Unable to get Vasyl Lomachenko in the ring, Orlando Salido will go head-to-head with him on TV

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Orlando Salido (R), shown in the 2016 Yahoo Sports Fight of the Year against Francisco Vargas on June 4, 2016, will fight Mickey Roman on Dec. 9 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)

It seems that Orlando “Siri” Salido and Vasyl Lomachenko were destined to face each other. On Dec. 9, they’ll go head-to-head, but it won’t be against each other in the same ring.

Unable to land a rematch with Lomachenko, Salido will fight Mickey Roman on Dec. 9 on HBO at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, going head-to-head with Lomachenko’s WBO super featherweight title fight on the same night at Madison Square Garden against Guillermo Rigondeaux that will be televised by ESPN.

It’s rare that a boxer who won a fight winds up chasing the other for a rematch, but such has been the case for the last three years with Salido. Salido lost the WBO featherweight on the scale in San Antonio on Feb. 28, 2014, when he missed the featherweight limit of 126 pounds, but he came back the next night to win a split decision over Lomachenko.

That was Lomachenko’s second fight as a pro, and much was made about Lomachenko attempting to win a world title so early in his pro career after going 396-1 as an amateur with back-to-back gold medals.

Lomachenko has gone on to win his next eight fights, hold the WBO super featherweight title, and is regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. His bout on ESPN against Rigondeaux marks the first time in history that men who have each won two Olympic gold medals will face each other as pros.

Lomachenko opted to fight Rigondeaux in a battle against two men who are widely regarded as among the Top 10 fighters in the sport instead of giving Salido a rematch. So Salido will go head-to-head with the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux fight and try to steal their thunder when they meet on the same night on HBO.

Salido was scheduled to fight Miguel Berchelt, who pulled out of the bout last week with an injury. In Roman, Salido picked an opponent who could help him perform in yet another Fight of the Year-type match. Salido has been involved in the Yahoo Sports Fight of the Year twice, in 2014 against Terdsak Kokietgym and in 2016 in a draw with Francisco Vargas.

And so to Salido’s mind, there is no question which fight boxing fans should watch on Dec. 9.

“People know when I step into the ring, they’re going to see a real fight and two guys going at it hard,” Salido said. “That other fight, it’s going to be two guys thinking and dancing around. I put everything into making it a fight, a real fight. You should choose to watch Orlando Salido if you want to see a great fight and not guys who will run from a fight.”

Salido manager Sean Gibbons said Top Rank’s Bob Arum wouldn’t make Salido an acceptable offer to face Lomachenko, and so he went in a different direction.

Gibbons said fans who were excited when Yahoo Sports broke the news that Lomachenko would face Rigondeaux will not be pleased if they stay with that fight.

“Do a little research and see what Bob said before about watching Rigondeaux fight,” Gibbons said. “It’s not pretty. What it comes down to is, if you are a fight fan, on Dec. 9 you’ll tune in to HBO and watch Salido and Roman. If you’re a fan of chess, you’ll watch ESPN and probably be asleep long before that fight is over.”

Salido will be 37 on fight night and he’s engaged in many brutal battles in his lengthy career. He’s just 1-1-2 in his last four and doesn’t really need to fight because he’s got several businesses and is set financially.

But he said he finds it hard to walk away.

“I love it so much,” he said. “I enjoy getting ready and going through a hard training camp. I enjoy the competition so much. I just love it. I have had some real ups and downs in my career and I’ve been in some rough fights and gone through some tough times. But I still love this more than anything else, so why quit now?

“I’m doing the best I’ve done in my career financially and it’s hard to walk away making this kind of money and knowing there are still some fights out there where I can make good money. I’ll see how I feel after each fight, and take my time, but at this point, I don’t see myself retiring any time soon.”