Salido spoils Cruz's story with TKOOctober 13, 2013 « Bradley defends WBO belt against Marquez | This is my last chance - Tremlett »
Orlando Salido downplayed the fact that Orlando Cruz is boxing's first openly gay fighter during the buildup to their featherweight title fight. Salido said he didn't care. He just wanted to get his hands on a second 126-pound world title.
And that's just what he did, as he dominated Cruz en route to a seventh-round knockout to win a vacant world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Cruz, despite the loss, was hailed as a hero by many for coming out as a gay fighter in such a macho sport. Members of Cruz's team waved a rainbow-coloured flag, signifying the colours of the LGBT community, in his corner during the introductions. He wore trunks in the colourful pattern, and his story was covered by media outlets around the world.
But although Cruz's story was told, it was Salido who won the title, hammering his opponent to the body throughout the fight. Salido, who looked much stronger, pushed Cruz around, landing hard lefts to the body and rights to the head, and he even mixed in solid uppercuts. Cruz ate a lot of punches, and his left eye began to show damage by the fourth round.
Salido (40-12-2, 28 KOs) stalked Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs) round after round, forcing Cruz to go defensive and use his legs. But he could avoid Salido for only so long before Salido would find him and tee off.
In the seventh round, Salido, 32, of Mexico, cornered Cruz, 32, of Puerto Rico, and landed a heavy right hand to the head and left to the body. Salido went down face-first, and referee Kenny Bayless stopped the bout a moment later at one minute and five seconds.
"Cruz is strong and fast, and I had to fight with intelligence and put a lot of pressure on him," said Salido, who was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the knockout. "This is the biggest moment of my life. My career has been like a roller coaster. I've had my ups and downs, but it's great to be back on top. It's a very big win."
Salido landed 131 of 392 punches (33%), but of his connects, 67 were power shots to the body, according to CompuBox. Cruz, a southpaw, landed 91 of 305 punches (30%).
"I went into the corner and he hit me with a good shot," Cruz said. "I thought the fight was close up until then. It was going back and forth."
The 126-pound belt was vacant because Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia - who had won the belt from Salido in a dominant performance in January - failed to make weight for his first defense against former titlist Juan Manuel Lopez in August and was stripped.
That paved the way for Salido and Cruz to meet for the vacant title.
Download ESPN's new UK sport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.
This article first appeared on ESPN.com