LAS VEGAS -- Orlando Salido downplayed the fact that Orlando Cruz is boxing's first openly gay fighter during the buildup to their featherweight title fight. Salido said he didn't care. He just wanted to get his hands on a third 126-pound world title.
And that's just what he did, as he dominated Cruz en route to a seventh-round knockout to win a vacant world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Cruz, despite the loss, was hailed as a hero by many for coming out as a gay fighter in such a macho sport. Members of Cruz's team waved a rainbow-colored flag, signifying the colors of the LGBT community, in his corner during the introductions. He wore trunks in the colorful pattern, and his story was covered by media outlets around the world.
But although Cruz's story was told, it was Salido who won the title, hammering his opponent to the body throughout the fight. Salido, who looked much stronger, pushed Cruz around, landing hard lefts to the body and rights to the head, and he even mixed in solid uppercuts. Cruz ate a lot of punches, and his left eye began to show damage by the fourth round.
Salido (40-12-2, 28 KOs) stalked Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs) round after round, forcing Cruz to go defensive and use his legs. But he could avoid Salido for only so long before Salido would find him and tee off.
In the seventh round, Salido, 32, of Mexico, cornered Cruz, 32, of Puerto Rico, and landed a heavy right hand to the head and left to the body. Salido went down face-first, and referee Kenny Bayless stopped the bout a moment later at 1 minute, 5 seconds.
"Cruz is strong and fast, and I had to fight with intelligence and put a lot of pressure on him," said Salido, who was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the knockout. "This is the biggest moment of my life. My career has been like a roller coaster. I've had my ups and downs, but it's great to be back on top. It's a very big win."
Salido landed 131 of 392 punches (33 percent), but of his connects, 67 were power shots to the body, according to CompuBox. Cruz, a southpaw, landed 91 of 305 punches (30 percent).
"I went into the corner and he hit me with a good shot," Cruz said. "I thought the fight was close up until then. It was going back and forth."
The 126-pound belt was vacant because Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia -- who had won the belt from Salido in a dominant performance in January -- failed to make weight for his first defense against former titlist Juan Manuel Lopez in August and was stripped.
That paved the way for Salido and Cruz to meet for the vacant title.
Lomachenko shines in KO victory
Heralded two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko (1-0, 1 KO) looked sensational in his professional debut as he blew out experienced veteran Jose Luis Ramirez (24-3-2, 15 KOs) in the fourth round of their scheduled 10-round featherweight bout.
"I tried to keep my distance. It was a good fight, but I can do better," Lomachenko said through a translator. "I was happy with my performance."
Lomachenko, who won Olympic featherweight gold in 2008 and lightweight gold in 2012, wanted to fight for a world title right out of the gate, but instead settled on fighting fringe contender Ramirez in a 10-rounder rather than taking a four-rounder, as most rookies would have done.
Lomachenko scored a knockdown in the first round, nailing Ramirez with a left hand to the body and a right hand to the head. Ramirez was hurt by the body shot and went down after feeling the delayed effect, barely beating the count.
In the fourth round, Lomachenko, 25, was tattooing Ramirez with combinations and dominating before nailing him with a hard left hook to the midsection. Ramirez slumped to his knees and referee Russell Mora counted him out at 2 minutes, 59 seconds.
Lomachenko was very accurate, landing 104 of 241 punches (43 percent), while Ramirez, 25, of Mexico, connected on just 52 of 256 (20 percent) and didn't have much steam on his shots.
"The punches to the body hurt way more than the punches to the head," Ramirez said. "He's incredibly fast. I knew what I was getting into. He was just too much for me. I tried to attack to him, but nothing happened. I couldn't land anything solid on him."
Lomachenko might fight for a world title in his next fight in January against Salido. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he wants to match Lomachenko with junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, later in 2014.
"I have a lot of respect for Rigondeaux," Lomachenko said. "I think I need a few more fights before I'm ready for him."
Although Saturday's fight was billed as Lomachenko's professional debut, there has been some debate over whether it really was. He had six bouts (going 6-0) in the World Series of Boxing, a league that is run by AIBA, the organization that controls amateur boxing -- including the Olympics and world amateur tournament. AIBA portrayed the WSB bouts as a way for top amateurs to retain their Olympic eligibility and amateur status even though they were paid and fighters didn't wear headgear. Subsequently, American state commissions recognized the fights as pro bouts.
• Light heavyweight brawler "Irish" Seanie Monaghan (19-0, 12 KOs) of Long Beach, N.Y., pounded out Anthony Caputo-Smith (14-2, 10 KOs) of Kenneth Square, Pa., in the third round of a slugfest.
Typically, Monaghan fights in New York, where he is a top ticket-seller, but after his recent signing with Top Rank, the company wanted to give him the exposure on a bigger card because he is almost always in an exciting fight, although he has faced limited opposition.
The crowd cheered wildly when Monaghan and Caputo-Smith got into a brawl at the outset. Monaghan was the stronger man, imposing himself on Caputo-Smith until referee Tony Weeks stopped the battering at 2 minutes, 39 seconds of the third round.
"Once I get my Irish up, there's no stopping me," Monaghan said. "I wanted to put on a show for my HBO and Las Vegas debut. I hope to come back in my next fight in January or February in New York."
• Featherweight Jun Doliguez (17-0-2, 13 KOs) of the Philippines bloodied and battered Giovanni Caro (24-14-4, 19 KOs) of Mexico in a sixth-round knockout victory. Doliguez finished Caro, dropping him twice in the final round. After the second knockdown, referee Vic Drakulich called off the fight at 2 minutes, 53 seconds.
• Quebec welterweight prospect Mikael Zewski (21-0, 16 KOs) pounded Alberto Herrera (9-10-1, 5 KOs) of Riverside, Calif., into submission at the end of the fifth round of a scheduled eight-rounder. Herrera had taken a beating and was on his stool after the fifth when the fight was waved off by referee Russell Mora.
• Chicago light heavyweight prospect Trevor McCumby (13-0, 10 KOs) won a six-round decision -- 59-53, 58-58 and 58-53 -- over Eric Watkins (10-5-1, 5 KOs) of Morgantown, W.Va., in a rematch in which both fighters were down. McCumby dropped Watkins with a right hand in the first round but got dropped himself on a clean right hand in the second round. McCumby, who was hurting Watkins time and again, scored another knockdown on a left uppercut in the fourth round.
• In the opening bout of the card, slick welterweight Brad Solomon (21-0, 8 KOs) of Lafayette, La., easily outboxed Kenny Abril (14-7-1, 7 KOs) of Rochester, N.Y., for an eight-round decision. The judges had it 80-72, 79-73 and 79-73 for Solomon, who befuddled Abril with his movement.