortiz, who has a history of slowing down as a fight progresses and seemed to be breaking down both physically and mentally.

In round four, the following sequence of events occurred:

(1) Ortiz cornered Mayweather and, frustrated by his inability to land a clean shot, deliberately head-butted Floyd.

(2) Cortez called “time.”

(3) Ortiz acknowledged his wrongdoing, hugged Mayweather, and kissed him on the cheek.

(4) Cortez walked Ortiz away from the corner, holding him by the arm, and appropriately deducted a point (for the head-butt; not the kiss).

(5) While Cortez was circling the ring, signaling the deduction to each judge and still holding Ortiz by the arm, Victor reached out with his free hand and touched Mayweather’s left glove in another gesture of apology.

(6) Mayweather went to a neutral corner, and Cortez led Ortiz to the opposite side of the ring.

(7) Cortez motioned the fighters to ring center and then, inexplicably, turned away from the action, losing control of the moment.

(8) Ortiz moved to touch gloves again. Mayweather moved as though he was going to respond in kind and whacked Ortiz with a left hook (that neither Ortiz or Cortez saw coming) followed by a straight right hand that ended the fight.

Legal or illegal, it was a sucker punch.

After the fight, Mayweather was defiant. “S–t happens in boxing,” he declared. “Protect yourself at all times.”

He also got into an ugly shouting match with Larry Merchant, when the HBO analyst questioned him about the propriety of the knockout blow:

Mayweather: You’ll never give me a fair shake. You know that. So I’m gonna let you talk to Victor Ortiz. All right? I’m through. Put somebody else up here to give me an interview.

Merchant: What are you talking about?

Mayweather: You never give me a fair shake. HBO needs to fire you. You don’t know shit about boxing. You ain’t s–t.

Merchant: I wish I was fifty years younger. I’d kick your ass.

Given the Mayweather family history, one might say that Merchant has become a “father figure” to Floyd.

Meanwhile . . . How should the boxing community assess Mayweather’s sucker punch?

First, it should be noted that, as a general rule, Floyd conducts himself well in the ring. That was exemplified when chaos broke out during his 2006 fight against Zab Judah. While both trainers and Zab were throwing extra-curricular punches, Floyd stood calmly in a neutral corner.

Also, one can argue that, when Ortiz took the fight into the gutter with a flagrant foul, he was inviting an equally unsportsmanlike response.

And let’s be honest. If the reverse had happened; if Mayweather had deliberately head-butted Ortiz and Victor responded with a sucker-punch knockout, many people would be saying today that Floyd got what he deserved.

That said; Mayweather-Ortiz was another proverbial black eye for boxing. Bill Dwyre (the veteran boxing writer for the Los Angeles Times and a man not given to hyperbole) wrote afterward, “The boos rang into the night and may not stop for months to come. Mayweather won his mega-fight against Ortiz, and each ought to be ashamed of himself. Any resemblance between sportsmanship and boxing vanished on a night of mugging and dirty play. This was more freak show than sporting event.”

And Jim Lampley opined, “If you’re the best fighter in the world and you like to claim that you’re the best fighter in history, you shouldn’t have to do that.”

In a post-fight interview, Bernard Osuna of ESPN asked Mayweather, “What does this fight do for you?

“It adds to my legacy,” Mayweather responded.

It certainly does.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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