In 2014, Vasyl Lomachenko suffered his first professional loss against veteran Orlando Salido.
The result, on March 1, is a stain on the Ukrainian star’s magnificent record and it’s understandable that many who weren’t watching that night don’t quite understand how such a talented boxer could have been beaten by a man who had already suffered. 12 losses.
Going into the fight, Lomachenko was attempting a record-breaking feat by challenging to become the first fighter in history to win a world title in only his second professional contest.
Thailand’s Saensak Muangsurin was the man to beat, with his record winning WBC welterweight belt in his third professional fight since 1975.
During his stellar amateur career before turning around, Loma won gold medals at two Olympics and set an astonishing record of 397 fights, 396 wins and just one loss (which he avenged twice).
This gave the Ukrainian the confidence that he would be able to break into the professional ranks and quickly dominate there as well – the challenge was on.
When he agreed to turn professional, Lomachenko was offered a seven-figure signing bonus by promoters Top Rank, however, he turned it down and instead demanded a title fight on his debut.
Due to the way the sport works in modern times, he needed at least one win to earn a ranking before challenging a champion, so the 25-year-old knocked out Jose Ramirez and got a shot during of his second fight instead.
Loma wears Ukrainian military-style attire for his first response after serving in the war
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Lomachenko won gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. The targeted champion? Orlando ‘Siri’ Salido.
Salido at this point was an aging fighter at 33, but still a world featherweight titlist who had been around for a long time and had seen it all.
Despite a record of 40 wins, 12 losses and two draws, it should be noted that most of the Mexican’s defeats have come during the embryonic stages of his career.
Unlike Loma, Salido turned professional in his native country aged just 15 and, by the time of his 24th fight, had 14 wins to his name, eight losses and two draws – making it a journeyman’s record. .
As he matured, he changed his career and became a three-time world champion, while continuing to work as an Uber driver in his spare time in Mexico, as he found it “a nice way to keep busy”.
Salido won his third world title on the same show that saw Lomachenko make his professional debut, and it was no coincidence as they were later paired up.
Controversy began to sprout on the day of the weigh-in.
The Ukrainian challenger comfortably made weight under the 126lb limit as he came in at 125¼lbs, while the Mexican champion pulled off a whopping 128¼lbs.
This meant that Salido had a few hours to try to lose the extra 2¼ pounds and retain his title, but instead he immediately started drinking to rehydrate and made no effort to do so, explaining that it would be his last fight at featherweight and he didn’t. t want to exhaust themselves more.
As a result, he was stripped of his WBO title and the belt was only on the line for Lomachenko if he emerged victorious.
Come the next night, the weight issues developed further.
In just over 24 hours, Salido rehydrated down to 147 pounds and entered the ring with a massive height advantage over Lomachenko’s 136 pounds.
As the champ made his way to the ring at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, HBO broadcaster Max Kellerman said, “I think more than anything he’s not even trying to put on weight, after having weighed heavy, shows that Salido considers Lomachenko to be his toughest. challenge.
“He must feel that he cannot afford any disadvantage and in fact needs an advantage, weighing more than the allowed weight class, in order to compete with Lomachenko.”
As soon as the first bell rang, the size difference between them was obvious, but that wasn’t the only telling factor. Many rounds of the fight were difficult to score, especially early on, as Lomachenko’s amateur style hadn’t fully transitioned into the pro ranks yet.
Although he started on the back foot, Salido quickly began to effectively target the body and push his opponent away.
The Mexican used every brutal tactic in the book to make Lomachenko feel as uncomfortable as possible at all times and refused to allow him to find his natural rhythm.
Halfway through six rounds, you could have easily had the battle level or “Siri” slightly ahead.
Around the same time, fans and broadcasters began noticing a new theme emerging in the contest – Salido’s illegal low blows.
Much-maligned referee Lawrence Cole appeared completely unconscious between rounds four to six as the 33-year-old began to smash the Ukrainian in his most vulnerable area repeatedly.
Perhaps naively, Loma chose not to complain, and so Salido was allowed to get away with what commentator Jim Lampley at the time called “graphic professionalism”.
Others have since called it a “dirty tactic”.
In the second half, a special fighter was made to look ordinary at times.
Lomachenko was criticized for his persistent hold – an attempt to prevent Salido from working inside – and was unable to show a clear superiority between himself and his opponent.
With four rounds remaining, the fight was starting to look like it was in the veteran’s hands, prompting Lampley to add, “That’s the reason most promising prospects coming into professional boxing get a professional combat learning on 8/12/15/20.
“To learn all those nuances before getting into a fight like this.”
Finally, referee Cole issued a few warnings to Salido for his relentless low kicks, but with time running out and no point deductions to come, Lomachenko knew he would have to take matters into his own hands.
Before the fight, many questioned the Ukrainian’s stamina given that he was used to the much shorter bouts of amateur and semi-pro WSB code tournaments.
Despite that, he came on strong with sharp counters in the eleventh and made sure Salido hung on to buy time.
Everything was set for a dramatic final round, and it most certainly delivered.
Neither man had been injured at any point in the contest until the twelfth, but that was all about to change.
With just over a minute remaining, the 136-pounder caught the 147-pounder with a straight left and rocked him badly.
Salido held desperately as Lomachenko, rammed from his corner, chased a stunning finish.
However, that never happened and the Mexican was eventually saved by the bell before the split decision scorecards were read in his favor: 115-113, 113-115, 116-112.
Despite the weigh-in shenanigans, low blows and split decision, Lomachenko made no apologies.
“I tried my best, I really tried,” he said in his immediate post-fight interview, “But it didn’t work.
“I don’t want to say anything about the judges, I’m a fighter and my job is to fight.
“I don’t like dirty fights, I’m a straight fighter, I’m clean. I don’t like that kind of fight and that’s why I didn’t want to hit him below the belt.
“I didn’t try to think about it [the weight]I believed I could beat him even though he was a bigger fighter than me.
Salido’s overweight triumph meant that the WBO featherweight title became vacant, and due to the controversy surrounding their fight, Lomachenko was ordered to compete again in his very next bout.
Three and a half months later, he gave a one-sided boxing lesson to a phenomenally talented American, Gary Russell Jr, and hasn’t looked back since.
The experience Loma gained from his loss to Salido proved invaluable and he is now a perfectly suited professional with world title wins in three weight classes.
He didn’t lose for another six years when Teofimo Lopez caused an upset in 2020 and took his belts light. He bounced back from back-to-back wins over Masayoshi Nakatani and Richard Commey in 2021, with his next against Jamaine Ortiz on October 29.
In the years following the loss of Salido, there was often talk of a rematch between them at super featherweight, but that never materialized.
Salido is now retired and will forever hold a win over the man who became boxing’s pound-for-pound king.