In the co-main event of HBO’s March 2nd broadcast of World Championship Boxing, Orlando Salido (41-12-2, 28 knockouts) took on Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1 knockout) in a featherweight tilt for the newly vacant WBO title. Going into the match, many were concerned about Salido’s performance considering his weight. Although Salido lost his title to the scales, he was less willing to back down against an opponent as confident as Lomachenko. After all, Lomachenko was coming off two consecutive gold medals at the Olympic games and a dominant pro debut. Add in the fact that many ring side had chosen him to handily beat Salido, and it’s clear that Salido had no shortage of motivation.
Those who expected the fight to start off with a bang were surprised, to say the least. Both fighters approached the first couple rounds in a rather tentative manner, but the real surprise came in just how well Salido was faring early on against the Ukrainian. Lomachenko certainly was landing some well placed shots, but they came so far and few in between that it was easy for an all-action fighter like Salido to steal momentum from the fight solely based on his endless aggression. Although aggressive as ever, Salido was also the smarter fighter in that he acknowledged Lomachenko’s significant speed advantage and spent most of his time attack the body repeatedly throughout the twelve round contest.
For the first five rounds, the fight between the two followed the same pattern. Lomachenko would show brilliant footwork and head movement, but was hesitant to throw punches hoping that he could effectively counter his brawler opponent. It was this rather calculated gameplan of Lomachenko’s that allowed Salido to walk away with a majority of the first five rounds of the fight thanks to his constant punches and coming forward.
Following the poor showing in the early rounds, Lomachenko finally began to show flashes of the brilliance that brought him to this moment in the first place. He began to use some thudding hooks and straight hands, but Salido continued to shrug off the blows and come forward. Lomachenko then decided to adopt Salido’s strategy and attack the body of his opponent, but it proved to be a short-lived experience because his opponent still managed to get the better of him.
The fight followed the same rather one-sided pattern up to the end of the tenth round, and many were questioning the lack of urgency in the corner of Lomachenko. Finally sensing the deficit he was most likely facing on the score cards, Lomachenko emerged in the eleventh round a(n) especially determined (desperate?) fighter as he was now set to finish one of the first opponents to give him trouble. For the most part, Lomachenko was successful. Although he couldn’t put Salido away he managed to hurt in and potentially run away with the victory as he approached the final round.
Lomachenko charged toward Salido in the final round and absolutely dominated; badly hurting Salido and almost stopping him, but was denied the opportunity thanks to a break in action by the referee. Salido was not only able to survive the round, but won the fight. The judges awarded the split decision to Orlando Salido on scores of (115-113), (116-112), and (113-115).
The fight will undoubtedly by overshadowed by the incredibly poor officiating skills of Laurence Cole and his blind-eye to Salido’s countless low blows, but it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Salido was simply the better fighter that night. There’s no telling where each fighter goes from here, or if a rematch is in their futures, but it will serve as another significant victory for Salido, and a necessary lesson for Vasyl Lomachenko