It's been less than a week since Orlando Salido won a 12-round split decision over Ukraine phenom Vasyl Lomachenko. And since then there's been an outcry by many fans, writers and promoter Bob Arum about how poorly referee Laurence Cole conducted his role as the enforcer of the Marquess of Queensberry rules throughout the bout.
And you know what, technically they're right.
I agree, Cole is a terrible referee and pretty much allowed Salido to maul the inexperienced Lomachenko repeatedly, but he didn't cost him the fight.
What's being missed is that it was a fight, and all combat sports participants at one time or another will try to get away with what they can outside of the rulebook in order to get an advantage over their opponent. Granted, it's not a street fight, but it's still combat. It's also one on one and there's nobody else inside the combat zone to help you out. Your trainer and manager are outside the ring and although it is their duty to look after their fighter and protect him inside and outside of the combat quarters, when all else fails, it's on the fighter.
As we saw, Orlando Salido took a lot of liberties with Vasyl Lomachenko when they met in the ring last weekend. But it's not as if people didn't know beforehand the kind of fighter Salido is, so his tactics shouldn't have come as a surprise to Arum or anyone working with Lomachenko. Also, it's not like Salido fought a disgracefully dirty fight; he just used rough tactics.
Salido hit Lomachenko low and on the hips, roughed him up on the inside and even stepped on his feet. All blatant fouls. And what did Lomachenko do? Virtually nothing and was hoping that the referee would save him. How'd that work out for him? Fighting, regardless whether it's in a ring or a cage is a very tough way to make a living. If you're really good at it, you get paid really well. However, it's still comes down to one man trying to overcome another and guys who do it for a living are pretty good at it and all of them look for some type of an advantage over the other. In the case of Orlando Salido, he didn't care, he was all about whatever it took to mess up and unnerve Lomachenko in order to throw him off his game and what he wanted to do - and unfortunately for Lomachenko, he took it because he thought he was above resorting to that type of conduct in the biggest fight of his brief career.
Here's a news flash...Salido pushed the envelope because he picked up two things quickly during the fight: 1) referee Laurence Cole wasn't going to call it closely or disqualify him because that would've really looked bad, giving the title to a kid in his second pro bout because he was a little roughed up. And 2): Salido also picked up on how Lomachenko wasn't going to resort to the same tactics in order to get him to back off or stop, and once that became clear Salido had no intention of suddenly halting what was working.
So for the better part of 12 rounds Lomachenko was roughed up and never retaliated in a way to force Salido to respect him. Did it ever dawn on him that he could've kneed Salido in the groin because of the two fighters he was the least likely to be disqualified? Had Lomachenko stepped on Salido's feet or deliberately hit him low, who would've thought less of him for doing that?
I'll answer that.
In fact most would've seen it as being warranted and provoked by Salido. Who knows, maybe Lomachenko could've really taken the fouling to an extreme, judging by the way referee Laurence Cole was working the fight, only we'll never know because he never attempted to make Salido pay for his intentional and deliberate rough housing. He just took it and looked to the referee and his corner to bail him out, something that never happened.
Bob Arum is crying to the media how Salido fought dirty and should've been penalized. Ask yourself this; what do you think Arum said to Lomachenko in the dressing room after the fight? Do you think he said, "Vasyl, you fought really smart and it's too bad that Salido had to resort to the street fighting tactics that he he did, we'll get a better referee next time?" If you think that's how it went you're a novice to many dimensions of the professional boxing world.
I'd be willing to bet that when there was no one around who Arum felt would carry back what he said, he tore into Lomachenko for taking it and asked what is wrong with him for allowing Salido to bully him the way he did. I bet Arum screamed, or, perhaps, should have yelled, 'Why didn't you hit the SOB in the groin when he did it to you? I can't jump in the ring and do it for you during the fight. This is professional boxing, do you think these guys who view you as being spoon fed are gonna roll over for you and hand you an easy win? Hell no, they wanna be the guy to upend you and make a name for themselves." I'll bet that's pretty close to the scolding that Lomachenko received from Arum shortly after the fight, or at the very least, bet that's what popped into Arum's head.
Call it a hunch.
Yes, referee Laurence Cole did a bad job, but he's not the reason why Lomachenko was bullied and thrown off his game during the fight. It's all on Lomachenko for being undone and awed by a fighter who didn't give a damn about his Olympic gold medals or projected superstar status. Hopefully it's not an indicator that he's a little passive in his mental approach and under no circumstances will he bend the rules to win a fight. A pro like Salido is going to try everything during a fight and when he finds something that's working, there's only one way he'll stop doing it - and that is if the fighter in front of him makes him stop. Vasyl Lomachenko never gave him a reason to stop.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com