A boxing match in Southern California has gone viral after one of the boxers attempted to bring politics into the ring. For a match against professional Mexican boxer Francisco Vargas, American boxer Rod Salka entered the ring Thursday sporting shorts with a brick-wall pattern and the phrase "America 1st" in what was likely a not-so-subtle reference to President Donald Trump's border wall.
When Salka stepped into the ring for his fight against Vargas at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, on Thursday night it wasn't just the boxer's recent winning streak that drew viewers' attention — his shorts also proved a major topic of conversation. For his fight against Vargas, who hails from Mexico, Salka wore red, white, and blue colored shorts emblazoned with the popular Trump campaign catchphrase "America 1st" and a pattern that looked remarkably similar to a brick wall.
While Salka didn't make any public comments to clarify the meaning behind his attire, his shorts were likely a reference to his support for Trump's Southern border wall and immigration policies. But while Salka may have been hoping to rattle his opponent, his shorts ultimately didn't appear to give him the upper hand. According to Yahoo! Sports, Vargas spent the fight pummeling Salka "into submission" until he ultimately gave up.
ESPN reported Vargas, a former junior lightweight titleholder who often goes by the nickname "El Bandido," defeated Salka with a TKO in the sixth round. Although Vargas had sent Salka to the mat with a right uppercut to the chin near the end of the fifth round, Salka recovered and moved to resume the fight just as the bell rang to end the round. But Vargas' advancing jabs and heavy punches continued in the sixth round, forcing Salka's corner to ultimately concede defeat and stop the fight before the seventh round to save their boxer from a further beating.
But Thursday's fight wasn't the first time Salka has lost after making his politics public. According to the Washington Post, Salka attempted a career in politics in 2016 by running for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Ultimately, Salka, who ran as a Republican, was defeated by a wide margin by incumbent William Kortz, a Democrat.
During his campaign, Salka accused state legislators of showing up but not actually doing their job. "The military taught me a great deal about urgency. You can’t just get around to things. They have to be done quickly and done well," the Post reported Salka said in February 2016. According to the Post, Salka joined the National Guard in 2001. "That’s the kind of urgency I want to bring to Harrisburg, where the current crew can't get a budget passed," Salka added. "It's not enough to just show up. You have to do your job."
He went on to argue his district had been "underrepresented" in state government. "We need to break with the past and demand that our voices, our values, and our vision of the future be heard in the general assembly," the Post reported Salka said while announcing his campaign back in 2016.
Salka ran unopposed in the Republican primary for District 38th seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, but ultimately lost to Kortz in the general election by a more than 31-point margin according to BallotPedia.
While Salka came into Thursday's fight with five consecutive wins under his belt, Vargas had spent much of the last year recovering from a medical procedure after losing a match in January 2017. By the end of the match, however, it was Vargas who was the victor.