By Kieran Mulvaney
Photo: Will Hart
There has, over the last several weeks and months, been much touting of Vasyl Lomachenko as the future of boxing, and he may yet prove to be; but on Saturday night in San Antonio, the much-decorated amateur found that experience in the professional ranks is not something to be taken lightly, as he dropped a split decision to Orlando Salido in the co-main event on World Championship Boxing.
Of course, Salido (41-12-2, 28 KOs) is not new to the role of spoiler: his two stoppage victories over Juan Manuel Lopez in 2011 and 2012 effectively ended the Puerto Rican’s career as a top-flight fighter. And there were plenty who wondered whether, no matter how skilled he might be, Lomachenko (1-1, 1 KO) was biting off more than he could chew by taking on such an experienced champion in just his second professional fight.
The first round gave little indication either way, as the two men looked at each other, Salido circling away as Lomachenko feinted and stalked; but over the next several frames, the Mexican veteran began to give his young challenger a lesson in the realities of professional prizefighting, as he walked him down and worked him hard with looping punches to the ribcage and kidneys – and, on more than a few occasions, parts of the anatomy where legal blows are not supposed to land, but for which he went repeatedly unpunished by referee Laurence Cole.
Lomachenko began to find his groove in the fifth, firing off two-and-three-punch combinations and pivoting away as Salido came forward, but those punches had little effect on an opponent who failed to make weight and on fight night unofficially weighed 147 pounds - 11 more than Lomachenko.
Yet every time Lomachenko seemed to be building a head of steam, Salido would come back, swarming him, throwing punch after punch, looking to land everywhere he could. After ten, it began to seem that the Ukrainian challenger had let his chance slip away, but he came out for the eleventh with a new sense of purpose, rattling Salido with combinations and then, finally, in the twelfth, hurting him badly with a right hand to the head and one to the body. With more than a minute remaining, Salido was in desperate trouble, but he clung to Lomachenko for dear life, forcing the two-time Olympic gold medalist to rip his hands free and resume his assault.
Salido survived, but only just. Lomachenko’s charge was too little, too late, as Salido won a split decision by scores of 113-115, 115-113 and 116-112.
Lomachenko was philosophical in defeat.
“I did my best. It didn’t work out. I’ve got to go home and review the tape,” he said.
“He’s very smart, he has good movement,” said Salido of his fallen foe. “I knew I had to keep throwing punches. I tried to land all the punches I could. In my opinion, my experience was the difference.”
By Kieran Mulvaey
Photo Credit: Will Hart (Click image for full slideshow)
There have been times when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. gives the impression that he regards weight limits as not so much fixed and mandatory as approximate and even aspirational – and on no occasion was this more evident than his first meeting with Brian Vera, for which the contracted limit had to be changed to accommodate Chavez’s waistline. (Chavez, of course, has that kind of pull because he is the Son of the Legend, whereas Vera is merely Mr. and Mrs. Vera’s baby boy.)
But the fallout from that debacle provided him with plenty of motivation to do better this time – not in the form of the opprobrium directed his way by fans and media, but in a $250,000 portion that he would be obliged to forfeit if he missed weight again (which would make Mr. and Mrs. Vera’s baby boy a much richer man).
And when Chavez stepped on the scales outside the Alamodome on a sunny Friday afternoon, it was immediately clear that this time around, he means business. He weighed in the same as his opponent – 167.5 lbs., one half-pound inside the super-middleweight limit – and behind him, one of his team waved an oversize check, made out to Vera, for $250,000 but emblazoned with the word ‘Void.’
One of the boxers on Saturday’s HBO World Championship Boxing telecast did miss weight, however: Orlando Salido, who forfeited his featherweight title when he tipped the scales at 128.25 lbs., two and a quarter pounds heavy. His challenger, Vasyl Lomachenko, was fully three pounds lighter. As a result, Lomachenko – who pocketed an extra $15,000 from the comparatively corpulent Salido – remains on course to make history and become a world champion in only his second professional fight; but even if he wins, Salido will not exit the ring with the belt wrapped around his waist.
HBO Boxing's Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Orlando Salido as he prepares for his undercard bout against Vasyl Lomachenko, Saturday at 9:45pm ET/PT:
by Kieran Mulvaney
The crowd booed, as it did the last time Timothy Bradley won a decision in Las Vegas. But on this occasion, unlike when Bradley was awarded a hugely disputed win over Manny Pacquiao last June, the catcalls were not sentinels of controversy. The crowd was there to support Juan Manuel Marquez, had cheered every punch of his that landed and even those that missed; many – perhaps most – of those supporters doubtless genuinely believed he had won. But although this was a close contest, the right man prevailed, as Bradley remained undefeated and retained his welterweight belt on a split decision.
