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Arum And Lomachenko Were Outmaneuvered By Salido

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His name is Vasyl Lomachenko, he’s from the Ukraine, he’s 26 years old and is a two time Olympic gold medalist. As an amateur he was a reported 396-1. He’s long, strong and he can fight inside and outside. His fundamentals and basics are good and he can hit with either hand. The plan his promoter Bob Arum had mapped out for him was to win a world title in his second pro bout after winning a regional title in his debut a little less than four months ago. It would’ve been an astounding achievement.

A world title after two fights would’ve launched Lomachenko into an overnight sensation and fighters already representing boxing’s future such as Mikey Garcia, Andre Ward and Ganady Golovkin would’ve been joined by a new contemporary.

Enter Orlando Salido, who is 33 years old and has been fighting grown men as a pro since he was about 15 years old. Salido, a veteran of 55 professional bouts 41-12-2 (28) was the chosen title holder (who didn’t make the featherweight limit and relinquished his title the day before the fight) was thought to be the sacrificial lamb and launch pad for Lomachenko’s impending stardom. Only things didn’t go as planned and boxing’s next must see fighter has to regroup and learn from his twelve round crash course this past weekend.

As the fight unfolded, it was painfully obvious to all watching that the supposedly shrewd course Bob Arum had charted for Lomachenko was on a collision with a huge detour. For starters, Salido who obviously has been paying attention to how the boxing game operates, was onto their game and had a few tricks of his own up his sleeve. Add to the equation that Salido was nearly a 4 1/2 -1 underdog, he no doubt was insulted and was clearly on a mission to upend Lomachenko and company. At the weigh in the day before the bout Salido came in at 128 1/4, two and a quarter pounds over the featherweight limit. He had to pay Lomachenko a small percentage of his purse along with being forced to relinquish his WBO title. This was a gamble that he no doubt figured would pay off if he could beat Lomachenko. Orlando knows that titles don’t mean much today and are really just a vehicle in which promoters and the powers in charge manipulate the sport of boxing and fighters. Salido knew a win over the next big thing in boxing would pay huge dividends down the road without the title. Lomachenko made the weight at 125 1/4 as expected. On fight night Salido scaled 147, 11 pounds more than the 136 that Lomachenko would enter the ring at. In other words Salido the welterweight was fully ready to manhandle and rough up the inexperienced lightweight that Lomachenko showed up being.

Right from the onset, Salido made the fight ugly, used his weight, stepped on Lomachenko’s feet, hit him on the hips, punched low, roughed him up on the inside, even raked his gloves across Lomachenko’s face. There was no question about who won the fight, it was a slow ugly fight that suited Salido’s best interest. To his credit, Lomachenko’s best round was the 12th, where he actually had Salido in some trouble. But it really was a rough introduction to the pros for Lomachenko, who lost a split decision (116-112, 115-113 and 115-113). Remember, Lomachenko’s whole persona was based on his being the Golden Boy, completely unbeatable even at the top levels of the division. At 1-1 you have to wonder how the marketing for him will go now.

Lomachenko showed grit for a guy who’s really still, in many ways, an amateur. However, he and his team were dumb to agree to fight after Salido weighed in that morning at 147. That had to make Salido a good 20 plus pounds bigger than any fighter Lomachenko ever fought. In addition to that, Vasyl was foolish to continue his amateur approach to how to fight a dirty fighter (in effect to say “he can fight dirty, but I’m above that.”) There are a lot of sharks out there at 126-130 who will eat him up (Rigondeaux, Donaire, and Garcia would have a picnic with him). Now he should be moved back to safer waters in order to build up his record. Sure, they could probably get him another title shot, and winning a world title in his third bout would be a herculean effort, but he’s surely not a given and very well could get beat again, and that would be a catastrophe.

