Two careers come to an end
In front of a sparse crowd at the Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas, the career of rugged warhorse Orlando Salido came to a punishing end. After getting stopped by Miguel Roman in nine rounds, in your typically entertaining Salido scrap, he made the declaration that he would be retiring from the boxing.
No, “Siri” wasn’t always perfect (he has missed weight, bent the rules in his favor, etc.) but overall it can be said that he was a noble warrior of the sport and one who will be missed.
Turning professional at age 15 (yes, you read the correctly. Hey, they do things differently in Mexico), he took the hard road from being an over-matched teenager to a tough journeyman and then finally a world-class fighter, who honed his skills to a point in which he evolved into one of the great action fighters of this past generation.
His record now ends at 44-14-4 (31), which is indicative of just how hardscrabble a career this really was. But it doesn’t tell the whole story of just what a quality boxer he became in the final third of his career, in which he was seemingly in one “Fight of the Year” candidate after another, against Juan Manuel Lopez, Weng Haya, Terdsak Jandaeng, Rocky Martinez and Francisco Vargas, while winning major world titles at featherweight and super featherweight.
On Saturday night, he and his fellow Mexican got right to work in front of a sparse yet spirited audience and, for the most part, it looked like your typical Salido fight, as he threw a myriad of punches and worked the body, while also fighting off the ropes against the sturdy Roman, who didn’t really budge.
But it was clear from ringside that Salido – who, in recent years, had shown signs of wear-and-tear – simply didn’t have the legs or the foundation and most of his punches lacked their trademark snap and thump. Veteran cornerman Rudy Hernandez, who was tasked with the assignment of training Roman for this fight, remarked to this writer on Thursday at the final presser, “Salido looks old and tired.”
While Salido got the Memo (Heredia) in preparation for this bout, Father Time is nearly impossible to outrun, especially with the grinding, physical style he employed. This isn’t Floyd Mayweather Jr. at 37 or Bernard Hopkins at 47. And while he looked fit at the weigh-in, at a chiseled 131 pounds, it was akin to a classic old car with a new coat of paint that had 300,000 miles on the odometer.
In the fourth round, Salido was sent to the canvas by a three-punch combination. Then, in the eighth inning, he was knocked down again and, at that point, it looked like the fight would end. But in true Salido fashion, he rallied to shake Roman up in the final seconds of the round. Alas, it was his last stand, however, as he succumbed to Roman’s consistent attack in the ninth.
For Salido – much like Cotto – it doesn’t so much matter that his career ended with a loss but that for one last night he was involved in another memorable battle.
Meanwhile at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, in New York City, a fight that got much more attention was the showdown between WBO 130-pound titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, an unprecedented match-up of two-time Olympic gold medalists. This event was broadcast on ESPN and played to strong ratings, while many pundits believed (or hoped) that this would be boxing at its highest level.
Instead it was a tactical and physical mismatch from the very onset, as the smaller Cuban simply couldn’t deal with the long jab and quick hands of Lomachenko, who is boxing’s version of Mikhail Baryshnikov, with the ballet he does inside the square circle. For Rigondeaux, it had to be a bit of a shock to be so technically outclassed, the way many of his past opponents were.
While the Ukrainian peppered Rigondeaux, at times, Lomachenko proved to be an elusive target for the normally sharp-shooting Cuban. Not only was he facing an uphill battle, in moving up two weight classes, but he was facing someone of superior boxing acumen What was thought to be a tactical battle instead became a one-sided clinic, administered by Lomachenko.
The biggest difference between Lomachenko and Rigondeaux is, while they are both among the all-time best amateurs, only one has truly evolved his style to become a crowd-pleasing professional, who is now becoming a bona fide attraction. While both are effective and efficient inside the ring, “Hi-Tech” is also entertaining.
And perhaps Rigondeaux, not wanting to be the Washington Generals to Lomachenko’s Harlem Globetrotters, abruptly pulled himself out of the fight, after the sixth round, claiming an injured hand.
Yeah, this wasn’t exactly Eddie Futch not allowing Joe Frazier out for the 15th round in the “Thrilla in Manila” against Muhammad Ali.
Rigondeaux, who wasn’t so much getting physically bludgeoned, simply didn’t want to be further embarrassed in the second half of the fight. For him, it started bad and was only going to get worse. (Now I’m not a doctor but don’t you have to actually hit something to break a hand?)
Listen, fighters can make the decision on when to pull the plug on themselves. After all, this is a dangerous profession and their brain cells are on the line. Of course, you could argue that every professional prizefighter understands the occupational hazards that exist in this sport. Regardless, many times when a boxer – or his corner – decides to call it a day, it’s absolutely justified. In this particular instance, you didn’t have a fighter who was getting beaten to a pulp and there was no real evidence of injury provided.
(It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t as tough as the guy who tweets for him.)
Not all instances of quitting (for lack of a better word) are the same. Rigondeaux took the path of least resistance, as it became clear that Lomachenko was the superior technician. Some have illogically tried to label this as a “business decision,” as if there is any real economic future with Rigondeaux and the ill-fated RocNation Sports outfit. Actually, for most fans, this result came as a relief as Rigondeaux didn’t just throw in the towel on this fight; he threw out whatever relevance he had.
No, this won’t necessarily be the end of Rigondeaux’s career. There will be other fights and maybe even titles at lower weight classes to be won. But he now wears boxing’s version of the Scarlet Letter.
In some ways, his career ended on this night too.
Only Rigondeaux won’t be remembered as fondly as Salido.
Never seen an ear as badly torn as Stephen Smith’s, geez…Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz is developing nicely as a fighter…While I thought Tevin Farmer did enough to beat Kenichi Ogawa, many at the venue thought the Japanese fighter edged it. But it’s time that aggression is rewarded in boxing, as opposed to just giving rounds to the fighter who constantly moves backward and gets credit for boxing, while not doing all that much damage himself…Shakur Stevenson looked good on Saturday night…Not sure why they didn’t configure the Mandalay Bay Events Center for half the arena this past weekend. They actually did this for Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera I in 2000; believe it or not…Carson Wentz out for the season? Say it ain’t so!…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.