Before Friday night, if Rod Salka was known for anything, it was for taking a humiliating beating at the fists of Danny Garcia in August of 2014. A fight that was such a horrible mismatch that it did more to hurt the reputation of the fighter who disposed of him than it did to him for offering up such little resistance.
Think of that.
A professional prize-fighter walks into the ring and delivers a performance so embarrassing that his opponent is vilified for essentially picking on the handicapped kid.
That was Rod Salka’s claim to infamy. One would think it would be hard to beat. One would have for maybe the first time, underestimated Rod Salka.
On Friday evening, Salka entered the ring against Mexican fighter, and former WBC Super Featherweight champion Francisco Vargas. That he even got a shot against a top-flight fighter like Vargas is a bit of a mystery. Sure, since his brutal dismissal at the hands of Garcia, he had won five consecutive fights against boxers one would at best refer to as journeyman, and more than a couple as tin cans. I guess it looked good on paper though.
At any rate, despite going in overmatched against a more accomplished opponent, Salka decided to add a little xenophobia to the proceedings. Upon the waistband of Salka’s red, white, and blue trunks, one could find the words “America 1st”. Okay, fine. Maybe a little touchy in today’s political climate, but whatever. If that had been all, it might not have been so bad. Nope. Salka doubled down by decorating the lower portion of his trunks with a design that looked like a brick wall.
His choice of design could be found offensive on an average day (although I readily admit, this writer’s opinion is not shared by everyone), but wearing Trump inspired “We’re gonna build that wall and Mexico’s gonna pay for it!” trunks against a Mexican fighter?
Once again, depending on where you fall on the question of immigration on our southern border, you might see Salka’s skivvies as more of a feature than a bug, but it’s hard to say he wasn’t trying to send Vargas a message.
The trouble for Salka, is Vargas had a message of his own to send. Only his was in his gloves and not on his shorts. After four not overly competitive rounds, Vargas turned up the pressure in the fifth and scored a delayed knockdown with a hard right uppercut. Salka beat the count and survived the round. Looking pretty damn discouraged, he sat on his stool with welts and bruises all over his face, as his opponent had done little more than break a sweat.
For no other reason than pride cometh before the fall, Salka got up from said stool and walked to the center of the ring in the sixth. Salka’s soft-tossing continued to have little effect on Vargas, and by the end of the sixth, Vargas had him bleeding. Some level of discretion crept into Salka’s head at that point and he wisely quit on his stool. Perhaps his only good decision of the evening.
Who knows if we will hear from Salka again. I suspect this will be the last time we will see him on ESPN, let alone any other cable network. At the same time, I don’t know if I want to underestimate Salka again. I didn’t expect to see him after what Danny Garcia did to him. One thing I’ve learned from all my years watching boxing is to never say never.
There was some irony in those shorts though. It’s one thing to get crashed out by Danny Garcia of Puerto Rican heritage. It’s quite another to get batted around the ring for six rounds against a Mexican warrior like Vargas, decked out in implicit anti-Mexican garb. Since this whole wall on the Mexican border business started in 2016, I have never once felt the need for protection from our neighbors from the south. But after watching what Vargas did to Salka , it did occur to me that someone might need a wall. If there’s one white guy in America who could have used a barrier protecting him from a Mexican, it was Salka Friday night.