When Vasyl Lomachenko walked into the ring for his second professional fight against Orlando Salido in the San Antonio Alamodome on March 1st, 2014, he did so riding a resplendent wave of hype. So much hype it’s hard to believe Flava Flav and Jerome Benton didn’t accompany him on his ring walk.
While some were cautious about Lomachenko taking on a rough and tumble type like Salido, most were certain his ambition was not biting the nails of success, and he would handle the cagey vet without major trouble. After all, Salido’s record was a decidedly unsexy 41-12-2 on fight night. Sure, there were a number of tough luck losses sprinkled in, but they were still losses.
Lomachenko was a storied amateur with remarkable athleticism, preternatural poise, and pretty much every boxing skill you could ask for. Basically, he was the guy he is now.
An absolute freak of nature.
While Salido had seen his fortunes change in recent years, twice winning belts at featherweight (IBF and WBO), and most impressively, handing the highly heralded Juan Manuel Lopez the first two losses of his career in devastating knockout fashion, he still carried the scent of a journeyman into the ring that night.
What followed is beginning to look like the upset of the century.
None of us necessarily knew it at the time, but with each passing destruction by Lomachenko of A list competition, it feels more and more right to me. Lomachenko hasn’t just been beating top level opponents, he’s been embarrassing them. His last four bouts have ended with humiliated pugilists quitting on their stools. Those four fighters had a combined record of 88-3-5 before facing Lomachenko. Nicholas Walters was an undefeated and feared power puncher who had ended Nonito Donaire’s career with a brutal TKO. Guillermo Rigondeaux was a gifted boxer who had frustrated all 17 of his previous opponents with his slick hands, feet, and guile. Jason Sosa and Miguel Marriaga were both solid B+ professionals.
Maybe all four of those guys are still all of those things. Just not against Lomachenko. Who made them look like, well, “just some guys”. Those four fights looked less like world class boxing matches than they did pitiless exhibitions against the overmatched. Which in all practicality, they were.
So, how in the world did Orlando Salido, he of relatively modest achievement and record, manage to pull off a split decision victory against the vaunted Vasyl?
In retrospect, it looks perhaps a little foolish for Lomachenko’s team to have put him in the ring with someone as experienced, and well, dirty as Salido with only one bout under his belt. On one level, he may have been a 33-year-old wizened sort with many a war wound upon his back, but on the other hand, he was a 33-year-old wizened sort with many a war wound on his back.
What Salido may have lacked in craft, he made up for with crafty. He fouled liberally, but sneakily. Hitting low, holding, using his shoulders and head, in ways that would make the Marquess of Queensbury red with anger. He got away with a lot of it too. Salido always seemed to know which side the ref was on when locked up with Lomachenko, and never missed a chance to transgress on the opposite side of the third man in the ring.
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was anything but. It was however, effective. While Lomachenko was starting to figure out a path against Salido late in the fight, and had there been just one more round, he would have likely scored a victory – possibly knocking out a fading Salido – for most of the fight Salido had done something no one else has ever come close to doing.
He made Lomachenko look human.
Salido ugly’d it up, and the beautiful skill set of Lomachenko was largely nullified. There were flashes of what Lomachenko could do, but those moments were delivered too far apart. When the bell rang at the end of the 12th, I was left somewhat underwhelmed by the “future of boxing” Lomachenko was supposed to represent. Too soon, I thought. Maybe he isn’t all that good, I mused. I guess I was one for two on that score.
After besting Lomachenko, Salido did little after to consecrate such a mighty victory. He did pick up some better paychecks, but he closed out the final six fights of his career with a record of 2-2-2. Salido announced his retirement after being outlasted and put down by a fighter who could almost be his mirror reflection, Miguel Roman, on December 9.
This soft close to a career both mixed and remarkable in result makes that win over Lomachenko look even more extraordinary.
Vasyl Lomachenka stands at 10-1 right now. And looking ahead, it’s hard to see when, or even if, loss number two is ever going to happen. His only blemish against a guy who retired with 14 losses and 4 draws on his ledger. It’s astounding to consider that fact.
Due in part to Salido’s poor performances after their tilt, and the usual promoter shenanigans, Lomachenko never got a shot at avenging his only loss.
He will tell you if they fought again the result would be much different. He also is fond of saying he doesn’t care that he never got the opportunity to even the score with Salido.
The first thing I believe. The latter, never.