His name is Vasyl Lomachenko, he's from the Ukraine, he's 26 years old and is a two time Olympic gold medalist. As an amateur he was a reported 396-1. He's long, strong and he can fight inside and outside. His fundamentals and basics are good and he can hit with either hand. The plan his promoter Bob Arum had mapped out for him was to win a world title in his second pro bout after winning a regional title in his debut a little less than four months ago. It would've been an astounding achievement.
A world title after two fights would've launched Lomachenko into an overnight sensation and fighters already representing boxing's future such as Mikey Garcia, Andre Ward and Ganady Golovkin would've been joined by a new contemporary.
Enter Orlando Salido, who is 33 years old and has been fighting grown men as a pro since he was about 15 years old. Salido, a veteran of 55 professional bouts 41-12-2 (28) was the chosen title holder (who didn't make the featherweight limit and relinquished his title the day before the fight) was thought to be the sacrificial lamb and launch pad for Lomachenko's impending stardom. Only things didn't go as planned and boxing's next must see fighter has to regroup and learn from his twelve round crash course this past weekend.
As the fight unfolded, it was painfully obvious to all watching that the supposedly shrewd course Bob Arum had charted for Lomachenko was on a collision with a huge detour. For starters, Salido who obviously has been paying attention to how the boxing game operates, was onto their game and had a few tricks of his own up his sleeve. Add to the equation that Salido was nearly a 4 1/2 -1 underdog, he no doubt was insulted and was clearly on a mission to upend Lomachenko and company. At the weigh in the day before the bout Salido came in at 128 1/4, two and a quarter pounds over the featherweight limit. He had to pay Lomachenko a small percentage of his purse along with being forced to relinquish his WBO title. This was a gamble that he no doubt figured would pay off if he could beat Lomachenko. Orlando knows that titles don't mean much today and are really just a vehicle in which promoters and the powers in charge manipulate the sport of boxing and fighters. Salido knew a win over the next big thing in boxing would pay huge dividends down the road without the title. Lomachenko made the weight at 125 1/4 as expected. On fight night Salido scaled 147, 11 pounds more than the 136 that Lomachenko would enter the ring at. In other words Salido the welterweight was fully ready to manhandle and rough up the inexperienced lightweight that Lomachenko showed up being.
Right from the onset, Salido made the fight ugly, used his weight, stepped on Lomachenko's feet, hit him on the hips, punched low, roughed him up on the inside, even raked his gloves across Lomachenko's face. There was no question about who won the fight, it was a slow ugly fight that suited Salido's best interest. To his credit, Lomachenko's best round was the 12th, where he actually had Salido in some trouble. But it really was a rough introduction to the pros for Lomachenko, who lost a split decision (116-112, 115-113 and 115-113). Remember, Lomachenko's whole persona was based on his being the Golden Boy, completely unbeatable even at the top levels of the division. At 1-1 you have to wonder how the marketing for him will go now.
Lomachenko showed grit for a guy who's really still, in many ways, an amateur. However, he and his team were dumb to agree to fight after Salido weighed in that morning at 147. That had to make Salido a good 20 plus pounds bigger than any fighter Lomachenko ever fought. In addition to that, Vasyl was foolish to continue his amateur approach to how to fight a dirty fighter (in effect to say "he can fight dirty, but I'm above that.") There are a lot of sharks out there at 126-130 who will eat him up (Rigondeaux, Donaire, and Garcia would have a picnic with him). Now he should be moved back to safer waters in order to build up his record. Sure, they could probably get him another title shot, and winning a world title in his third bout would be a herculean effort, but he's surely not a given and very well could get beat again, and that would be a catastrophe.
What was also troubling is how Lomachenko didn't retaliate with an eye for an eye approach when it was obvious that Salido didn't respect him. Granted, referee Laurence Cole did a terrible job in dealing with Salido, but we'll never know whether he would have given Lomachenko the same leeway that he gave Salido, since he never tried to retaliate. That was on him, not Cole. The reality is Lomachenko's passivity represents a mindset regarding his personality and makeup more than it does his lack of experience. Then again when you're so conditioned to fighting for ribbons and trophies, Lomachenko was undone by the hardness and bravado of a solid pro like Salido.
And after the bout Lomachenko didn't seem particularly upset about having lost when he should've been beside himself. Again, that's a little troubling. Before the broadcast it was even talked about how Salido is always brought in as the "other guy." And how often it's a mistake to dismiss him that way. Salido was very smart to trade the title and pay a few dollars in order for him to game the system the other way. Having the extra weight played into his hands and he fully understood that his title didn't mean much and that a win over the future golden boy is all that anyone will remember, and he's right. He'll now be known for being the supposed cannon fodder that struck down a fighter who things were being set up for him to become an overnight star in boxing. Yes, it registered to him how Lomachenko was having things handed to him.
It was a calculated and gutsy gamble, and I give Lomachenko props for lasting the twelve rounds against a rough guy who was using all kinds of old pro tactics and tricks to get him out of there. But it turned out to be a mistake in that they picked on the wrong fighter who was tired of being the set-up guy.
Vasyl Lomachenko has tools to work with and it's not out of the question that if he takes the type of fights that he should be taking at this stage of his career, he might one day be one of boxing's brightest stars. However, for that to happen he has to ditch his father as his trainer and bring in a real one to work his corner. He's not an amateur anymore.
Also, Salido served notice on how fighters who are forced to fight Floyd Mayweather, and perhaps even Manny Pacquiao at some gimmick catchweight should handle their business. Like say maybe Saul Alvarez shouldn't have come in at the contracted 152 for Mayweather and came in at 155 and given up his title. Force Mayweather to fight him at his real weight and see if he takes the fight or backs out. Mayweather would have a hard time living that down and if he goes through with it and Alvarez beat him, it would've paid Saul back exponentially what he had to pay Floyd for not making weight. Remember how Mayweather paid Marquez after he came in two pounds over the contracted weight and then took the smaller Marquez apart the night they fought? That should've been lesson 101 on how to deal with the catch-weight hussle.
Yes, Arum and Lomachenko were outmaneuvered from the weigh-in to the final bell by team Salido. Arum and Team Lomachenko were playing marbles when they should've been playing chess.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com