By David P. Greisman
Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas - It wasn’t merely a case of too much, too soon for Vasyl Lomachenko, who in just his eighth pro fight was challenging experienced featherweight titleholder Orlando Salido.
That mattered. But so did Salido’s tremendous size advantage brought on by his coming in overweight and rehydrating by nearly 20 pounds for fight night. And so did Salido’s tactics, which included a dedicated body attack that often veered low. Referee Laurence Cole, often derided for his regularly poor performances as the third man in the ring, allowed Salido to get away with plenty.
Lomachenko didn’t have enough answers to the problems Salido was posing. Though he sought to battle back, it was Salido who left with the split decision victory, only the second loss Lomachenko has suffered in hundreds of fights dating back to his acclaimed amateur career.
Judge Jack Reiss had Salido winning 116-112, or eight rounds to four. Oren Shellenberger saw it 115-113 for Salido, or seven rounds to five. Levi Martinez was the sole voice giving Lomachenko the edge, at 115-113.
The fight started off slow, which proved to be to Salido’s advantage. A notoriously slow starter who picks up steam as the fight goes along, he dedicated a majority of his attack to Lomachenko’s body, digging to the ribs and stomach, and even down to the hips and legs.
Not only was Lomachenko allowing Salido to warm up, but he wasn’t winning either. And even the rounds he won early were close and were not emphatic.
After five rounds, Shellenberger had Salido ahead, four rounds to one; Reiss head Salido ahead, three rounds to two; and Martinez had Lomachenko ahead, three rounds to two.
Lomachenko wasn’t throwing as much as Salido. Salido’s body (and hip and leg) work may well have taken the steam off Lomachenko’s shots even further. And Salido, who’d weighed in at 128.25 pounds — more than two pounds overweight, dropping his world title on the scales — came into the ring on fight night at an unofficial weight of 147 pounds. Lomachenko had gone from 125.25 pounds up to 136.
Lomachenko wasn’t able to deter or hurt Salido — not until the final round.
Lomachenko hurt Salido at the halfway point of the 12th, and Salido was suddenly holding on to Lomachenko’s arms. Salido said afterward that he got hit with a body shot and almost got stopped due to it, according to Lee Samuels, a spokesman for promoter Top Rank.
Lomachenko’s late surge — four of the final six rounds on Shellenberger’s and Martinez’s cards, two of the final six rounds on Reiss’s card — wasn’t enough to win.
“I did my best. It didn’t work out,” said Lomachenko afterward. “I thought I won, but now I’m going to go home and review the tape of the fight.”
Samuels said Lomachenko, asked about the low blows, didn’t complain.
“It’s boxing,” he reported Lomachenko as saying.
As for Salido, he gave Lomachenko credit afterward.
“He’s very smart. He has good movement,” Salido was quoted as saying. “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.”
It also was the activity. CompuBox credited Salido with being 142 of 645 on the night, including 137 of 546 in power punches. Lomachenko was more accurate but less active, going 164 of 441 in total, and 105 of 239 with power punches.
Salido was also credited with landing about 100 shots to Lomachenko’s body (it’s uncertain whether that number includes the low blows).
Salido has had quite a lengthy career for someone who is just 33 years old. The man from Sonora, Mexico, turned pro at 15 years old in 1996, lost his first fight, and suffered many defeats early in his career before working his way up to an unsuccessful challenge for Juan Manuel Marquez’s featherweight titles in 2004.
He has been in and out of the title picture ever since, picking up a world title from Juan Manuel Lopez in 2011, dropping it to Mikey Garcia in early 2013, and then regaining the vacant belt late last year with a win over Orlando Cruz.
Salido improves to 41-12-2 with 28 knockouts and 1 no contest (a win over Robert Guerrero in 2006 that was overturned when Salido tested positive for steroids).
He’ll clearly need to move up in weight after more than a decade at 126.
Lomachenko, a 26-year-old from Ukraine, won Olympic gold in 2008 as a featherweight and once again in 2012 as a lightweight, to go along with a silver in the 2007 world championships and gold medals in the 2009 and 2011 world championships.
He had six pro World Series of Boxing fights before appearing on the undercard to last year’s Juan Manuel Marquez-Timothy Bradley pay-per-view, on which he scored a fourth-round knockout of Jose Ramirez.
Lomachenko is now 7-1 with 1 knockout.
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]