Boston “Boom Boom” Salmon, a winner from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series’ first-ever episode, was signed to the UFC following an impressive unanimous decision victory over Ricky Turcios in July 2017.
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The former amateur boxing standout has yet to compete since, as all three of his scheduled UFC bouts have been canceled, most recently at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale on November 30.
Speaking with The Body Lock, Salmon recounts his Contender Series victory, his initial foray into combat sports, his transition from boxing to MMA, and much more.
Learning to fight out of necessity
While some fighters get into the sport later in life, that wasn’t the case for Boston Salmon.
“The city that I grew up in, it’s the same as Max Holloway’s. It’s a rough city,” Salmon told The Body Lock.
“If you have light skin, the Hawaiians pick on you. I do have Hawaiian blood, but they didn’t see that. They look at my skin color.”
Salmon told Combat Press in 2015, “My father, back in the day — back in his generation; he’s about 53 — a lot of Hawaiians mistook him for white people. And, I’m like a quarter Hawaiian. They have this thing called haole. Haole means white, you know? It’s funny, because all of his brothers and sisters were dark and stuff. They’re all like Hawaiian. He and his older sister happened to take the lighter side, so he always had to prepare for any fights. It was pretty funny.”
His father’s experience with racial skirmishes prompted him to place his son into one of the local boxing gyms in the area.
“My father brought me to the side, and he told me, ‘hey, son, you need to go to the boxing gym. You need to learn how to fight.’ I was like, ‘why do I need to learn how to fight?’. He’s like, ‘well, eventually, you’re going to get into a street fight. You’ve got to be able to defend yourself,'” Salmon recounts.
“Everyone’s a fighter [in my hometown], you know? It’s a rough lifestyle. People don’t really use guns or knives out there; if you have a problem, you fight out there. That’s just kind of the way that we’re taught when we grew up as kids.”
But, although Salmon would come to love the sport of boxing, it wasn’t so at first.
“He brought me to the gym, the boxing gym, and I was crying as a kid, you know, it was kinda like Oscar De La Hoya’s story.”
Eventually, Salmon got his bearings. He was able to forge a successful career in amateur boxing, but he credits growing up in Hawaii with much of his success. Despite the rough aspects of Salmon’s time in Hawaii, he recognizes the obvious connection between the islands and fighting.
“Hawaii is a fighting spirit,” Salmon says. “We grow up fighting in the streets, and fighting’s big.”
So big, in fact, that Salmon believes a UFC event would be a smashing success. “I really do hope that the UFC actually makes an event out there, you know, I feel like all of the Hawaiian fighters that we have on that UFC roster could definitely draw a big crowd and sell out in any arena.”
Punching his ticket to MMA
Before transitioning to MMA, Salmon boxed at the highest levels of amateur competition.
“Personally, I think I’ve got the best credentials in boxing in the UFC, and people are gonna soon find out about them. I had a lot of experience in boxing. I won multiple national titles. I was top eight in the nation – USA boxing – at one point. I fought some of the best,” Salmon says.
Among those Salmon has competed with are some of the biggest names in the sport.
“I fought [IBF welterweight champion] Errol Spence; I fought [National Golden Gloves winner] Ronny Rios; I fought [super lightweight] Emmanuel Taylor; I fought a bunch of fighters that made it to the pro scene big, and Errol Spence is one of them.”
Spence, ESPN’s fifth-ranked boxer in their pound-for-pound rankings, is unanimously considered one of the best boxers in the sport. Spence will face WBC lightweight champion, Mikey Garcia, on March 16. Salmon, who shared the ring with Spence, weighed in on that fight.
“I think Errol Spence is just too big for Mikey Garcia. Mikey Garcia is going up two weight classes. That’s a big difference. Going up against someone like Errol Spence, man, that boy can hit hard. He can hit hard, and he barely takes any shots. I don’t know, man. Much respect to Mikey Garcia because a lot of fighters in this generation cherry pick their fights, but Mike Garcia’s got the balls to actually step up and fight the best, so, credit to him.”
Pushed for an official prediction, Salmon made his pick: “Errol Spence by knockout.”
