Dana White says ref 'destroyed' fight

Updated: September 21, 2011, 6:58 PM ET
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

DENVER -- No one is minus an opinion when it comes to the closing sequence of last weekend's boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Victor Ortiz.

That includes UFC president Dana White.

White, who tuned into the WBC welterweight title fight just moments after a UFC card in New Orleans concluded, heavily criticized referee Joe Cortez's handling of the fight, and maintained Mayweather did nothing wrong.

"The referee destroyed that fight," White said. "It's easy to hate Floyd Mayweather, but Floyd didn't do anything. He didn't act like a thug."

Mayweather appeared fully in control through the first three rounds. Near the end of the fourth, Ortiz blatantly committed an intentional foul, head-butting Mayweather near the fighter's corner.

Cortez, a long-time Las Vegas official, immediately halted the action and took a point away from Ortiz. As Cortez's back was turned, Ortiz made his way back to Mayweather to hug him, and even kissed him on the cheek.

The referee brought the two fighters together then turned his back again to indicate a restart to the timekeeper. Behind him, Mayweather threw a two-punch combination to Ortiz, who still had his hands down, ending the fight. No foul was called and it was ruled a win for Mayweather, keeping his perfect record intact.

White, who has publicly complained on multiple occasions about the quality of athletic commissions, accused Cortez of never having control of the fight.

"Floyd gets flagrantly head-butted in the face and the ref actually lets (Ortiz) walk up and grab him again after he does it," White said, referring to the hug. "(Cortez) never takes control. He never sends in a doctor to make sure Floyd is OK.

"It's the worst thing I've ever seen. There are only two big boxing fights a year. This was a multimillion-dollar fight that this one guy destroyed."

The UFC president refrained from taking shots at boxing, which he admitted could have been the easy thing to do. Although people would expect him to give the "boxing shot itself in the foot speech," White said he wants the fight to illustrate commissions' needs for better officiating.

The UFC is entering a critical position in November, when it will debut on network television for the first time after signing a seven-year deal with Fox. White says his greatest fear for the debut is something happening akin to what took place Saturday.

"The solution is athletic commissions have to start working harder," White said. "The last thing I want to happen on Fox, on my first big fight when everyone tunes in, is a referee blow this whole thing. I've been saying it for 10 years."

White was surprisingly adamant in his defense of Mayweather, an athlete he's challenged for various reasons in the past. According to the long-time promoter, Ortiz was head-butting as early as the first round in the fight.

"Honestly, there's nothing dirtier than being head-butted in boxing," White said. "Head butts can cut you. They can break your nose. You can get concussions from head butts.

"(The referee) is there for the safety of the fighters. Floyd was getting paid $40 million for the fight, he's on the brink of the biggest fights of his life and one of the biggest fights in boxing history (against Manny Pacquiao) and the ref is allowing Ortiz to head-butt him from the first round on. It's f------ embarrassing."

Brett Okamoto covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.

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