Where was Joe Cortez during this Mayweather/Hatton fight?
Boxing has never been pretty. The blood turns a lot of people off, but die-hard fans (required, with such a dearth of talent in most divisions) know that boxing’s violence is tempered with fairness and grace. At least it’s supposed to be.
If you’re one of the 30 people in America who still gets excited about boxing, you know that with a few exceptions the sport offers little these days in the way of fairness or grace. Yet, Floyd Mayweather’s September 17 win over Victor Ortiz brought boxing to a new low.
Mayweather may have won the WBC welterweight title, but in taking the belt from Ortiz in Las Vegas, he didn’t do much more than further tarnish his stellar but tainted career. The 34-year-old remains undefeated– due as much perhaps to cowardice as ability. Rather than use his legendary speed and footwork to get the better of a lesser opponent, Mayweather fought dirty, a tactic he has employed often since emerging from retirement.
But this time it seems his dirtiness was sanctioned from on high.
Last May’s fight against Shane Mosley was a poor substitute for what Mayweather dangled in front of the boxing world for years: a match-up against the dervish Manny Pacquiao. Itself a decade in the making, the Mayweather/Mosley fight was hyped by Tim Smith in the New York Daily News as “the most highly anticipated welterweight matchup since Sugar Ray Leonard stopped Thomas Hearns in the 14th round in 1981.”
Instead, it showcased one boxer at the end of his career and one emerging from retirement a coward. In the eighth round, after the ref broke them up, Mayweather shot a cheap jab as Mosley was trying to touch gloves. It was legal, but it was dirty, and it seems everyone but Victor Ortiz was paying attention.
The Nevada Athletic Commission knew what it was doing when it picked Joe Cortez to referee Mayweather/Ortiz. For years, the sports media has criticized Cortez for favoring Mayweather (see Ricky Hatton), for insinuating himself into a bout to the detriment of his officiating (see Humberto Soto), and for making increasingly disturbing calls.
Referee Kenny Bayless, known for his fairness and unobtrusive manner, would make sense for any Mayweather fight. But knowing how mismatched the bout was going to be, the Commission members undoubtedly had to do what they could to ensure an exciting event, and they couldn’t risk Bayless, who, despite Mayweather’s ugliness, successfully officiated the Mayweather/Mosley fight to 12 rounds.
It didn’t take long for Cortez to deliver. In the fourth round, after penalizing Ortiz for attempting to head-butt Mayweather, a rare move for referees these days, Cortez didn’t just fail to separate the fighters and restart the fight cleanly, he allowed his attention to be drawn outside the ring. A replay shows Cortez looking away while Ortiz lowered his gloves and attempted to restart the fight on his own by hugging Mayweather and backing away.
Mayweather chose that moment to throw a left to Ortiz’s face, and when Ortiz, with gloves still down, looked to a still-inattentive Cortez, Mayweather threw the knockout punch: a quick right to the chin. Just like with Mosley, the hit was legal, but it was dirty– and most importantly for the Athletic Commission, it was exciting.
The Nevada Athletic Commission catered to Mayweather when it chose Joe Cortez and put Ortiz, who undoubtedly should have been more cautious, at great risk. Employing a questionable referee for a match with a boxer who is known to fight dirty against weaker opponents was an untenable choice, and it has sunk boxing, which needs all the help it can get, to a new low.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.