Cruz, Battered By Salido, In Attempt To Make History As First Gay Boxing Champ
It was a tough night for Orlando Cruz
On the same night that Timothy Bradley prevailed over Juan Manuel Marquez in their W.B.O. 147 pound championship bout there was also heavy media attention on another contest -- Orlando “EL Fenomeno” Cruz fought Orlando “Siri” Salido.
The media interest was weather Cruz, who came out last year would be the first openly Gay boxing champion.
Alas, this was not to be because on Saturday, October 12, 2013, at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, Salido came out from the first bell with bad intentions, battering Cruz mercilessly, especially to the body, every round.
Despite his denials he seemed concerned and on a mission not to lose to a Gay fighter. The knockout occurred in the 7th round when Salido after pounding Cruz viciously and repeatedly to the body, hit Cruz with a hard right hand to the head followed by a left hook, knocking him down to the canvas on his back.
As the referee, Kenny Bayless, started to count, he stopped and waved the fight over when he saw that Cruz was semi-conscious, and badly cut over his left eye.
What I don’t understand is why Cruz’s trainer, former world cruiserweight champ, Carlos “Sugar” De Leon, didn’t tell Cruz to stay in the center of the ring and off the ropes as he did in most of the rounds, allowing Salido more of an advantage to pound him.
When Cruz stayed in the center and boxed, briefly, Salido seemed confused and unable to hit Cruz at will, which at least gave the fans the feeling, though briefly, that Cruz could pull victory out of certain defeat. I feel strongly that Cruz’s trainers failed him. Trainers are supposed to tell fighters what to do round-after-round-after-round, defensively and offensively; they didn’t.
There was one round, the 5th, that I actually awarded Cruz, because he boxed brilliantly and avoided Salido’s bull rushes, but that was only short-lived resulting in the 7th round knockout.
Brave effort by a brave man. While training in the Mendez gym he looked sharp, and fast; throwing sharp punch combinations with the speed and accuracy of the great featherweight Champ of yesteryear, Sandy Saddler -- as he hit the trainer’s pads and the punching bag. The pads and punching bags don’t hit back though.
Orlando Cruz, who at 32, I felt, was not ready for prime time fights was given this spotlight title fight, creating perhaps, in my opinion, a circus-act atmosphere for the homophobic curious by the promoters to attract a larger paying crowd.
The fight became more controversial when Cruz entered the ring wearing boxing trunks displaying the rainbow colors of the Gay Nation over the red, white, and blue of the Puerto Rican flag. That display angered many Puerto Ricans not only here in the United States, but in the homeland as well.
Salido was a former world champ who knocked out one of the best featherweight Champs to win the title, then undefeated Juan Manuel Lopez, twice. Prior to that fight, he lost to ex-Olympian and also undefeated Cuban, Yuriorkis Gamboa, while scoring a knockdown.
Salido then went on a 5-fight knockout streak before losing his featherweight title to Mickey Garcia. So this seasoned veteran was not to be denied a second attempt at winning a world crown.
During the fight Salido appeared to be his own worst enemy since he kept hitting Cruz below the belt repeatedly drawing several warnings from referee Bayless and risking disqualification. Perhaps it would’ve been merciful for Cruz winning his coveted world title in this fashion and sparing him the beating he absorbed.
After Salido settled down around the 3rd round, he viciously continued to punish Cruz non-stop until the knockout.
What is next for Orlando Cruz after his phenomenal opportunity to win a world title was not successful? Lauded as a hero by the Gay Nation, perhaps other athletes who are still hiding in all sports will come out, because of Cruz. He may be disappointed in not winning the fight, but in many phases of life he is indeed a winner, and he still could win a world title in the future.
“I am very disappointed but proud that I have accomplished something for all, especially the Gay Nation. I will now rest, and plan my other boxing options and other offers after the holidays,” declared a very somber Cruz, who also said he may go down in weight to the 122 pound level.
Salido now back on top, admitted that he was having trouble making the 126 pound weight and that he may move up to the super featherweight level and challenge the winner of the super featherweight championship fight between current I.B.O. 130 pound champ Rocky Martinez and Mickey Garcia, the last fighter to defeat him.
“I now want a 3rd world title, and who knows, I may meet Mickey Garcia again,” he said, savoring his W.B.O. featherweight championship.