Seasoning: In Praise of Orlando Salido

By Adam Berlin on March 9, 2014
Seasoning: In Praise of Orlando Salido
Orlando Salido, eighteen years a prize fighter, is worthy of our admiration and applause.

I was sucked into believing that an unparalleled amateur pedigree and two gold medals, coupled with youth and speed, could actually win the day…

“You’re good, kid, but as long as I’m around, you’re only second best.”—The Cincinnati Kid

Ten days ago, Orlando Salido proved, once again, that seasoning is boxing’s key ingredient. 

I cheered for him as he walked to the ring, this thirty-three-year-old veteran with the bald head and 56 professional fights now under his belt. I urged him forward as he moved forward, landing textbook punches as well as punches found on cheat sheets. I screamed at him, via my TV, to stay standing even as he faded in the final round, even as he took brutal shots. I applauded him when his hand was raised, a just verdict in so many ways. 

To read about the fight before the fight, it was if Salido, who has been around for eighteen years, was the unknown entity. This was the Orlando Salido who exposed the supposed future pound-for-pound star Juan Manuel Lopez, not once but twice. This was the Orlando Salido who fought and hung tough with some of boxing’s biggest names: Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Mikey Garcia. Instead, the man getting all the coverage was Vasyl Lomachenko, an amateur standout to be sure, but a veteran of a single professional fight. 

I admit the hype got to me. I was sucked into believing that an unparalleled amateur pedigree and two gold medals, coupled with youth and speed, could actually win the day. Look at the way he’d moved and punched like a pro in his first professional fight. Look at the devastating body shot he’d landed to halt his first opponent. Look at the impressive arrogance, a cocky kid fighting for a title in only his second professional fight (give or take some fights without headgear). 

We all should have known better. 

Marketing that promises newer-is-better may hold up for less brutal brands, but when it comes to the sweet science, there’s nothing sweeter than the knowledge gained from experience. And on March 1, experience separated the man from the boy. With biased eyes, I admired Salido’s low-blow tactics, not because he was being un-sportsman-like, he was, but because this veteran knew how to position himself to keep a blind referee from seeing many of his low-blows, and, when Salido recognized how incompetent Laurence Cole actually is, the featherweight champ knew to keep throwing fouls until he was warned, a warning that never came. More than the low blows, I admired Salido’s keen critical eyes, eyes that have seen everything in the ring, eyes that observed and analyzed and quickly deciphered technical flaws in his young opponent. Lomachenko wasn’t quite as defensively savvy as he should have been, and Salido made him pay. Lomachenko wasn’t as skilled an infighter as he should have been, and Salido made him pay. Lomachenko wasn’t even experienced enough to lodge a well-justified complaint in his crotch’s defense, and Salido made him pay. 

Before I knew boxing, fighters had to toil years and years before they were granted a title shot. When they finally fought for a belt, they were ready. These days, too many fighters get their big breaks before they’re ready. Gone are the days of blatantly fixed fights, but much of boxing’s modern-day corruption rests on this foundation of inexperience. Young fighters are built up against mediocre opposition, hyped up to generate big gates, and then, when the bell rings for that not-long-enough awaited title fight, these young fighters crumble against champions who, invariably, have many real fights under their well-worn belts. Lomachenko was unique because of his spectacular amateur past, but Olympic-style boxing with headgear, based on a points system where a tap equals a jaw-cracking shot, is a different sport from professional prize fighting. Kudos to Lomachenko for hanging tough with a veteran and almost pulling out victory in the twelfth. But shame on his handlers and his promoter, who did him no favors on March 1. Had they moved their fighter more carefully, more responsibly, had they done their job to protect and nurture their fighter, putting him in incrementally harder fights until the amateur boxer gained seasoning, learned textbook tricks as well as cheat-sheet tricks, Lomachenko would have been ready. 

Examples abound of fighters hyped too quickly and easily. I enjoyed watching the muscle-bound football-player-turned-boxer Seth Mitchell get exposed for the amateur he really is. I’ll enjoy watching Zou Shiming lose when he’s inevitably put in too early against a real professional who can actually punch. Just as I enjoyed watching Lomachenko get schooled.

What I enjoyed most, of course, was seeing experience win out. 

Cleopatra, of Antony and Cleopatra fame, describes her youth as “My salad days, when I was green in judgment.” The older Cleopatra, the Cleopatra who has lost her green-ness, is the Cleopatra Antony admires. He has lived life, fought battles, and so understands the beauty of experience. Orlando Salido, the opposite of green, is at the end of his long career. That twelfth round against the kid Lomachenko may be the signal he needs to gracefully exit boxing’s rough stage. But on March 1st, Orlando Salido put on a veteran performance, a beautiful performance even when his tactics were less-than-beautiful because it was founded on years of battle. Orlando Salido, eighteen years a prize fighter, is worthy of our admiration and applause. He won a fight he should have won. He knew it. We should have known it too. Now we do. 