What was also troubling is how Lomachenko didn’t retaliate with an eye for an eye approach when it was obvious that Salido didn’t respect him. Granted, referee Laurence Cole did a terrible job in dealing with Salido, but we’ll never know whether he would have given Lomachenko the same leeway that he gave Salido, since he never tried to retaliate. That was on him, not Cole. The reality is Lomachenko’s passivity represents a mindset regarding his personality and makeup more than it does his lack of experience. Then again when you’re so conditioned to fighting for ribbons and trophies, Lomachenko was undone by the hardness and bravado of a solid pro like Salido.

And after the bout Lomachenko didn’t seem particularly upset about having lost when he should’ve been beside himself. Again, that’s a little troubling. Before the broadcast it was even talked about how Salido is always brought in as the “other guy.” And how often it’s a mistake to dismiss him that way. Salido was very smart to trade the title and pay a few dollars in order for him to game the system the other way. Having the extra weight played into his hands and he fully understood that his title didn’t mean much and that a win over the future golden boy is all that anyone will remember, and he’s right. He’ll now be known for being the supposed cannon fodder that struck down a fighter who things were being set up for him to become an overnight star in boxing. Yes, it registered to him how Lomachenko was having things handed to him.

It was a calculated and gutsy gamble, and I give Lomachenko props for lasting the twelve rounds against a rough guy who was using all kinds of old pro tactics and tricks to get him out of there. But it turned out to be a mistake in that they picked on the wrong fighter who was tired of being the set-up guy.

Vasyl Lomachenko has tools to work with and it’s not out of the question that if he takes the type of fights that he should be taking at this stage of his career, he might one day be one of boxing’s brightest stars. However, for that to happen he has to ditch his father as his trainer and bring in a real one to work his corner. He’s not an amateur anymore.

Also, Salido served notice on how fighters who are forced to fight Floyd Mayweather, and perhaps even Manny Pacquiao at some gimmick catchweight should handle their business. Like say maybe Saul Alvarez shouldn’t have come in at the contracted 152 for Mayweather and came in at 155 and given up his title. Force Mayweather to fight him at his real weight and see if he takes the fight or backs out. Mayweather would have a hard time living that down and if he goes through with it and Alvarez beat him, it would’ve paid Saul back exponentially what he had to pay Floyd for not making weight. Remember how Mayweather paid Marquez after he came in two pounds over the contracted weight and then took the smaller Marquez apart the night they fought? That should’ve been lesson 101 on how to deal with the catch-weight hussle.

Yes, Arum and Lomachenko were outmaneuvered from the weigh-in to the final bell by team Salido. Arum and Team Lomachenko were playing marbles when they should’ve been playing chess.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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A Conversation with Legendary Phoenix Boxing Writer Norm Frauenheim

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It seems all along that Norm Frauenheim was destined to become a boxing writer.

Two critical elements were at play that led the 75-year-old scribe to that profession.

“I was always interested in boxing, even as a kid,” said Frauenheim who spent 31 years with the Arizona Republic beginning in 1977. “I’m an Army brat. I was born in January 1949 on a base, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, a city I didn’t really see until I hit the NBA road covering the [Phoenix] Suns for more than a decade starting in 1979-80.”

Frauenheim, a longtime correspondent for The Ring magazine who writes for various boxing sites such as boxingscene.com and 15rounds.com, added more background: “One of the many places I lived was Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu from 1962 to 1966,” he continued. “I delivered The Stars & Stripes to troops with the 25th Infantry Division, which was headed to Vietnam, along with my dad.

“Anyway, boxing and Schofield have long been linked, mostly because of a novel and film, ‘From Here to Eternity’ (the James Jones novel starring Frank Sinatra on the big screen). The troops were still boxing, outdoors, at the barracks along my newspaper route. I was 13 to 17 years old. I’d stop, watch and get interested. I’ve been interested ever since.”

Frauenheim added: “From there, my father and family shipped to Fort Sheridan, then a base north of Chicago where I spent one year and graduated from high school. Then my dad went back to Vietnam and I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville (1967 through 1971) and graduated with a major in history. I was also a competitive swimmer, pre-Title IX.

“Competitive swimming is also at the roots of my sportswriting career. I was frustrated that Vanderbilt’s student newspaper didn’t cover us. I offered to do it. The newspaper agreed. I don’t swim as well as I used to. I look at a surfboard and look at the waves I used to take on and wondered what in the hell I was doing. It’s a lot safer to be at ringside.”