But Salmon’s boxing career was much more than a match with Errol Spence. It pushed him to move to MMA, the sport which he now hopes to take by storm.
That wasn’t always the plan, though.
“I was hooking up this one professional to get ready for his fight,” Salmon recounts. “I ended up breaking my hand, crushing my whole hand, from sparring with him. I was out of the gym for about four months, just rehabbing my hand.
When I got back in the gym, I just lost the love for boxing. So many politics behind turning into a pro, and if you don’t have a big background, it’s just really hard to make it, so I kind of stopped that.”
With turning pro increasingly challenging and a love for boxing all but gone, Salmon looked to a new sport: MMA.
“I just pretty much put my options out there to give MMA a try, and if that hadn’t worked out, then I’d go back to boxing. But the moment that I started doing MMA, I fell in love with the sport. I fought three times in the amateurs, and I just wanted to turn pro, and I wasn’t going to wait.”
After turning pro as a martial artist, Salmon went 5-1 in RFA (which has since merged with LFC to create LFA). After a smoldering start to his career, Salmon received a call to compete on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Welcome to the big show
For many fighters, signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is one of the highest pinnacles in the sport of mixed martial arts. Boston Salmon, at the age of 28, turned that dream into a reality back in 2017, when he earned a UFC contract after winning on the debut episode of UFC president, Dana White’s, Contender Series.
But despite the composure with which Salmon went about the fight, he really hadn’t known what to expect.
“Before we even got the phone call about that fight on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series, I really had no clue what the fight was about, or how it’d work.”
“I wasn’t really informed of what the event was about. I thought it was more of a ‘contender show’ where you go in the [Ultimate Fighter] house or something like that.”
As for the fight itself, Salmon won with relative ease. He dispatched of Ricky Turcios, a talented prospect out of the acclaimed Team Alpha Male. Yet, despite the one-sided showcase, the finish eluded Salmon.
While many fighters on the Contender Series win, only a few receive UFC contracts. Of those few, the majority are fighters who win by stoppage. In that sense, Salmon is a rarity.
“I think my style and my composure; just how calm I am inside the Octagon compared to all the other guys that fought that night separated me from the other fighters,” Salmon explains. Impressively, Salmon confirmed, there was more to the story. “I fought that night on a bum knee. I had to end up getting surgery on that knee. I had a fully torn ligament in my left knee, but I still took the fight.”
The here and now
Salmon was scheduled to compete on the November 30 Ultimate Fighter Finale, but an injury to his opponent, Khalid Taha, derailed that plan.
“I was anxious to fight for the TUF Finale against Khalid Taha, but unfortunately, I read somewhere that he tore his knee, just like me [in the past] and might need surgery.”
Salmon has nothing but respect for Taha. “Best of luck and best wishes to him.”
As for what’s next, Salmon says, “I’m just hoping I get a fight soon.”
It is unclear whether or not the UFC is planning on finding a replacement for Salmon or rescheduling him for another event, but Salmon has been trying to stay ready.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen; if we’re going to fight in November or if I’m going to get booked in December, who knows? But, in the meantime, I’ve just got to perfect my craft, work on my weaknesses, keep my weight down, and stay in shape.”
One opponent that caught Salmon’s eye was Nathaniel Wood, who recently had his opponent, Tom Duquesnoy, fall out with an injury.
“I read that Nathaniel Wood, he’s looking for an opponent. I’ve personally asked for that fight. That’s a big card, it’s the last card that the UFC has, Las Vegas, in my home. So, I asked if I could get on that card and if that was a possibility.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that fight is in the cards.
“I don’t know how the whole business and matchmaking works, but that wasn’t an option, so we’re moving forward from that. My manager came back and basically said that and that probably won’t be available.”
Regardless of who Salmon faces in his next fight, it’s certain to be a fun bout. The 28-year-old is one of the best prospects in the UFC’s stacked bantamweight division, and he brings a level of boxing experience and accolades that few in the sport can match.
His upbringing and resilience have shaped the fighter he is today, and it’s clear that the future is bright for Boston Salmon.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.