In a previous post I looked at the main event of this weekend’s bout between Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez but it’s worth remembering that there’s actually a relatively decent undercard (something that despite their many sins Top Rank have a history of doing) with some intriguing bouts.
In the chief support bout, teak-tough Mexican former multiple time featherweight title holder Orlando Salido faces off with former Puerto Rican Olympian Orlando Cruz for the WBO featherweight belt, 175lbs prospects Sean Monaghan and Anthony Smith match up, welterweight prospect Brad Solomon takes on journeyman Kenny Abril and perhaps most exciting bout on paper is amateur great Vasyl Lomachenko entering the paid ranks with a bang against the experienced Jose Ramirez.
Salido is one of those hard, grizzled pros who carry a deceptive record. At first glance 39-12-2 is a distinctly unimpressive record but a closer looks reveals that eight of those losses and both draws came in Salido’s first 20 or so bouts and before he had turned 22 (having started his paid career at the tender age of 15)… and he was matched tough. Since growing up and no longer being a boy fighting men Salido is 25-4 (with a single no-contest) and all of those losses have come against top level guys (and at least one of them narrowly). His record is anchored by victories over Carlos Gerena, Lamont Pearson, Rogers Mtagwa, Hector Julio Avila, Cristobal Cruz and Juan Manuel Lopez twice as well beating Robert Guerrero before the bout was later ruled a no contest due to Salido’s steroid use (which adds him into the hall of shame). The Lopez bouts are certainly worth a watch by any fight fan… they’re both excellent contests which were unlucky not to win fight of year honours. And the people he lost to in that period? A certain Juan Manuel Marquez, a very narrow defeat to Cristobal Cruz (another boxer with a deceptive record) which was later avenged, Yuriorkis Gamboa at his best and the impressive Mikey Garcia.
Stylistically Salido is in many ways the stereotypical Mexican pressure fighter. He comes forward relentlessly, hits with hard hooks and uppercuts and breaks opponents down to the head and body. He’s not particularly technical but his long career has made him crafty and he knows almost all of the little pro-tricks that can make life awkward for an opponent. His defence and chin is a worry… he goes down in a lot of his bouts, including against opponents who you think he should beat relatively easily… but he recovers well and hasn’t been stopped since that early run of bouts.
Cruz is probably currently most well known for his decision to come out, being the only active boxer to have ever publicly admitted to homosexuality (at least that I know of… others have admitted it after their careers ended or been bi). Generally this has been well received although a few dissenting voices said he was doing it primarily for attention and this high profile title shot seemingly gives some strength to that position. However, that ignores Cruz’s 20-2-1 record, that he is on a four bout win streak over relatively decent opposition and perhaps most importantly the fact that he has played the sanctioning body game, winning and defending minor titles to have his ranking improve. Is he the most deserving title challenger of all time? Of course not. But neither is he the worst.
Just looking at his record, Cruz can’t compete with Salido. He lost to the two best boxers he’s faced (Cornelius Lock and Daniel Ponce De Leon) and been stopped in both and while he’s got some fairly respectable victories they’re not over names that would make you sit up and take notice. He likes of box behind a southpaw jab, able to either stick and move or push forward with it. From there he sets up a sneaky left hand counter. In earlier bouts he tended to flurry wildly if an opponent pressured him but in his more recent bouts he’s tended to tidy his game up, instead looking to slip to the side or clinch (and then slip to the side). Defensively he relies on his speed and footwork to carry him out of danger instead of blocking or covering up but at times he traps himself in the corners or on the ropes and a number of his bouts involving him being hit clean repeatedly. His punches carry some weight behind them but he tends to do the most damage when he can catch opponents coming in with a counter… his stoppage of Michael Franco is arguably the best demonstration of this.
Cruz winning a world title would be a good story but I’m not sure I can see it happening. Salido is a hard nosed boxer who will be in Cruz’s face throughout the bout and while Cruz’s defence and movement has improved, it’s improved against boxers who are nowhere near as good as Salido. Salido will constantly pressure Cruz and while Cruz’s speed, movement and counters may be enough to keep Salido off for a while I think eventually he’ll be forced to brawl… and that favours Salido, either for a late stoppage or a come-from-behind decision.
That said, I do have one note of caution. Despite only being 32, Salido has had a long boxing career full of grueling bouts. In his last bout with Garcia he looked pretty slow and pretty old early on, getting repeatedly dropped and outclassed. That said, Garcia looks to be an exceptionally talented boxer (which Cruz does not yet) and Salido came into the bout strongly later on, keeping it competitive (and possibly even winning a few rounds) before an accidental headbut led to an early stoppage and wide technical decision for Garcia.
