Rod Salka: Poster Boy for Racist Impotence
(Originally Published at Boxing.com)
Make no mistake about it, there was nothing “innocent” or “quaintly patriotic” about Rod Salka’s political message last Thursday night at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California when he met Mexico City’s Francisco Vargas.
Decked out in his President Trump-loving “America 1st” trunks with a red, white, and blue brick pattern to represent the wall Trump and his angry ReTrumplikins want to build on the Mexico-US border, Salka was delivering a race-based message to the boxing world.
One does not innocently show up in an auditorium packed with mostly Latino fans to face a Mexican fighter on ESPN Deportes wearing, basically, a “fuck your people—stay where you belong” message. Salka’s intent was as clear as it was ugly.
But aside from the twisted politics of the Pittsburgh native, who, apparently, has developed a reputation on social media as a hardline right wing, race-conscious troll, the decision to get political just wasn’t a very good idea.
Why offer an opponent extra motivation in a fight—especially an opponent in Vargas, who was already infinitely better and more experienced than him?
And Vargas DID take notice of Salka’s message.
“To tell you the truth, I was surprised by the message [of the trunks], I didn’t expect that,” The former world champ told Mexican news site, Excelsior.com, “but I tried to calm myself down and follow my game plan…I won’t deny that it made me mad, because it was an offensive message, and I do think it served to inspire me to go forward with more force, using that anger.”
The idea of a US-built border wall between Mexico and the United States has drawn the ire of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, who view the proposal as inherently racist. Although a recent CBS news poll says that 60% of Americans also oppose the idea of building a wall, Donald Trump found his way to the Presidency in 2016, in part, by spearheading a “build the wall” movement that helped to mobilize his right wing base.
Salka brought this bad blood to a sport with enough blood in it, already.
Vargas would go on to pummel Salka for six rounds until the #MAGA guy’s corner mercifully threw in the towel.
Then, the world latched on to Salka’s pathetic fail. In a matter of minutes, Rod Salka became the poster boy for racist impotence. With everyone from Vice to Newsweek to Maxim picking up the story, a marginally significant super featherweight bout without much fanfare became one of the most widely covered boxing occurrences of the year.
Since his beatdown went viral, Salka has all but disappeared from the public eye. Relentless trolling from an unforgiving internet even forced him to shut down his Facebook account.
It’s hard to feel sorry for the 35-year-old journeyman with dubious political beliefs and obviously poor decision-making skills. Even if one agrees with the politics behind the apparel, it was clearly a bad idea to make this political statement where and when he did—against a fighter who was very likely to mop the floor with him. The guy was setting himself up to be a laughingstock and, apparently, he got his wish.
Meanwhile, Vargas, from beginning to end, was all about professionalism and the high road.
“We didn’t tell him anything [about the trunks],” Vargas said. “I respect him as a boxer. He had a complicated style that, thank God, I was able to solve, and at the end of the day, it was like nothing had ever happened. I embraced him, said ‘good fight,’ and we all went our separate ways, although I didn’t like what he and his team did.”