Adam Berlin is the author of the recently published boxing novel Both Members of the Club (Texas Review Press/winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize). His other novels are The Number of Missing (Spuyten Duyvil), Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press/winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Headlock (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). His stories and poetry have appeared in numerous journals. He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and co-edits J Journal: New Writing on Justice. For more, please visit

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Post-Fight: Orlando Salido

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  1. Terry 04:51pm, 12/23/2016

    You’re dickhead Adam, have a clue why - Salido’s 41 low-bows

  2. andrew 07:04pm, 03/13/2014

    Praising Salido exemplifies our sick culture of winning at any cost. Here the cost is cheating by countless low blows. It’s great to see the talent-less mugger get the nod by brilliantly flouting the rules.

  3. Don from Prov 01:32pm, 03/12/2014

    “Lomachenko wasn’t even experienced enough to lodge a well-justified complaint in his crotch’s defense”—That observation made me smile.
    Fighting for a world championship within two fights never seemed like a great career plan to me, and I would have felt the same even if Lomo had won.

    P.S. I think the fact that he had no chin Mitchell’s biggest problem.
        I liked him and thought he had a great work ethic, etc.

  4. raxman 05:15pm, 03/11/2014

    Jim Crue - none of that era of amateur gun knows how to in-fight. well that’s not true most of the Cubans were taught a rounded style but most of the worlds different countries had their programs designed not to be rounded boxers but to win amateur fights under the past “tap-tap-tap” scoring system where only the long outside punches could be seen by the 3 judges required to score a point. also a study on this system showed that it was impossible for more than 3 points to be scored no matter how many times the buttons were being pushed - I guess that had something to do with the time between punches/button presses of the judges. as a result the boxers didn’t bother throwing more than 3 punch combos. amir khan is the example I most use to highlight my point - Olympic silver medallist at 17 -can’t in fight and can’t combo punch. of course there are exceptions - as I said the Cubans were different, as was Andre Ward who could in-fight but scored mostly with his hand speed from the outside.
    I always get fired up by this. its the main reason that we don’t get the path way we used to from amo to pro - look at some of those USA Olympic teams from the 70’s & 80’s and the quality that came through.
    anyway its all gone back to the future now. amateur boxing has done away with the head gear and scoring is now the 10point must system.

  5. Jim Crue 03:24pm, 03/11/2014

    Raxman, i agree with you on some or is it all contenders getting soft fights. The number is countless. When they finally meet someone who can hit back they seem offended. It’s like their previous bouts were sparing sessions.
    I disagree about Lomachenko. He did a workman like job but really needs to learn the professional style and needs many pro bouts before challenging for a title. He holds too much because he isn’t good at fighting on the inside. That being said he did not get beaten up and learned a lot. If they fought again he would win. But in my opinion he needs some seasoning in the pro ranks against capable opposition to reach his potential.
    Of course just my opinion

  6. raxman 03:14pm, 03/11/2014

    lets not forget this fight was a split decision loss for Lomachenko. he was hardly exposed. the guy should be having his praises sung not being disrespected. ok a title fight in his second outing was probably a bit much but he and riggos template for the move from amateur to pro is far, far preferable to the GGG model of padding ones record with 20 odd fights before even getting close to decent opposition.
    let me repeat it was a split decision loss. not a UD schooling over 12. and one could argue that with competent ref’ing he’d have won the fight. as ted points out one could argue he won the fight full stop, and given it was his first journey over 12 rounds how amazing is it that he was the one coming on strong in the championship rounds?
    no I would actually flip this and say it was a very, very lucky win for salido

  7. nicolas 11:07am, 03/11/2014

    AND TED he beat George Chuvalo, a fighter here so often touted that he should be in the hall of fame, not that Rademacher should. The guy started much later than did Lomachenko, partially because I think he did not want to give up his college football career, and I think he went to serve in the Army afterwards. Of course not all Olympic Gold Medalists in the heavyweight division go on to great careers, the Italian fighter in 1960, and of course Audley Harrison. But give this guy his due, in your first pro fight you deck the heavyweight champion; I think he did better than those guys, and was he better that Tyrell Biggs, maybe? Had he started his pro career earlier, who knows. I think right now, he might be the oldest person ever to challenge for the heavyweight championship. Also, would you have Salido pound for pound better than Patterson?