It had been a bout that had simmered without ever truly exploding, but was no less commendable for that. This was twelve rounds of boxing of the highest quality, two experienced and skilled combatants looking to out-think, outsmart and out-punch each other in a contest of shifting momentum.
by Nat Gottlieb
The undercard for the Bradley-Marquez showdown is highlighted by a pair of intriguing featherweight bouts, including the return of former champion, Orlando Salido, making his return after losing his title to unbeaten Mikey Garcia. Equally interesting is the much-anticipated professional debut of two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, one of the greatest amateur fighters of all time. The opening bout on the card will feature a light heavyweight fight between unbeaten contender Seanie Monaghan, a former bricklayer who turned professional just three years ago, and once-beaten Anthony Caputo-Smith.
Orlando Cruz vs. Orlando Salido:
The Mexican Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs), a two-time champion who was the first boxer to defeat Juan Manuel Lopez, is an all-out brawler with a super-aggressive style. His opponent, Puerto Rican Orlando Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KOs), doesn't have the résumé of Salido, but stylistically will present problems for the former champion. Cruz is a southpaw with very good boxing skills who moves well in the ring. As such, he is not the ideal matchup for Salido, who prefers opponents to stand right in front of him and wage war. Salido has an enormous edge in big-fight experience over Cruz, having been in nine title bouts. The Mexican's only losses in the last nine years have been to the top-tier boxers Garcia, Juan Manuel Marquez, Cristobal Cruz, and the unbeaten Cuban sensation, Yuriorkis Gamboa.
The task facing Salido is to cut off the ring against the fleet-footed Cruz, work the Puerto Rican's body, slow those legs down, and then force him into a slugfest. In press conferences, Salido has accused Cruz of being a "runner," but the Puerto Rican says he is not going to get on his bicycle. "When I need to fight, I am going to fight," Cruz says. "When I need to box, I am going to box. I am going to be the smartest guy in the ring."
The 32-year-old Salido knows the stakes are high for him. A second straight defeat would make it hard for him to get another title fight anytime soon. He also is hoping for a rematch against Garcia, who recently moved up to junior lightweight.
Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jose Luis Ramirez
The 25-year-old Lomachenko is taking on an unusual assignment for his pro debut. Instead of testing the pro waters with a few easy fights at four or six rounds, he will be jumping right into a 10-rounder against a featherweight who is knocking on the door of the top 10 ranks, Jose Luis Ramirez (25-3, 15 KOs). Ramirez, who traveled to the Philippines in his last fight to take on hometown hero, Rey Bautista, handed the Filipino only his third loss in 36 fights.
Lomachenko has generated an enormous amount of buzz, and justifiably so. The Ukrainian won an Olympic gold medal in both the 2008 Games in Beijing and again in London in 2012. His amateur record was an unbelievable 396-1. His only loss was to Albert Selimov in the 2007 World Championships, a defeat he avenged twice. Like several recent amateur legends who turned pro, the 25-year-old Lomachenko asked his promoter, Top Rank, to fast-track him to a championship fight. If he beats Ramirez, there's a strong possibility Lomachenko will challenge the winner of the Salido-Cruz title fight.
Seanie Monaghan vs. Anthony Caputo-Smith
In the light heavyweight bout, the 32-year-old Monaghan is taking on Caputo-Smith, who has a 14-1 record, but is something of a journeyman. Caputo-Smith's loss was to another unheralded fighter who had six defeats on his record. Monaghan fights out of Long Beach, N.Y., and is known to attract a vocal Irish-American crowd. A win over Caputo-Smith would bring the fighter and his supporters closer to a possible title fight.
by Eric Raskin
It is nearly impossible to talk about either Juan Manuel Marquez or Tim Bradley without talking about Manny Pacquiao. After Oct. 12, it might also be nearly impossible to talk about Marquez without talking about Bradley, or to talk about Bradley without talking about Marquez.
Pacquiao is the common thread who elevated the names of both Marquez and Bradley through his pay-per-view bouts with them, and part of what has drawn Marquez and Bradley together for their PPV-headlining showdown is their shared status as the only men to defeat Pacquiao in the last eight years. However, their victories over the Filipino icon couldn’t be more dissimilar. In December 2012, Marquez flipped the switch on Pacquiao’s senses with a single counter right hand, scoring a one-punch knockout that will be replayed for decades, perhaps centuries, to come. Six months earlier, Bradley was awarded one of the most controversial decisions in pugilistic history, a split nod over Pacquiao that, to most observers, wasn’t just debatable; it was inexplicable.
The 40-year-old Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs) and 30-year-old Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs, 1 No-Contest) have arrived at this destination via decidedly different angles, but here they are, both looking to build on wins over Pacquiao with the most meaningful bout they can take that doesn’t involve Pac-Man. Marquez vs. Bradley is loaded with questions, controversies, and subplots. And if their most recent performances are any indication, the action might just live up to the intrigue.