By TIM DAHLBERG
Gay boxer Orlando Cruz lost his bid for a piece of the featherweight title Saturday night, getting stopped in the seventh round by veteran Orlando Salido.
Cruz, the first openly gay active fighter, was outclassed much of the fight by Salido, who landed the heavier punches throughout before knocking Cruz down with a right hand to the head in the seventh. Cruz was on his knees and couldn’t get up as he was counted out at 1:05 of the round.
“I went into the corner and he hit me with a good shot,” Cruz said. “I thought the fight was close up until then.”
Salido, who lost the 126-pound title in his last fight, won it back with an impressive performance against Cruz, a former Olympian from Puerto Rico who last year came out as gay. He took the fight to Cruz and was ahead 59-55 on two scorecards and 58-56 on a third going into the seventh round.
“This is the biggest moment of my life,” Salido said. “I won a world title for the fourth time.”
Cruz was greeted by a mixture of boos and whistles coming into the ring, with the pro-Mexican crowd that came to cheer on Juan Manuel Marquez against Timothy Bradley in the main event clearly in the corner of Salido, who is from Mexico. He was accompanied by a man waving a flag in rainbow colors, and fought in trunks with rainbow colors modeled after the Puerto Rican flag.
It was the first title fight for Cruz in a 13-year professional career in which he has had mixed success. He fell to 20-3-1 with the loss.
“This is my moment, my time,” Cruz said before the fight, clearly relishing his moment in the limelight.
It turned out it wasn’t his fight, though, with Salido showing off his ring skills and handling most of what Cruz threw at him. Cruz landed few big punches, though he used his southpaw style to box effectively at times from the outside.
In another fight, two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko was successful in his official pro debut, stopping Jose Luis Ramirez in the fourth round of their scheduled 10-round bout.
Lomachenko, who won gold medals for Ukraine in 2008 and 2012, hit Ramirez with a left to the body that put him on the canvas, where he was counted out.
Lomachenko, who claims an amateur record of 396-1, took the unusual step of fighting a boxer in his 29th bout in his debut for promoter Bob Arum. Lomachenko had previously fought six fights for the Ukraine team in the World Series of Boxing, but had no official professional record.
“I was happy with my performance but I can do better,” Lomachenko said.
Arum said before the fight that Lomachenko could fight the winner of Salido-Cruz in January for the 126-pound title.