Dithering referee allows ruthless Mayweather a free knockout shot

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Floyd Mayweather exposed his seldom seen ruthless side in Las Vegas on Saturday night with a chilling, disturbing and deeply controversial clean knockout of Victor Ortiz to regain the World Boxing Council welterweight title.

Mayweather (right) had dominated the three completed rounds and was easily swiping away Ortiz's lunges, and at the same time honing a counter with ominous precision in the fourth, before the first of two incidents led to the fight's dramatic endgame.

Ortiz deliberately butted Mayweather on the mouth, splitting his lip and forcing the veteran referee, Joe Cortez, to stop the action and deduct a point. Ortiz apologised, the pair embraced and words were exchanged as both boxers stood either side of Cortez with their gloves at their waists.

Cortez, who will be 68 next month, appeared to shout "box on" and then a fraction of a second later realised that he had not instructed the timekeeper to start the clock again. Cortez took his eyes off the two boxers, who were having one final hug, and was clearly searching out somebody at ringside when the boxers separated.

At this point, with Cortez looking a bit flustered as he looked out of the ring and away from the boxers, Mayweather raised his gloves and connected with a short left hook to Ortiz's exposed jaw. Ortiz's legs sagged, his hands remained down and he was turning to look at the referee when Mayweather unleashed a sickening right hand that dropped him for the full count.

"Boxing is a dirty business," admitted Mayweather. "He bust my lip with his head and I took him out. It says in the rules of boxing that a fighter must defend himself at all times. My mouth was split open and this is the hurt business. I did what I had to do."

Cortez defended Mayweather's decision to take the two free shots and seemed oblivious to the chaos his indecisive handling had caused. "A fighter has to defend himself at all times," Cortez managed to say.

Amazingly, when the dust had settled, there were no complaints from Ortiz's team about this dubious and unedifying knockout. No doubt the purse, thought to be in the region of $2.5m (£1.6m), which is 200 per cent more than he received for winning the title, eased Ortiz's pain. Mayweather, meanwhile, will now seriously consider a quick fight and is unlikely just to vanish from the scene, which he has been doing after fights since 2007.

On the same night, at the fabulous King's Hall in Belfast, the current British heavyweight champion Tyson Fury survived a frightening third round when he took a wild right hand from the American Nicolai Firtha. Fury was cute enough to hold, wiggling out of danger while his head cleared and he recovered. By round five Firtha's face was smeared with blood, ending a terrific fight.