Monday Morning Cornermen, Dec. 18-Saunders does America, Melian debuts, and more

The Gypsy Prince is Coming to Town — There is always room for another tough middleweight who can box and punch, and this weekend gave us one who will make a lot of noise in the near future. Billy Joe Saunders’ first trip across the Atlantic couldn’t have been more successful, beating a top contender in his hometown on an HBO main event and looking great in the process was exactly what the British contender needed to solidify his claim as a menace in a division currently brimming with talent.

Of course, no one can claim that the current WBO champion came out of nowhere, but the suspicions are always there for British fighters who never leave the comfortable confines of their country, where the money and the adulation is equal or bigger than what they can get anywhere else. But Saunders, a member of the “traveler” community that includes Tyson Fury (that’s him on the right), knows fully well that you can’t be neither a prophet nor a snake oil salesperson in your own town. He is definitely neither, but if he comes to fight and takes on any challenges in America in the future, we’ll buy what he sells, and his customer base will only grow. Personally, I’d like to see him against Daniel Jacobs in what could be the easiest fight out there for both of them to make, with Saunders making his US debut in New York for what could be a FOTY candidate once it’s over.

Maybe I am getting too excited or getting ahead of myself, but it will be great to have another contender with completely different motivations and skills entering the Canelo sweepstakes. Worst case scenario, we will find ourselves worshiping a false god or smothering ourselves in snake oil one more time, but if Saunders can keep his promise we’re in for a real treat in 2018.

Melian toughs it out against Santillan in “pro” debut

Please, don’t tell me that the toughest professional boxing debut was Conor McGregor’s. We’re trying to write something meaningful here. And now, with that caveat out of the way, we are ready to report that Argentina’s Alberto Melian, a two-time Olympian for his country and long considered one of its brightest promises, made his “professional” debut on Saturday, with a big win against a tough opponent and a bigger asterisk to adorn it forever.

Melian’s opponent was Diego Santillan, a former world title contender with a record that now stands at 23-3 with 15 KOs, in an eight-rounder. Not too shabby for a pro debut, right up in Lomachenko territory (“High Tech” made his debut in a ten-rounder against a fighter with a very similar record), and he made the most of it by stopping Santillan in five. But the real question lingers about Melian’s pro record, which now stands at 1-0 (1 KO) for and others, but which is listed as 5-2 (1 KO) by the Argentine Boxing Federation, which recognizes Melian’s run in the now defunct APB (AIBA’s failed attempt at a professional competition). Fans and press alike have been protesting the decision, claiming that it hinders Melian’s career from the very start and saddles him with an unnecessary burden that other fighters don’t have.

This will be especially dramatic in other cases such as fellow Olympian Yamil Peralta, who had a dismal 0-6 run at the APB. But the truth, as it is claimed by the local federation, is that these and other fighters were paid handsome amounts of money for pro-style bouts abroad, and they should respond to that by accepting their defeats and incorporating them into their records.

The debate and the explanations exceed the limits of this column, but for now, get ready to hear a lot about Melian, a crowd-pleaser with solid skills who owns victories over gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba and many other top talents in the currently loaded bantamweight division.

Salido Comes Back from the Dead

Granted: this title works much better in Spanish, as “Salido” means “The one who comes out,” literally. And “Siri” has been known for coming out of retirement and coming back from the brink of defeat or the possibility of a career-ending loss with countless resurgences. But after another war of attrition on Dec. 9 against a younger Miguel Román, the Mexican warrior felt he had enough and called it quits right there in the ring.

But after a thorough consideration that probably involved a serious discussion with his family, a fairly serious amount of soul-searching, and a definitely very serious look at Vasyl Lomachenko’s six-figure income and equally large TV ratings numbers for his one-sided beating of Guillermo Rigondeaux on the same Saturday night, Salido probably thought it would be better to aim for one more win next year with the dual purpose of retiring on a high note and holding his ticket for the Lomachenko sweepstakes for a few more months. The Ukrainian wonder has only lost once as an amateur and he avenged that loss twice, and we can only assume that he will be willing to pay a handsome amount of money to Salido for a chance to even the score with him, and maybe go 2-1 on his only other conqueror as well.

If it happens, the fight will surely go in a different direction than the first one, with Lomachenko riding the very top of the highest wave right now and vying for the top spot in the pound-for-pound list, but it will be great to see Salido finally leave the game with a final check that reflects his commitment and his sacrifice in the ring.

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