Salido by TKO in 10.
Neither Sean Monaghan or Anthony Smith have done much in boxing to make a fan take note. Their opponents are the sort of opponents you expect a prospect to beat and their records are the sort of records you expect a prospect to have. In addition I haven’t been able to find much tape on either man which makes a preview, let alone a prediction, rather difficult.
From what I have seen Monaghan (who is a fairly popular ticket seller within the Irish-American community in New York… but this bout is in Vegas which renders his inclusion rather strange) is a relatively straight forward brawler, approaching behind a distinctly mediocre jab, closing the distance with a right hand and then flurrying on the inside. Technically he appears to do little that is particularly impressive but neither are there any glaring flaws. Smith (who sometimes appear to go by the name Anthony Caputo) is somewhat similar but appears to use the jab less and duck a little lower, while going to the body more. In all honesty I don’t expect either to do much in their pro-careers or get much beyond this level; I assume the idea here is simply to have a relatively fun opener between two limited brawlers.
On such flimsy evidence I’m not particularly confident going either way. Monaghan is the house fighter (being promoted by Top Rank) so I imagine they made this bout for a reason. Smith also has a loss on his record (a TKO to a journeyman) and without having much else to go on, I’ll settle on that to say Monaghan gets a stoppage
Monaghan by TKO.
Of all the undercard bouts, the most important one may feature a man making his paid début. Vasyl Lomachenko should need no introduction to anyone who has paid attention to amateur boxing since about 2007. That year he came second at the world championships, in 2008 he won the Olympic Gold (and picked the the Val Barker award for “most stylish boxer”) and the European Championship. In 2009 he won the World Championships, in 2011 he repeated and then in 2012 he won another Olympic Gold as well as a host of victories in other tournaments. Allegedly (it’s always hard to validate such things) he amateur record is 396-1, with his lone loss avenged. He kept sharp after the Olympics by competing in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing (going 6-0 against some of the best amateur boxers in the world).
Even as an amateur Lomachenko appeared to have the style to do well as a professional and his time in the WSB (which is closer to how a pro bout is boxed and scored) only highlighted that. Each of his six bouts in that format is worth a watch but this bout with Sam Maxwell is as good a starting point as any.
Lomachenko’s game is based around excellent footwork, fasts hands, reflexes and movement (head, feet and body), great accuracy and from what we’ve seen so far respectable power (combined with great timing). Because of his time in the WSB some of the questions we face when an amateur star first starts such as reacting to the lack of headgear, the change from computerised scoring and the length of bouts are minimised in his case. He can box on the front or back foot, hit the body or head and frankly he looks to be something special. And despite all his achievements and skill he’s still only 25.
And he’s not been given a soft touch in his first bout. Mexican Jose Ramirez (not to be confused with former US Olympian Jose Carlos Ramirez who Lomachenko beat in the 2011 world championships and is starting out his pro-career himself) is an experienced boxer with a 25-3 record and is actually coming off a great win when he travelled to the Phillipines to beat Rey Bautista in an upset you can see here. Stylistically he’s a fairly standard brawler who likes to mix things up on the inside but he hits fairly hard and can be dirty if he wants to. His best bet here would be to try to pin Lomachenko down and keep up a sustained attack to the head and body, hoping Lomachenko’s durability won’t hold up in the paid ranks.
But I don’t see it. Ramirez has been outboxed earlier in his career and Lomachenko is just too good to be drawn into the sort of brawl that would suit Ramirez. I think Lomachenko not only wins, but looks brilliant while doing so… probably getting a stoppage through accumulated punishment as he boxes circles around Ramirez.
Lomachenko by TKO.
Top Rank tend to stream their non-televised undercards on the internet and it’s well worth having a watch if you can; they’re normally fairly well put together. The highlight of this portion is Brad Solomon, an undefeated welterweight contender, trying to get his career back on track. When he beat Demetrius Hopkins with relative ease it looked like Solomon would quickly get into the title mix in an open 147lbs division but instead he’s virtually disappeared, losing all momentum he once had. An athletic boxer, Solomon generally relies on his speed to box circles around his opponents. Not always the most exciting he should have a relatively easy night’s work in beating Kenny Abril. Three undefeated prospects, Mikael Zewski, Jun Doliguez and Trevor McCumby, all face off with opponents they should beat and look fairly good beating in the other bouts… although the experienced Giovanni Caro may give Fillipino prospect Doliguez a hard nights work, especially when you consider Doliguez’s relative lack of experience.