In the co-main event of HBO’s Marquez vs. Bradley pay-per-view, Orlando Salido (40-12-2, 28 knockouts) and Orlando Cruz (20-3-1, 10 knockouts) competed for the vacant WBO Featherweight title. In early build-up to the fight, most of the focus was on Cruz’ main-stream recognition as the only openly gay fighter in boxing today. Anyone familiar with his career however knew that the focus should have been on the fact that this may have been Cruz’ last chance to compete for a major title.
To no one’s surprise, the fight started out in an exciting manner. Still, it was apparent that Salido was playing the aggressor while Cruz was hoping to win the fight on a more tactical approach. These early rounds saw Salido with an early points lead thanks to sheer punch out-put compared to Cruz. With Cruz relying on a gameplan fixed on the idea of “make him miss”, there was little in the way of effective offense from his end. Things looked good for Cruz after he landed a couple of flush hooks against Salido, but after Salido came back to stagger him with his own shot it was obvious that Cruz didn’t have much power behind his punches.
In the rounds that followed it was clear that Salido was getting the best of Cruz in each of their many exchanges. Thanks to his trademark overhand right and a sneaky uppercut, Salido was able to beat Cruz around the ring seemingly at will. Cruz still did little more than duck and weave his way around the ring, but things finally seemed to turn around for him in the fifth round.
The fifth round was undoubtedly Cruz’ best round as he managed to not only make Salido miss, but make him pay. As he finally managed to string together combinations of punches it was clear that Cruz was determined to steal any momentum lost to Salido in those early rounds. Just as Cruz was beginning to come into his own however, Salido came roaring back in the sixth round even more determined to earn this victory.
In the sixth and seventh rounds, Salido forced Cruz into the type of exchanges that would only guarantee the Puerto Rican’s defeat. Salido continued landing the stronger and more concussive shots, and its these types of shots that eventually led to the stoppage being called in the seventh round. After having Cruz along the ropes, Salido unloaded on his opponent with a trademark flurry that sent Cruz crumbling to the canvas face first.
With his title back in his hands Salido is one step closer to getting the rematch with Mikey Garcia that he so desperately desire. Whether that happens at 130-lbs or at all remains to be seen, but Salido further proved that he’s not an opponent to be overlooked in the featherweight division.