Floyd Mayweather Jr. is no stranger when it comes to controversy outside the boxing ring. But he generated plenty of it inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
Mayweather knocked out Victor Ortiz late in the fourth round of their WBC welterweight title fight when Ortiz appeared to not be ready to continue the fight after he was assessed a one-point deduction from referee Joe Cortez for deliberately head-butting Mayweather.
As Cortez restarted the bout, Mayweather pounced on Ortiz, who was not looking at him, and hit him with a huge left hook to the head followed by a big right hand that sent a stunned Ortiz to the canvas.
Cortez began his count, and Ortiz was clearly out of it. The end came at 2 minutes, 59 seconds, and the announced crowd of 14,687 was not happy with the way the fight ended, booing loudly as ring announcer Michael Buffer read the decision.
The 34-year-old Mayweather (42-0, 26 knockouts) was not remorseful in the way he achieved victory.
"In the ring, you protect yourself at all times," Mayweather said. "After he apologized, we touched, and we were back fighting. And that’s when I threw my punches.
"He did something dirty. His corner said I did something dirty. But I won the fight."
The 24-year-old Ortiz (29-3-2) saw things differently.
"I took the break by the ref, and I obeyed as I was told," he said. "Then — boom — he blindsided me.
"I’m not a dirty fighter, and I apologize to Floyd for the shot. There was a miscommunication with the ref. But it’s a learning experience."
Cortez said after the fight that he clearly had indicated that time was back in and had pointed to the timekeeper. If Ortiz was not ready to resume fighting, Cortez couldn’t help it.
"Time was in," said Cortez, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this summer. "The fighter needs to keep his guard up. Mayweather did nothing wrong."
Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer said Cortez followed the proper protocol in first stopping the bout and then resuming it.
"He followed the rules correctly," Kizer said. "Time in means time in. He pointed to the timekeeper, and Floyd’s punches came a second after the bout resumed.
"I think Ortiz felt bad, as he should, for what he did with the head butt, and he may have still been thinking about that. He told our doctor in the dressing room he had no complaints at all."
Mayweather, a 5-1 betting favorite at the first bell and whose purse was $25 million, was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the controversial knockout.
Mayweather started fast and established his jab right away, setting the tone for the fight.
Ortiz, who made $2 million Saturday, seemed to be a bit slow, and he was susceptible to being counterpunched by Mayweather. Time after time, he got tagged by Mayweather, and he had only a couple of brief moments where he had Mayweather on the ropes and was able to unleash punches.
Mayweather, one of the greatest defensive fighters of his generation, never blinked. He shook his head at Ortiz a couple of times after weathering the barrages.
Perhaps Ortiz was becoming frustrated when he decided to deliberately head butt Mayweather after backing him up in the corner. It was a clear foul, and Cortez was correct in temporarily stopping the action to deduct a point from Ortiz.
What happened next will be debated for years. Did Mayweather jump the gun? Or did Ortiz fall asleep at the switch and be distracted to where it cost him his title?
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.