After a more than five-decade stint covering boxing, Frauenheim is glad that the manly sport is still around but with more outside competition.

“It’s surely not the [Muhammad] Ali era. It’s not the Golden 80s, either. It’s a fractured business in a world with more and more options for sports fans. MMA is just one example,” he said. “Boxing is not dying. It has been declared dead, ad nauseam. I read the inevitable obits and think of an old line: Boxing has climbed out of more coffins than Count Dracula.

“Still, the sport has been pushed to the fringe of public interest. But it’s been there before. Resiliency is one of its strongest qualities. It’ll be around, always reinventing itself.”

In some respects, boxing, like the other sports, has always been dependent on rivalries like the NBA’s Celtics versus Lakers, which drives the public’s interest and storylines.

“[Larry] Bird-Magic [Johnson] was basketball’s Ali-[Joe] Frazier,” Frauenheim says. “It transformed the league, setting the stage for Michael Jordan. It can happen again, in boxing or any other sport.”

Boxing is still the same but with tweaks here and there.

“When I started, championship bouts were 15 rounds instead of 12,” said Frauenheim who began his journalism career in 1970 at the Tallahassee Democrat and worked at the Jacksonville Journal before being lured in Phoenix. “There were morning weigh-ins instead of the day-before promotional show. There was also a lot more media. A big fight in Vegas meant all of the big media people were there. The last time that happened was Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015, a fight that failed to meet expectations and I think eroded much of the big media’s appetite for more,” continued Frauenheim whose byline has appeared in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

Mexican legend Saul Alvarez is still a major draw, but there are others on the horizon who are ready to step in and take over like the undefeated super middleweight David Benavidez.

“The clock is ticking on Canelo’s career, and I think he knows it. At this point, it’s about risk-reward. The 27-year-old Benavidez is too big a risk. Canelo, I think, looks at Benavidez and thinks he’ll beat him. I don’t think he would,” Frauenheim noted. “Benavidez is too big, has a mean streak and possesses a rare extra gear. He gets stronger in the late rounds.

“Even if Canelo wins, there’s a pretty good chance that Benavidez hurts him. There’s still a chance Canelo-Benavidez happens. But I think it’ll take some Saudi [Arabian] money.”

Boxers stand alone in the ring, literally and figuratively, but have a small supporting crew.

This makes them unique compared to baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

“Boxers are different from any other athlete I’ve ever covered. It’s why, I guess, boxing has been called a writer’s sport. There are plenty of NFL and NBA players who have grown up on the so-called mean streets,” Frauenheim said. “But they have teammates. They don’t make that long, lonely walk from the dressing room to the ring.”

Stripped naked, boxers are an open book, according to Frauenheim.

“They can be hard to deal with while training and cutting weight. But after a fight, no athlete in my experience is more forthcoming,” he said. “Win or lose, they just walked through harm’s way in front of people. In my experience, that’s when they want to talk.”

Selecting a career highlight or highlights isn’t easy for Frauenheim, but he tried.

“There are so many. I was there for the great Sugar Ray Leonard victory over Thomas Hearns [1981], a welterweight classic,” he recalled. “A personal favorite was Michael Carbajal’s comeback from two knockdowns for a KO of Humberto Gonzalez in 1993, perhaps the best fight in the history of the lightest weight class. I was also there for the crazy, including Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield’s “Bite Fight” and the “Fan Man” landing in the ring like the 82nd Airborne Division midway through a Riddick Bowe-Holyfield fight behind Vegas’ Caesars Palace.”

Three boxers set the tone and backdrop for Frauenheim’s illustrious tenure as a writer.

