We aren’t sadists. Are we?
But that’s what it felt like Saturday night. Didn’t it? We all watched it. Junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, the Transnational Rankings, Ring, WBA and WBC junior welterweight titleholder, strutted confidently into the ring as if he were a lion to Rod Salka’s lamb.
And he was. Wasn’t he?
Everyone at Barclays Center in Brooklyn knew it. Everyone watching from home did, too. Garcia knew it, and if Salka didn’t know it, he certainly realized the terrible truth of things soon after the bell sounded. Garcia was bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled.
Salka had no chance.
Poor Salka. The unranked and unheralded lightweight from Bunola, Pennsylvania, didn’t deserve to face the champion of the 140-pound division, but he didn’t deserve the punishment for the crime either.
How little Salka warranted the fight was highlighted by neither of the alphabet organizations associated with the bout choosing to sanction the fight, something rare in the age of ever-proliferating so-called world titles and the sanction fees that come along with them.
That’s right. Both the WBC and the WBA washed their hands of Garcia-Salka almost as soon as it was made. Think about that.
The unintended consequence of the stand, of course, was that the alphabet gang actually ended up giving Garcia an even larger weight advantage he would have otherwise enjoyed.
Not having to defend his alphabet titles, and apparently not valuing his Transnational Rankings and Ring crowns enough to defend those either, Garcia didn’t have to make the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds for the bout.
Instead, the junior welterweight champion of the world agreed to a welterweight catch weight of 142 pounds to fight his lightweight opponent.
The forthcoming result was obvious almost as soon as the two men had stripped off their robes and were standing in front of each other in the middle of the ring. The size differential was clear. Referee Steve Willis would have been wise to call a halt to the proceedings right then and there.
But he didn’t, so the fight was on.
It didn’t last long. How could it? Salka might as well have come to the ring without fists. He had nothing to keep Garcia off of him. He was outclassed and overmatched. It was akin to watching a grown man beat up a child.
Garcia, from Philadelphia, defeated Salka by knockout in Round 2. The referee knew Salka was done as soon as the knockout blow landed. There was no reason to count.
After a one-round sparring session, where Garcia established he had all the physical advantages everyone thought he’d have going into the fight, the comically larger Garcia knocked Salka down three times in Round 2–the last coming at two minutes, 31 seconds.
The final blow was particularly brutal, a bone-rattling left hook that sent Salka flat down to the canvas as if he were a carcass. Salka’s head bounced on the blue canvas like a basketball. It ricocheted up into the air violently, tethered only by Salka’s neck.
More than 7,000 fight fans in attendance screamed lustily as if they’d just witnessed something heroic.
No, Salka didn’t deserve the fight, but he didn’t deserve the pummeling at the hands of a schoolyard bully either, did he? What had he done? By all pre-fight accounts, carefully distributed to the media by those hoping to cash in on the massacre, the decorated military veteran was a stand-up guy. Right?
So why’d this fight even happen? Despite Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza's and Golden Boy Promotions’ Eric Gomez's assurances to BoxingScene.com’s David Greisman that there wasn’t a better opponent available, didn’t the appearance of IBF titleholder Lamont Peterson on the very same card give testimony to a different truth?
And didn’t Garcia’s brutal knockout of Salka prove what everyone thought was true the instant the bout was signed in the first place? That Garcia-Salka should never have happened.
But it doesn’t matter now. The damage is done, and a root-cause analysis of the situation won’t change anything that’s already written in ink.
Besides, boxing has an impressive history of almost never learning from its mistakes, anyway. This kind of thing will happen again no matter what happens now.
Boxing’s money men did their duty. They provided their man, Garcia, with another seven-or-so seconds for his highlight reel. He’s still undefeated and as marketable as ever. He put the hurt on Salka just like they thought he would, and we all watched it happen just like they hoped.
After the bout, Garcia said what fighters usually say after such chicanery: It wasn’t his job to make the fight. He would fight whomever his manager, Al Haymon, chose for him next.
Showtime’s Jim Gray pressed the issue a bit. Wouldn’t Garcia want Haymon to choose someone like IBF titleholder Lamont Peterson next instead of a hapless no-hoper like Salka?
Garcia wouldn’t commit to anything, though. Why would he? He’s a boxing guy. He knows the score.
Deep down, Garcia, along with everyone else that stood to gain from this epic mismatch, knows the truth of the matter just as well as any of us: That we in the boxing world might not be sadists, but you wouldn’t know it by the kinds of stuff we allow ourselves to support.
Heck, the people running things are counting on it.
Kelsey McCarson contributes regularly to Bleacher Report, Boxing Channel and The Sweet Science.