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Aftermath: Salido vs. Lomachenko

Orlando Salido Vasiliy LomachenkoBy Jay McIntyre: When you talk to or read interviews about the old sages of the sweet science their fondness for “how tough they had it”, or “the good old days” can sometimes come to light, and often these remarks are shrugged off by a younger, more hubristic generation willing to learn things their own way – the hard way. Today fighters and promoters are criticized for rushing the potential of young fighters, or alternately, protecting them so that their title shot is safeguarded.

Maxie Rosenbloom is an archaic example of a fighter rushed into a title fight against the exhausting Harry Greb, while Gerry Cooney was guarded by his promoters against fighters that could have made him better for his tilt with Larry Holmes. Vasyl Lomachenko was a victim of both –  of rushing into a title fight, and also being unprepared for the style of his opponent in his title fight. He fought skillfully, and he fought nobly, but he lost due to his inexperience in the pro ranks. If I may sound like an old-timer stricken with nostalgia – back in the day (the “Golden Age of Boxing” – the 1920’s; arguably through to the 1950’s) a fighter wouldn’t just get one four round fight, win it, and be moved into a six round fight, and then from a six to an eight, and so on and so forth. These things did not happen.

A fighter would be exposed to a variety of different fighting styles at four rounds, then they would move onto six and go through an eclectic mix of style there and continue to win his hard-earned spurs until he was a savage, dangerous and intelligent contender. He became a well-rounded, finished product honed through patient practice and exposure to a variety of dangers. I believe one of the reasons that Archie Moore was such a greater fighter was due to his varied experience along the way throughout his career. The same can be said of Harry Greb, Sugar Ray Robinson and a plethora of others. But I digress, and Vasyl Lomachenko did indeed lose a hotly-contested battle. Let’s look at what brought about his first loss in the pro ranks, and only his second loss in something like 400 fights.

Body Punching

I felt it important to include this criterion first because it also proved to be the most contentious. If you watched the fight you will have observed (if you have two eyes – or even one – and a pulse) Salido taking liberties with the referee’s incompetence and repeatedly low-blowing Lomachenko. Whether or not this was deliberate, it did happen and many will justly argue that it contributed to irritating effectiveness of Lomachenko’s aggression. Be that as it may, the actual body punching by Salido served two purposes. Firstly, the body punching tapped the stamina reserves of Lomachenko, and secondly, it made Lomachenko second guess himself when Salido was aggressive. Initially when Salido would barge into Lomachenko’s personal space, the Ukrainian would throw counters. This did not last as Salido quickly began to strafe the mid-section to Lomachenko with body blows. Once this happened Lomachenko had to worry about not only protecting his head, but also his body. Good defense is based on anticipation, and the more things you must account for, the more difficult it is to stay safe. In an effort to adjust to this damage the Ukrainian shelled up with his arms, but this allowed Salido free reign to close the distance and keep the fight on the inside. Lomachenko was simply not used to dealing with Salido’s dedication to the body work, and this is something with which many amateurs are unfamiliar. A three or four round amateur fight is just not enough time to see the return on your investment in deconstructing your opponent’s body. The straight punches to the head are often the easier targets and hence, the easier points to get. Body blows require you to get closer and give the opponent the opportunity to rack up points for little return. In a 10 or 12 round professional fight, the damage you are accumulating on your opponent can pay big dividends in the later rounds as they can tire out your opponent and force him to make major adjustments to his game.

Controlled Aggression

One of the – – keys to victory that I established for Salido involved him fighting with a controlled aggression. In the past he would often get off balance and exposed coming in to deliver damage to his opponent and this had ruined him against patient fighters that can thrive off of good defensive footwork (Mikey Garcia being the most notable example). In his fight against Lomachenko this was far less of an issue throughout the fight. Salido’s strategy seemed fairly evident even in the feeling out process of the first round – he was going to get to work on the body and not open himself up to damage along the way. When he would close the distance with either a cursory jab (rarely), a looping overhand right (more often than the jab), or behind a tight guard (to eat counters on the way in) he would do one of two things – back off if Lomachenko smoothly evaded, or get to work on the inside if Lomachenko stood still or tried to hold. Rarely would he overextend himself in a desperate attempt to give chase. This kept Lomachenko from racking up points and damage and also would give Salido control of some space in the ring to try and cut off Lomachenko later on.

Lack of the right movement

Lomachenko is praised for a lot of things, but for all the accolades surrounding his footwork, we did not see enough defensive movement to allow him to edge out his opponent and get the win. Whether or not obscure amateur boxing pundits praised its existence in the amateurs, it didn’t matter last night because he did not show it often enough. Lomachenko simply did not pivot out often enough (although there were some sublime moments in which he deftly avoided Salido) nor did he did not circle away with enough regularity when Salido was coming in with a full head of steam. This, coupled with his reluctance to throw straight shots due to Salido’s body punching meant that the terms of the fight were decided largely by Salido. Roy Jones Jr. made a great point while providing analysis last night and said that Lomachenko is known for causing most of his damage with his looping shots. Sure he has shown that he can throw laser straight punches, but his punishing combinations usually are the looping ones and they require him to be closer to the opponent since his arms are bent. Unfortunately, this brought him closer to Salido who is a pretty dangerous fighter with his own hooks and uppercuts. It is easy to say “he should have moved more” without considering how it can tax a fighter’s stamina reserves, and again I must revert to my earlier point – that he rushed into a fight against an opponent with a style he was not even remotely familiar with due to his amateur background.

A Bright Future

Vasyl Lomachenko has proven, even through a loss that he has the essential ingredients and skill to fight in the pro ranks with some of the very best (yes, boxers become better from losses, perhaps someone should tell that to a few of the current prize fighters that tout their “0” so famously as indicators of their superiority). Given his desire to get a title fight as soon as possible, Lomachenko should have been pitted against a fighter that boxes as close to the amateur style as possible. Putting Lomachenko in against a guy that fights in a way that is seen in the pro ranks, but not in the amateur ranks effectively took him even further out of his element. Adjusting from six rounds in the World Series of Boxing to a twelve round professional fight for the WBO belt only served to exacerbate this problem. The fact that Lomachenko fought impressively under these circumstances is encouraging, but he is very green in pro fighting and that was clearly exposed tonight. From re-hydration clauses, to employing and defending against body punching, Lomachenko has experienced a few lessons that will hopefully make him more successful in the future. He is young,  and he has a good head on his shoulders, and I am confident that he can rebound from this even better than before – if he takes a page out of the history books and emulates the methods that made the fighters from the “Golden Age of Boxing” so golden.

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