So yeah, Victor Ortiz took another beatdown on Saturday, this time at the hands of old foe Andre Berto. It was a brief, brutal and impressive affair with Ortiz being knocked down twice before referee Jack Reiss mercifully stopped the fight. Afterwards Reiss said that he had asked questions of Ortiz after the man rose from the second knockdown but Ortiz did not respond and so Reiss did what he had to do and ended the bout.
Needless to say, all you had to do was spend five minutes on Twitter afterwards to see the vitriol flying out of keypads. Ortiz was a joke, a quitter, and an all-around pussy. Or so said the angry throng. Perhaps these furious fans were right. Here’s the thing, though (get ready to hate me here): I think we should cut Ortiz some slack.
Look, we fight fans are a pesky and very hard to please bunch. When a boxer gets hurt or killed, we rightly get enraged at the overriding system of control that lets such tragedies happen. But when a contest is stopped perhaps a few seconds early or if a fighter appears to surrender, we go berserk. Again, we’re hard to please. Not to mention totally irrational.
The truth is there have been boxers who have taken a powder when they should be in the ring earning their keep. The Buster Douglas who lost the heavyweight crown to Evander Holyfield back in 1990 comes to mind. What’s more, some matches are indeed stopped too early. The first Razor Ruddock vs Mike Tyson fight, which happened just a few short months after Douglas vs Holyfield, comes to mind. Still, we need to ere on the side of caution, friends. Sometimes a pugilist just knows when he’s been beat. It’s that simple.
Also, a referee’s primary job is to look out for the safety of the combatants. And sometimes that means not letting fans get the complete satisfaction of a sufficiently brutal finish. I recall seeing UFC fights over the years and wondering why they were stopped so soon once a fighter was hurt. Now I don’t. I’m a boxing man through and through, but the UFC is right in this regard. Sometimes enough is simply enough. Besides, I’m guessing boxing involves more head trauma than mixed martial arts. I could be wrong, but that’s what my eyes tell me.
None of this is to say that I support quick stoppages, mind you. To the contrary. Boxing is a tough, but ultimately moral sport, where it’s the participant’s job to try to best his or her opponent. It’s just that sometimes we have to step back and say, “Yeah, that guy was licked.” Honestly, does anyone think Ortiz had a snowball’s chance in the Sahara after that second knockdown? Let’s be serious here. Berto was all over him.
So, did Ortiz “quit” as many say? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, he didn’t deserve to have a pizza box thrown at him. The whole rowdy vaudeville crowd shtick gets tired pretty fast. Has the person who chucked that pizza box ever taken a shot from the likes of Berto? Has he ever been knocked down in front of thousands of spectators, clobbered multiple times by a man hell-bent on rendering him unconscious? I highly doubt it. The sport of boxing generally isn’t the best arena to argue for empathy, but regardless, some kind of understanding should be in order.
Or at least some kind of restraint. No one said “no mas” last Saturday. No one said anything close. A guy who was getting beaten up didn’t respond to a referee’s direct questions in a heretofore thrilling battle in which that fighter had been giving it his all. No one has to be a fan of Ortiz or watch him fight again if they don’t want to. But then again no one’s going to be cheering for Magomed Abdusalamov ever again either. Why? Because Abdusalamov kept fighting during a bout in 2013 that should have been stopped and now he’s disabled for life.
Something to think about. — Sean Crose