LAS VEGAS – Orlando Cruz fell short of his dream of becoming the first openly gay boxer to win a world title, suffering a seventh-round knockout loss at the hands of Orlando Salido for the vacant WBO featherweight title at the Thomas and Mack Center Saturday night.
The 32-year-old Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs), who made global headlines last October for his decision to come out, had received an outpour of support from both the boxing world and the LGBT community.
However, though Cruz came into the bout riding a four-bout winning streak, defeating a former two-time featherweight titleholder in Salido (40-12-2, 28 KOs) proved too tough a task for the Puerto Rican.
Utilizing effective pressure and an onslaught of powerful lead right hands, Salido continuously backed Cruz into the ropes. Though the southpaw Cruz had his moments and had appeared to box effectively enough to take the fifth round, Salido once again grasped control in the following frame, punishing Cruz both to the body and head with barrages.
As Cruz became increasingly troubled with keeping Salido at bay due to his lack of punching power, Salido took advantage in the seventh round. After missing with a left uppercut, Salido unloaded his final assault, a looping right and subsequent left uppercut that sent Cruz doubling over on the canvas. Referee Kenny Bayless reached the full count of 10 at an official time of 1:05.
San Leandro’s Nonito Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs), the reigning Fighter of the Year, was in attendance for the matchup, and if the newly minted 126-pounder can beat Vic Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) in Corpus Christi, Tex., on Nov. 9, he will target the winner of Saturday’s fight.
“I would love to fight the champion next year,” said Donaire, who has also stated his desire to bring a card to the Bay Area. “Whether it’s Cruz or Salido, I want to be a world champion again.”
However, Donaire might have to wait for his shot at the belt, as a source informed CSNBayArea.com that two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko (1-0) of Ukraine will likely earn the assignment. In his pro debut, Lomachenko impressively stopped world-rated Jose Ramirez with a body shot in the third round shortly before Salido and Cruz met in the ring.
TIMOTHY BRADLEY SD12 JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ
In the main event, Timothy Bradley of Palm Springs won his third consecutive close verdict, beating Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision to retain his WBO welterweight title. Patricia Morse Jarman (116-112) and Robert Hoyle (115-113) gave Bradley the nod, overriding Glenn Feldman’s 115-113 score for Marquez.
An overwhelmingly pro-Marquez crowd booed the decision, but Bradley was confident that the judges got the result right.
“I didn’t think the fight was that close,” Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) said.“When he caught me on the ropes, a lot of shots were missing.I felt I controlled the fight.”
The bout was tactical but entertaining, with several rounds close enough to where the identity of the winner was in doubt throughout the 12 rounds.Bradley seemed to capture an early lead with his speed and boxing ability, but Marquez used his body work and veteran guile to battle his way back into the fight.
In the final round, both men traded left hooks.Bradley’s landed with enough impact to wobble Marquez.However, the Mexican maintained his balance and did not incur a knockdown.Unfortunately, his effort was all for naught, and after the loss, he showed his frustration with the decision at the postfight press conference.
“To be here in Vegas, I need to knock the people out to get a victory,” Marquez said.Unfortunately, I need to be scared of the judges more than my opponent.”
As for Bradley’s next opponent, he might be looking at the Nov. 23 winner between Pacquiao and Brandon Rios.
“I’m going to sit down to talk to my team,” Bradley said.“I want to fight nothing but the best.You have to consider me top three in the world now.There’s [Floyd] Mayweather, there’s Andre Ward, and there’s Tim Bradley, baby.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the Boxing Insider at CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RMaq28.