3 More Rounds

Spirit of Ali hovered over FOTY candidate

Photo: Chris Farina / Team Salido

Photo: Chris Farina / Team Salido

Boxing fans received the tragic yet inevitable news that we all knew would crush our boxing hearts on June 3, 2016 that boxing icon Muhammad Ali had passed at the age of 74.

While in no ways whatsoever can anything make up for losing the face of our sport, the much beloved Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, on June 4, 2016 two fighters sought to pay tribute with their fists, (and one walking in with an Ali shirt) which they did in Fight of The Year caliber fashion on a breezy Southern California night under the stars.

Michael Buffer took to the mic for the HBO main event as he famously does prior to some of the biggest bouts in boxing history and alongside Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya, relayed Ali accomplishments to the crowd and then led the solemn ten-count every fallen fighter receives.  (Perhaps even a 15 count would have honored the late Ali even more so than the regulatory 10 as the Louisville Lip fought in what most consider the ‘golden age’ of boxing where 15 rounds were the norm).

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Buffer went on to announce the challenger, 20 year fight veteran Orlando Salido, and the WBC featherweight champion, Mexico City’s Francisco Vargas, and what enfolded just one day after the worst boxing news ever received was 12 exhilarating rounds is what most are already calling 2016’s FOTY.

The 7,378 fans in attendance who proudly turned on their cellphone lights in unison during the fallen fighters 10 count and chanted separate versions of “Ali!”, and “Ali, bumaye!”, with grieving hearts watched and cheered as the two combatants in the ring rarely took any steps backwards from round one onward; instead fighting toe to toe for a majority of the fight that both served as a title match and Ali tribute.

Just like Ali had in some of his highest profile fights against the likes of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, Salido came walked into the ring as the decided underdog at a near 4-1 rate yet proved in dramatic fashion that a warriors heart can never be counted out as the Sonora, Mexico native applied a deadly combination of toughness, skill and veteran guile topped off with a red Ali shirt he donned during his walk-in to the ring inside the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California.

At one point, a writer seated nearby even likened Salido’s work while fighting off the ropes as Salido’s version of Ali’s rope-a-dope technique when he was rocked in the fifth round by a Vargas right hand and was forced to fall back onto the ropes nearby.

Salido valiantly fought back in the round and proceeded to war with Vargas as the pair traded momentum swings in the furious fistic type of action that is now beginning to be regularly seen at the SHC since its inception as the venue (formerly known as the Home Depot Center) has hosted many previous Fights of the Year from Israel Vasquez/Rafael Marquez III (March 2008), Brandon Rios/Michael Alvarado (October 2012), Ruslan Provodnikov/Timothy Bradley (March 2013) and most recently John Molina/Lucas Matthysse (April 2014), all of which this writer is humbled to able to say were covered in person.

The end result was deemed majority draw (114-114 twice and 115-113 Vargas) yet on this night, on the weekend we bid farewell to ‘The Greatest’ in the greatest way possible, there were no losers as alongside Vargas and Salido inside the Stub Hub Center ring was the incomparable spirit of our beloved Muhammad Ali.

R.I.P. MUHAMMAD ALI 1942-2016

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