Ask any fighter in the game what’s in store for the future while they are training for a fight, and the answer most likely given is that they’re focused solely on their next opponent and not anything else.
Orlando Salido didn’t have that luxury heading into his vacant featherweight title fight with Orlando Cruz last October. The veteran cult favorite already knew his destiny; worse, it was literally in front of him, dangling like a carrot on a stick. An hour or so before he would step into the ring with Cruz, Salido couldn’t help but look up and observe his future opponent on screen while in the dressing room.
Vasyl Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and one of the most successful amateur boxers in the history of the game, appeared on the same Vegas card as Salido, with both fighting in separate supporting bouts to Tim Bradley’s pay-per-view headlining win over Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas. In his pro debut, Lomachenko starched veteran Jose Ramirez in four rounds, with talks immediately turning to his next fight – a title shot in just his second pro fight.
“I knew why we were both on the card,” Salido recalls of the night. “I saw him in his fight with Ramirez and knew he’d be my next opponent.”
Salido did his part, destroying Cruz in seven rounds to reclaim the featherweight belt he lost earlier in the year to Mikey Garcia. In both fights – which comprised of his entire 2013 campaign – Salido was forced to play the role of afterthought in the pre-fight build-up.
The discussion heading into last January’s showdown with Garcia weren’t focused on making his third title defense, but that he was being served up to a rising young star. Even entering as the prohibitive favorite in his showdown with Cruz last October, the main pre-fight story line was how a win by Cruz would make him the first openly gay boxer to win a major title.
That never came close to happening, as Salido remained focused on becoming a three-time featherweight titlist. The 33-year old Mexican warrior has long ago grown used to taking the back seat, and expected it to be the case the moment his fight with Lomachenko was made official.
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