By Tim Dahlberg ,AP
LAS VEGAS — Orlando Salido took the vacant WBO featherweight title with a seventh-round stoppage of Orlando Cruz — the firstly openly gay active fighter — on Saturday.
Salido, coming off a surprise defeat to Mikey Garcia for the same belt in January, affirmed his status as one of the division’s best by outclassing Cruz.
The Mexican landed the heavier punches throughout and knocked Cruz down with a right hand to the head in the seventh. Cruz was on his knees and could not 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. “The fight was close up until then.”
Salido 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, the former Olympian from Puerto Rico, 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.
Cruz was accompanied by a man waving a flag in the gay 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 of Ukraine was successful in his official pro debut, stopping Mexican Jose Luis Ramirez in the fourth round of their scheduled 10-round featherweight bout.