Vasyl Lomachenko – known as The Matrix – is one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers alive and when it’s all said and done, he could be the greatest ever. He was one of the most decorated amateur boxers in history. He has two Olympic gold medals, two world championship gold medals, one world championship silver medal and two European championship gold medals. His amateur record stood at a ridiculous 396-1, with his one defeat avenged twice. He holds notable amateur victories against undefeated lightweight world champion Felix Verdejo, undefeated featherweight world champion Oscar Valdez and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Robson Conceicao. He was also a recipient of the coveted Val Barker trophy presented to the most outstanding boxer of the Olympic Games.
Upon deciding to turn professional with Top Rank promotions he moved quickly and challenged for a world title in just his second professional bout. As he attempted to make history, many believed it was too much too soon especially against a veteran former world champion like Orlando Salido.
Before the fight
Lomachenko brought a professional record of 1-0 to the ring whereas Salido was far more experienced in the professional ranks with a record of 40-12-2.
Salido gave up his chance at winning the world title by failing to make weight. He weighed in two-and-a-half pounds over the featherweight limit of 126lbs whereas Lomachenko weighed in half a pound under. Salido claimed this was down to him being too old for the weight class however, on fight night he had rehydrated to 147 pounds meaning he was officially a welterweight. Although Lomachenko himself came to the ring as a lightweight, Salido was roughly two weight classes above him on fight night.
Round one – Over 40 seconds passed before the first shot was landed as they sized each other up. Both exchanged jabs throughout, but the round was the definition of cagey and tentative. Ring generalship and edge in exchanges mean Lomachenko must win this round. 10-9 Lomachenko.
Round two – Salido worked the body whereas Lomachenko was still very cagey even though he was working well defensively. Salido landed big body shots and a few on the belt before landing a good right hand. 10-9 Salido.
Round three – Salido was again working the body. Lomachenko fired a few good punches in the round, but few landed. The referee issues a warning to Lomachenko for holding and pushing down. Lomachenko had jabbed, however Salido was catching him with body shots and landed a solid right hand. Even though Lomachenko landed a three punch flurry toward the end of the round he had been too inactive to win it. 10-9 Salido.
Round four – Salido was being aggressive racking up body shots, including a few low blows that went unseen, and Lomachenko was landing little. Suddenly Lomachenko lit him up with a fast combination that had no effect, Salido continued to pummel to the body landing a hard right toward the end of the round. 10-9 Salido.
Round five – Lomachenko started the fifth well, landing a few shots, but they were having no effect. Salido continued working the body. When Lomachenko became aggressive he looked good, but the punches just bounced off the bigger Salido. 10-9 Lomachenko.
Round six – Salido continued to aim for the body as Lomachenko was typically elusive. Salido was having more success on the inside and Lomachenko, clearly aiming to pace himself for 12 rounds, wasn’t working enough. Salido landed a few low blows without a warning from the referee. The round was close, but Salido was backing Lomachenko up and landing harder shots. 10-9 Salido.
Round seven – Salido continued working the body in the seventh as Lomachenko picked good single shots to answer Salido’s powerful combinations. Salido’s body shot success was marred with him landing a few low blows and stepping on Lomachenko’s southpaw lead foot. Salido ended the round landing a hard low blow, but the referee had no response. Lomachenko was doing the cleaner work. 10-9 Lomachenko.
Round eight – Salido had huge success with body shots at the beginning of this round as he backed up Lomachenko. Lomachenko threw more, but his soft shots had no effect. His success mainly came with left and right combinations to the head. Salido stirred with more body shots and aggression to end the round. Salido landed a low blow at the end of the round again, the referee finally warned him. 10-9 Salido.
Round nine – Salido landed an amazing combination to head and body as he continued pushing Lomachenko back. Lomachenko had no answer but to hold, but Salido was landing to the body even in the clinch. Salido landed another low blow as he ran forward. The referee finally gave another warning to Salido as he landed yet another low blow later on. He landed it again after the warning. Lomachenko hadn’t done enough. 10-9 Salido.
Round ten – Lomachenko fired with snap to counter a Salido body shot. Salido was now throwing to the head, but landing on Lomachenko’s arms. Lomachenko answer was to hold for most of the round. Salido landed a flashy single right hand and a hard body shot even as he was fatigued. 10-9 Salido.
Round eleven – Both fighters were exchanging well as Lomachenko stepped up his aggression. Salido attacked the body and landed a hard, hurtful low blow, which Lomachenko fought through. Salido was now much slower and Lomachenko was having more success, even hurting the heavier man. Now Salido was forced to hold as Lomachenko dominated. 10-9 Lomachenko.
Round twelve – Salido was coming forward early leading to a clash of heads. Salido had recovered from the last round and was now fighting well and overwhelming Lomachenko (landing another low blow in the process). Lomachenko won the inside exchanges, but Salido had the heart of a champion and fought back. Lomachenko landed a painful combination hurting Salido and teeing off on him, but the bigger man held and used his size replying with three low blows in front of the referee (which went unpunished). Lomachenko threw everything at the spirited Salido, but the bigger man held his way to the final bell. 10-9 Lomachenko.
Lomachenko lost a controversial split decision despite landing 164 punches out of 441 versus 142 punches out of 645 for Salido. Two judges had it for Salido, 116–112 and 115–113, while the third had it for Lomachenko 115–113. Lomachenko stated he felt the decision was “fair” and accepted blame for not following through with his corner’s game plan, promising to learn from the experience and come back stronger.
He was clearly tentative about the twelve round distance and weight difference, had he been more active early on he would have won easily. In the rounds where he was the aggressor he landed with relative ease.
ESPN scored the bout a 114-114 draw, while HBO’s Harold Lederman and I score it 115-113 Salido.
The referee, Laurence Cole, was openly criticised for failing to uphold the rules fairly. Lomachenko had been allowed to hold all night whereas Salido landed multiple low blows throughout the fight with three weakly administered warnings from Cole leading to no point deduction for either fighter. Cole admitted he wasn’t at his best on the night and many claimed it was the worst refereeing performance in boxing history and that Cole should never be allowed to officiate again.
Many praised Lomachenko’s performance and humility post fight and heavily criticised Salido claiming he had weighed in heavy on purpose looking for an advantage and fought a dirty fight.
“He was fighting a full welterweight, getting hit in the balls all night, in only his second pro bout, and he still almost came back to win.” – Machine Levine
Since the fight, Salido has fought five times winning only twice against lesser opponents. Lomachenko however, has gone from strength to strength beating highly rated undefeated champions like Gary Russell Jr and Nicholas Walters on his way to being consistently ranked in the pound for pound top three.
Lomachenko still looks for a rematch, but it is reported that Salido rejected over $750,000 for the fight in 2017 demanding more money. Many believe Lomachenko needs the victory for his legacy and own pride, but with Salido’s performances slipping as his age increases it may be a step back for Lomachenko.
I for one would love to see a rematch so that Lomachenko can avenge his only professional defeat to set the history books straight. Now he is more experienced in veteran tactics, knows he can pace himself for a 12 round fight and if Salido weighs in at a closer weight, Lomachenko would win with ease.
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