By Francisco Salazar
LAS VEGAS - If Saturday night was indeed Orlando Salido's last fight, what a way for him to exit the spot. Not only does he leave on his own terms, he left the ring giving everything he had and still provide fans with a thrilling candidate for 'Fight of the Year.'
Salido was not able to overcome two knockdowns and a spirited effort from Miguel Roman, losing by knockout in the ninth round before a small, yet boisterous crowd at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Roman (58-12, 45 knockouts), who resides in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, not only defeated one of the great action fighters of this generation, but he could hang a feather that he forced Salido into retirement.
It was a compelling fight between two action fighters who come forward, which was the opposite of the Vasily Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux fight in New York City.
Salido (44-14-4, 31 KOs), who made his pro debut at the age of 15 in March of 1996, was not able to secure a fight with Lomachenko or any of the top fighters at 130 pounds. So he settled on Roman, a fighter who has been on the cusp of big fights, but has never defeated an elite fighter.
Until tonight. Salido may not be an elite fighter, but he is not the best victory on Roman's ledger.
Salido, who grew up in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico and currently resides in the Phoenix area, started out well early on in the fight and it looked as though Salido hurt Roman to end the opening round, courtesy of a right cross to the head.
Roman dug deep, as Salido attempted to walk him down in the center of the ring.
With about a minute left in round four, Roman dropped Salido with a counter right hand to the head. Salido was not visibly hurt as he stood up, fighting back until the bell sounded to end the round.
Salido seemed to overcome the knockdown to control the middle rounds. He was able to win exchanges and slow Roman down by digging vicious left hooks to the body.
Just when it looked as though Salido had momentum on his side, Roman dropped Salido with a there-punch combination in the eighth round, finishing with a left hand to the head. Salido did beat the count, but had to survive the barrage Roman threw at him to end the round.
The end came at 1:43 of the ninth round when Roman forced referee Robert Byrd to step in and save Salido from receiving further punishment.
"I had to overcome him," said Roman, who was trained by Rudy Hernandez. "It was an honor to fight a great champion like Orlando Salido tonight. My training camp went well."
Asked what was next, Roman wants to fight the best fighters at 126 or 130 pounds.
"I want to fight any champion. I felt like everyone was against me. If I would've lost, I would have retired. This is my moment."
Salido leaves the sport on better terms than when he entered it. The 37-year-old made decent money through boxing and, for the most part, is in decent health despite the numerous wars he had in his career.
Never say never, but Salido is done with boxing.
"That's it," said Salido, who is managed by Zanfer Promotions. "I'm done. This is my last fight. All the years fighting have taken their toll on me. I've beaten some great fighter, but I could not beat time. It finally took its toll on me."
Roman will likely stay at 130 pounds. There are some attractive bouts, including a possible showdown with WBC titleholder Miguel Berchelt.
Junior lightweight Tevin Farmer thought he did enough to defeat Kenichi Ogawa, but was surprised to hear Ogawa win by split decision in the co-main event Saturday night.
The southpaw Farmer (25-5-1, 5 KOs) was effective outboxing the taller Ogawa during the first half of the fight, initiating and winning exchanges.
Whether it was on the inside or from the outside, Farmer effectively landed to the head and body.
Sensing he was down in the fight, Ogawa (23-1, 17 KOs) pressed the action, especially in the final four rounds. His aggression would make him miss, which Farmer would counter with left hands to the head. Both has their moments in the final round.
One judge scored the bout 116-112 in favor of Farmer, but the other two judges scored the bout 116-112 and 115-113 for Ogawa.
After the decision was announced, Farmer looked distraught.
According to CompuBox numbers, Farmer landed 158 out of 525 total punches (30 percent), while Ogawa connected on 99 of 445 total punches (22.2 percent).
It will be interesting to see if Farmer and his handlers petition the IBF for an immediate rematch or if Ogawa will be allowed to make a voluntary defense.
Junior lightweight contender Francisco Vargas benefitted from a long rest, returning to the ring after an 11-month layoff to defeat Stephen Smith by unanimous decision.
Vargas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) did not do anything spectacular throughout the fight. Vargas simply outworked on the inside, beating Smith to the punch.
Smith (25-4, 15 KOs) had his moments during the middle rounds, landing right hands to the head and attempting to work the body. Unfortunately for Smith, he was not able to keep up with the same punch output as Vargas.
The end of the fight came about the midway point of round nine. An accidental clash of heads tore the top of Smith's left ear. The fight was stopped, where Vargas won a technical decision by scorecards of 88-83, 88-83, and 89-82.
Smith, from Liverpool, England, has now lost three of his last five bouts.
Vargas returns to the win column and it would be interesting to see if he chooses to want a rematch against Miguel Berchelt or Orlando Salido.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing