On Versus, Cristobal Cruz Wins A Title Belt In His 50th Fight

Cristobal Cruz! Just a couple months ago, I wrote that he was a television-friendly fighter who may never win a title. Scratch ‘im off the list! Nice to see a guy like that make good.

Versus Network broadcast a card Wednesday night that featured a title fight and the debut of a hot prospect fresh out of the Olympics, but the card totally flew under the radar.

Cruz’ fight was for a vacant featherweight (126 lbs.) belt, the IBF’s.
Cruz earned my affection with a 1,500-punch upset of the somewhat hyped
Thomas Mashaba on ESPN2 in March. His opponent this go-round was
Orlando Salido, who beat rising star Roberto Guerrero two years ago but
got busted afterwards for testing positive for steroids. Both men came
in sporting records with a 30ish win, 10ish loss dynamic, and because
Salido lost his title thanks to the ‘roids, neither had ever won a
major title.

It was a sloppy, sloppy fight for the first half, which I saw Salido
winning because he landed the cleaner, crisper shots, and more of them,
in between arms getting tied up and people tripping all over each
other. Salido even wobbled the iron-jawed Cruz in the 6th, I believe,
but overall I had Salido ahead by a far wider margin than did the
Versus commentating team or the viewers who scored it over the
Internet. It’s not that some of the rounds weren’t close, but Salido’s
punches were sharp and hard when they made clean contact, while all of
Cruz’ were soft and glancing. Through the 8th, I’d only given Cruz one
round. That the 7th round was seen as close confounded me, since Salido
landed something like 27 punches to Cruz’ 18, and all of Salido’s were

But Cruz’ work rate began to slow down Salido after the 8th. I gave him
every round after that, good enough to get Cruz to within one point of
victory by the end of the 12th. Because I could sense Cruz coming on
strong, the fight got more exciting, especially since both men fought
the 12th like they needed it, and the drama of an uncertain outcome
always spices up a boxing match. In the end, only one judge gave it to
Salido, by the same margin I did. The other two judges saw it 116-112
for Cruz, presumably because of his higher work rate.

In other action on the Versus card:

–Demetrius Andrade, the U.S. welterweight (147 lbs.) entrant in the
Olympics, did exactly what he was supposed to by smashing the cannon
fodder he was fed for his pro debut. Opponent Patrick Cape was brave,
but little more. Andrade landed a very serious body shot that decked
Cape at the end of the 1st round, and combined with the fact that he
landed it with one hand tied up by Cape — neither body shots nor that
“one hand free” maneuver would go over well in the amateurs — there’s
reason to believe Andrade’s already adapting to the pro game. In the
2nd round, Andrade finished Cape quickly by knocking him down again,
and the ref wisely stopped the bout despite Cape’s protests. Other than
that evidence of some pro adaptation, the fight was useful only in that
you have to make your pro debut some time. Andrade looked like the
quick, exciting prospect he did when he was in the Olympics.

–The opening bout was a fight between a guy who could punch but didn’t
know how to fight and a guy who… well, I don’t know, but he won.
Maxim Vlasov is a super middleweight (168 lbs.) prospect who knows how
to fight a little, has some clever defensive moves, is tall — 6’3″ —
and has the advantage slash disadvantage of being somewhat awkward. He
remained undefeated in his 14th fight with a win over Don Mouton, who
hurt Vlasov on several occasions and not just because Vlasov may or may
not have a weak chin. He also clashed heads with Vlasov, opening a
nasty cut that Vlasov’s corner managed to control, which, truth be
told, was the most interesting part of the fight. Vlasov was slow and
didn’t sit down on his punches, but he showed composure en route to a
closer-than-it-should-have-been decision win and in all, I’m thinking
“work in progress,” as Versus’ team labeled him, is about the best
description you can foist on Vlasov. I wasn’t overly impressed, but I
can’t say I’d write him off entirely based on just this fight.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.