  8. Springs Toledo 03:57pm, 03/10/2014

    Age and guile defeat youth and speed! I was secretly hoping someone would write this, and was happy to see that Adam Berlin took hold of the gauntlet. Great read. It was a bit disconcerting to see so many get roped in by Bob Arum’s hype job. Arum has been around boxing since the 70s and still doesn’t understand what goes on inside the ropes. Salido sure as hell does. He brought Zivic to us, if only for a night. It was great to see that ghost, even if he made me wince a few times!

  9. Ted 12:53pm, 03/10/2014

    Pete Radamacher should not be mentioned in the same universe as Lomo though he did beat Willi Besmanoff and Bobo Olson.

  10. nicolas 11:15am, 03/10/2014

    Had Lomchennko fought either the WBA or IBF champ, perhpas he would have been champion of those organizations, esspecially the SOuth African who stopped a faded John. What was so impressive about his win over ramirez I could not understand, though I think t was the first time that fighter was stopped. this somewaht reminded me about hearing about the story of Pete rademacher who in his pro debut fought for the heqavyweight title. He had of course won the gold medal at the 56 Olympics, all by knockout, and making his pro debut 2 days aft4er turning 29, perhpas felt that he did not have that many years ahead of him. He decked Patterson in the second, but after that got decked 6 times.

  11. Ted 10:01am, 03/10/2014

    “whippersnapper” Hmm, have not heard that one since “snot-nosed punk.”

  12. Clarence George 09:48am, 03/10/2014

    Ted:  I quite agree that Lomachenko’s performance against a warhorse like Salido was impressive.  The kid has enormous potential, but I think he was rushed along too quickly and that he has much to learn, unlike Salido, who’s got it down pat.  And there’s the rub.  Salido isn’t great—no one’s ever going to confuse him with Willie Pep or Benny Leonard (depending on whatever the hell weight class is being talked about).  He’s also on his way out.  But his asset in this fight was his experience, his knowing the tricks of the trade.  In at least that respect, it was like putting a Boy Scout up against a Selous Scout. 

    All that said, this loss is hardly a disaster for Lomachenko; on the contrary, a learning experience, as Jim observed.  Oh, he has the potential to go far—much farther than Salido. 

    By the way, I was rooting for “Siri” because I tend to go for the veteran over the whippersnapper.  Also, I have a soft spot for him ever since his loss due to Mikey Garcia’s mussed hair, er, broken nose.

  13. Ted 09:13am, 03/10/2014

    CG, With respect, are you not forgetting that Salido was being dismantled by the younger fighter in the 11th and 12th rounds and if the fight had gone another 30 seconds, Salido would have gone down and out? As it was, he barely won and I had him losing on my card so this was, IMO, a remarkable performance by the Ukekranian.

  14. Jim Crue 06:19am, 03/10/2014

    Right Clarence, “boxing ain’t playing the piano”. i admired Salido’s grit and tactics. it’s no surprise that the ref did not call any of the low shots. He’s just not a good referee and he did not call Lomachenco for holding and the kid has to learn to fight on the inside. This fight did the kid a world of good. He did not get beaten up and he learned a lot. His father and promoter were ignorant for putting him in with Salido. He will go on the better days I think.

  15. Pete The Sneak 04:33am, 03/10/2014

    Nicely written Adam…While I didn’t drink the Lomachenko Kool-Aid and picked Salido to win by UD, I did wonder if Siri would get old overnight and the kid’s stamina, cockiness and youth may possibly overcome him as the fight progressed. But as you said, the experienced veteran did what he had to do and got away with what he was able to get away with (having the right 3rd person in the ring to assist in the getaway certainly helped) and that is/was the difference maker. I don’t think Lomachenko was ruined by this loss, and may even come away with it as a confidence builder considering the way he ended the fight so positively. But yeah, you’re correct in that this was literally and figuratively speaking a boy versus a man…Peace.

  16. Clarence George 02:07am, 03/10/2014

    I very much agree.  To the extent that the fight interested me, I was rooting for Salido.  More, I was surprised by the number of boxing writers and analysts who predicted a win (up to a quick, easy, and definitive one) for Lomachenko.  Nothing impossible in boxing, of course, but it wasn’t clear to me how someone so inexperienced (regardless of his stellar amateur background and potential as a pro) could beat someone as skilled and seasoned as Salido.

    As for the low blows…as the sport’s quintessential dirty fighter, Fritzie Zivic, once observed, boxing ain’t playing the piano.  Or is it?  If the ref’s as deaf as a post, play it…and play it loud.

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