'Star Power': Five Things We Learned
LAS VEGAS -- Here are five things we learned from Saturday's "Star Power" boxing card featuring the Victor Ortiz-Floyd Mayweather Jr. welterweight title fight:
1. Just when you think you've seen it all ... Boxing's capacity to surprise never fails to, er, surprise. Hands up who predicted that ending? Be it Fan Man, an ear bite, a riot or a headbutt-and-kiss-followed-by-a-punch-off-the-break scenario, boxing has a seemingly endless supply of unpredictable endings that generate as much chatter and controversy as the fights themselves. Saturday night was no exception, with a dominant performance by a future first-ballot Hall of Famer overshadowed by a controversial ending.
2. Nobody, but nobody, manages to be at the center of controversy quite like Floyd Mayweather. Inside the ring or outside of it, Mayweather is a lightning rod and a dividing force. He has his detractors and his defenders, be it, for example, those who believe he is ducking Manny Pacquiao or those who think his stance on that potential fight is entirely justifiable. It was the same again on Saturday night, with Mayweather's victory greeted by a cascade of angry boos from the nearly 15,000 in the crowd and a difference of opinion ringside. There were those who thought Mayweather threw and landed a cheap shot, that even if what he did was within the letter of the law, it was a clear violation of the spirit of the sport. Conversely, there were plenty who argued that Ortiz was the one at fault -- that he shouldn't have launched a head-butt in the first place and he should never have allowed himself to be in a position to be hit clean with his hands down. Whichever side of the fence you come down on, once again, people are talking and arguing about Floyd Mayweather.
3. Victor Ortiz wasn't ready for prime time. Or at the very least, he wasn't ready for Floyd Mayweather. The debate over the ending overshadows the fact that Ortiz didn't threaten or trouble Mayweather for even a second of the four rounds that took place. Mayweather was masterful, and the fight unfolded largely according to script: The young Ortiz coming forward, and Mayweather tattooing him at will with his straight right hand. Ortiz showed frustration early, and ringside reporters caught him using his head in the corner on two separate occasions before the flagrantly obvious leaping butt that precipitated the ending. And say what you will about the punches that ended the fight, the fundamental rule of boxing -- the last thing a referee tells fighters in his final instructions -- is "protect yourself at all times." Ortiz lost his concentration, dropped his guard and, seemingly more intent on touching gloves or hugging Mayweather following his point deduction, forgot that final injunction. That is something that Mayweather would never have done. It's something Ortiz will probably never again do, either; like he said, it was a lesson learned -- but it was a lesson learned painfully.
4. Erik Morales isn't ready for the retirement home. Morales continues to amaze. At 35 years old, in the 59th fight of an extraordinary and hard-fought career, he took apart and bloodied a man 14 years his junior. There were times when Morales looked his age (and then plenty of years more on top of that), but slowly he used his experience to time the novice. And as the fight wore on, Morales' right hand, in particular, began landing with ease over Cano's low left. The result: Cano's face became a swollen mess, and his left eye a bloody slit. By the ninth round, Cano could barely see his veteran foe, and his corner's decision to stop the fight was a merciful and wise one.
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The sense remains, and strongly so, that the elite of the division -- the Amir Khans and Tim Bradleys of the world -- would be too much for this version of Morales, by some distance. But at this point, nobody who bets against Morales would feel at all confident about not losing their money.
5. There's nothing like seeing a fight live and in person. For the folks at Golden Boy Promotions, and no doubt also for HBO, having a split-site card was something of a logistical nightmare. But in the arena, it actually made for an interesting and atmospheric change of pace, and the MGM Grand Garden Arena was packed during the co-main event. That said, the atmosphere was noticeably subdued even as it appeared in the early rounds that Alfonso Gomez might be on his way to pulling off the upset. Had the fight been taking place in the arena, the roars would surely have been much louder. Instead, everyone behaved more like they might have been in a movie theater. The loudest responses were for the cutaways to the dressing rooms and the final instructions being delivered to Mayweather and Ortiz. It was a cool atmosphere, and enjoyable, and well worth doing. But there is no substitute for the real thing.
Kieran Mulvaney covers boxing for ESPN.com and Reuters.
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