“Roberto Duran is the greatest lightweight ever. His lifestyle sometimes got the best of him. That was evident in his infamous ‘No Mas’ welterweight loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in New Orleans,” he said of that November 1980 bout. “He told me that he took the rematch, on short notice, because of the money. “Women-women-women, eating-eating-eating, drinking-drinking-drinking,” he told me in an interview of what he had been doing before Leonard’s people approached him for an immediate rematch of his Montreal victory. But take a look at Duran’s victory in Montreal [June 1980]. Watch it again. On that night, there’s never been a better fighter than Duran.”

Frauenheim added another titan to that short list: “Leonard, who is the last real Sugar,” he said, and ended with the only eight-weight division king. “Manny Pacquiao, an amazing story about a starving kid off impoverished Filipino streets. He was a terrific fighter, blessed with speed, power and instinct. Add to that a shy personality unchanged by all the money and celebrity. He is an example of what can still happen in boxing. He’s the face of the game’s resiliency.”

That’s quite a trio, and they’re the best of the best that Frauenheim’s seen and covered from ringside.

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Aaron McKenna and Kieron Conway Victorious in Osaka

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Aaron McKenna scored a 10th-round stoppage of Jeovanny Estela today (Monday, July 15) in Osaka, Japan. The bout was one of four scheduled 10-rounders in the middleweight division in a revamped Prizefighter Tournament with a $1,000,000 prize at stake for the winner.

One of two fighting brothers from the little town of Smithborough in County Monaghan, Ireland, the undefeated (19-0, 10 KOs) McKenna (pictured) was well ahead on the scorecards when the referee stepped in and halted the match at the 2:02 mark of the final round. He entered the ring a 4/1 favorite over Estela (14-1), a 23-year-old Floridian of Puerto Rican descent who began his pro career at 147.

McKenna’s opponent in the next round (at a date and place to be determined) will be England’s Kieron Conway (21-3-1, 6 KOs) who scored a seventh-round stoppage over China’s obscure Ainiwaer Yilixati (19-2). All three of Conway’s losses were to opponents who were undefeated when he fought them with two of those setbacks occurring on Canelo Alvarez undercards.

Two Japanese fighters – Riku Kunimoto and Kazuto Takesako – were victorious in the other bouts and will meet in the semifinals.

Local fan favorite Kunimoto, recognized as the middleweight champion of Japan, advanced to 12-1 (6 KOs) with a fifth-round stoppage of countryman Eiki Kani (8-5-3). This was a rematch. The two fought earlier this year in Nagoya with Kunimoto registering a fifth-round TKO.

Takesako (17-2-1, 15 KOs) registered the lone upset on the card with a hard-earned decision over England’s Mark Dickinson. It was the first pro loss for Dickinson who had only six pro fights under his belt but was a highly decorated amateur. The scores were 98-92, 97-93, and 95-94.

The next fight for Kunimoto will be another rematch. Takesako saddled him with his lone defeat, knocking him out in the first round at Tokyo’s venerable Korakuen Hall in May of 2021.

The tournament, co-sponsored by Matchroom and televised on DAZN, offers an aggregate $100,000 per event for knockouts. McKenna, Conway, and Kunimoto scooped up $25,000 apiece.

Aaron McKenna, his brother Stephen, and their father/trainer Feargal McKenna were the subjects of a story that ran on these pages. Stephen McKenna (14-0, 13 KOs) returns to the ring next month against 14-2 Joe Laws on a BOXXER promotion that will air on Sky Sports in the UK.

Aaron McKenna entered the Prizefighter Tourney as the pre-fight favorite and Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn has indicated that he will be in line for a world title shot if he wins his next two matches.

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Results and Recaps from Philly where ‘Boots’ Ennis Stomped Out David Avanesyan

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — On what Matchroom Boxing Promotions called the most important night in Philadelphia boxing in over 40 years, Jaron “Boots” Ennis (32-0, 29 KOs), the current IBF welterweight champion from the city of Brotherly Love, attracted a larger-than-expected crowd of 14,119 to the Wells Fargo Center where he stopped David Avanesyan who was pulled out after five rounds. In Avanesyan (30-5-1, 18 KOs), Ennis looked to impress on two fronts, both commercially and critically.

It didn’t take long for there to be some excitement after Ennis landed a clean jab that caused Avanesyan to stagger momentarily. Ennis turned southpaw and the action stopped after Ennis landed a low blow. Rounds two and three saw both fighters decide to fight on the inside. Ennis was able to land crisp upper cuts while only getting hit with a few shots in exchange. After four rounds, the evidence was clear that Avanesyan was getting hit with clean shots as his face started to get busted up. Avanesyan had a moment when he landed a right hand that got the attention of the crowd and Ennis.

In return, Ennis continued to press forward, this time behind a straight left and combinations. A huge overhand left floored Avanesyan who rose to his feet. Round five ended with Ennis landing some clean power shots that had Avanesyan looking deflated. The ringside physician called an end to the fight after the conclusion of round five.

After the fight, Ennis agreed that he would love the opportunity to fight Terence Crawford if Crawford were to win next month, this despite not having the type of performance that he would have loved to have had after having a year-long lay-off. Eddie Hearn mentioned that he would love to have Ennis return to Philadelphia sometime in October or November if the Crawford fight can’t be made in a possible unification fight.

Other Bouts

After three pedestrian rounds, what sounded like it would be a grudge match between Jahlil Hackett (9-0, 7 KOs) and Pete Dobson (16-2) finally turned into a fight in the fourth. With both fighters finally warming up, Hackett used his jab to continue to work his way inside to land power combinations. Dobson was forced to back up into the ropes and take shots after a large lump formed on his forehead above his left eye.

The action settled down after the sixth round with Hackett taking total control. He continued to work behind an educated jab that stunted any offensive attack that Dobson tried to muster. After all ten rounds, two of the judges saw the fight 97-93, while the third had it 96-94 all in favor of Jahlil Hackett.

Skye Nicolson (11-0, 1 KO), the 2020 Tokyo Olympian and current WBC featherweight champion, utilized her skills in every way to defeat Dayan Vargas (18-2, 12 KOs). All three judges scored the fight 100-90 after Nicolson completed the shutout in dominating fashion through her command of range with a sharp jab and lateral movement. Moving forward unification fights and a possible move up in weight may force Nicolson to face the type of opposition that could make for more entertaining fights in the future.

Light heavyweight action kicked off the main portion of the DAZN telecast. Jersey City native Khalil Coe (9-0-1, 7 KOs) made short work of Kwame Ritter (11-2). After an uneventful first round, Coe started to close the distance to start the second round and as a result he landed a hard straight right that hurt Ritter. A left hook dropped Ritter and he fell backwards into the ropes. When he got up, Coe was able to swarm him with hard shots and the referee called a halt to the action with just one second remaining in the second round.

Former world title challenger Christopher “Pitufu” Diaz (29-4, 19 KOs) made quick work of the game but clearly overmatched Derlyn Hernandez (12-2-1). A short-left hook hurt Hernandez and the seasoned Diaz took his time applying the follow-up pressure that forced the referee to wave off the action at the 2:36 mark of the second round. Diaz stated prior to this comeback fight that he’s looking for one more run towards a world title.

Christian Carto (23-1, 17 KO’s) looked impressive in three rounds of action against Carlos Buitrago (38-14, 22 KOs). Both fighters were happy to exchange from the opening bell. Carto took the punches he was hit with well and was able to return fire with combinations that caught and dropped Buitrago to start round three. A series of well-placed power combinations hurt Buitrago as the round came to an end, which prompted the referee to stop the bout at the end of the round.

A pair of Boots Promotions fighters kicked off the night with entertaining bouts:

It took all six rounds to decide the Ismail Muhammad (5-0, 1 KOs) Frank Brown (3-5-2) fight. Brown pressed the action early and caught the cold Muhammad in an exchange knocking him down for the first time in his career. Muhammad rose to his feet and proceeded to work the gameplan to get himself back into the fight. Muhammad scored his own knockdown in the fourth round and finished the fight strong to earn the unanimous decision victory by scores of 58-54 twice and 57-55.

Dennis Thompson (1-0) won his professional debut at bantamweight with a unanimous decision over the game Fernando Valdez (1-8).

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