When it comes to youngsters you couldn’t meet two finer and more pleasant prizefighters than Vicente Escobedo or Dominic Salcido unless you picked them out of a 1950s family sitcom.
But here they are, Escobedo (18-1, 11 KOs) the former Olympian meeting the almost forgotten speedster Salcido (16-0, 8 KOs) at the Morongo Casino on Friday Sept. 26, in a battle of lightweight prospects ready to step into the next plateau.
This won’t be Wally Cleaver versus the Beaver.
Ever since his early teen years those who saw Salcido as an amateur boxing out of the Inland Empire could see the pure speed from his footwork and the lightning combinations and tabbed him as a future star.
But in the beginning of his pro career he might as well have been lost in a cave.
“I’ve had some setbacks,” confesses Salcido (16-0, 8 KOs). “But I’m in the gym working hard and have a good coach and a good team.”
Since his young childhood Salcido has been known for his quick feet and quick hands that gave him a big advantage when he first began playing soccer.
“He used to play soccer but they would never put him on the all star team even though he was making all the goals,” said Dominic Salcido Sr. the father. “I always liked boxing so I asked him to give it a try.”
At age nine Salcido arrived everyday at the Colton Boxing Gym that had formerly been a Boy Scout clubhouse when first built in 1925 by the Kiwanis Club. He stayed there for many years before moving on to Fontana, Big Bear and now Indio. But he always stayed within the Inland area.
Following Salcido into boxing was his older sister Marilyn Salcido who eventually fought for the bantamweight world title but is now retired.
Now only Dominic Salcido Jr. does the fighting in the ring for the family. But it’s been a road filled with problems and sidesteps that made him wonder if he would ever make it to a televised fight card.
“This has always been my dream to fight on television,” says Salcido, who is promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions, that also have WBC junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley and Josesito Lopez.
Emanuel Steward, the great boxing trainer who taught Tommy Hearns and currently guides IBF heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, first spotted Salcido when he was matched against one of his fighters who was proclaimed the next Julio Cesar Chavez.
Salcido, 24, beat him so handily and made such an overwhelming impression that Steward later signed to manage and train the flashy speedster who graduated from Rialto High. But things didn’t work out with the high profile Steward who has a number of world champions in his stable and not enough time to spend with a very young upcoming star.
The big day for Salcido took place when he was asked to go up to Big Bear to spar with master boxer Marco Antonio Barrera who was preparing for a fight a few years back. That provided the opening for Salcido who was spotted by Robert Diaz, the former corner man for Barrera who now serves as a matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions.
Soon Thompson Boxing Promotions signed the cat-quick Salcido to a contract.
Escobedo, 26, was at the same Big Bear training camp with Salcido and Barrera and also sparred with the great Mexico City master but did not step in the ring with Salcido.
“We both helped Marco Antonio Barrera with sparring so I got to see a little bit of how he fights,” said Escobedo (18-1, 11 KOs) who was at that mountain camp in February 2005. “He’s fast and has real quick feet.”
When the Woodland prizefighter first arrived on the pro scene it was obvious that he had that special talent that separates the good from the very good. With lightning reflexes, a solid defense and steady fundamentals, Escobedo was labeled by many as the next Oscar De La Hoya.
For his first eight pro fights he looked right on schedule, but in his ninth fight he struggled as he worked on stopping his opponent in a fight in Tucson. Then he was matched in a main event in Sacramento against Puerto Rican slugger Daniel Jimenez. It was too fast. That night he was knocked down and hurt. He survived and tried his best to rally but fell short and lost his first and only fight. He also lost something else that night.
“There’s something missing,” said one Golden Boy Promotion’s supervisor who wished to remain anonymous. “I can’t put my finger on it.”
To try and recapture that something extra, he’s been training in Mexico City with boxing guru Nacho Beristain who also trains Juan Manuel Marquez. For the past year and four months it’s been the California boxer’s training headquarters.
Like a super charged racing car Escobedo has been tweaked and polished to perform against high-level talent. A win over Salcido provides the last key for his entrance into title contention.
Salcido’s speed is always a concern.
“The thing is I feel I’m quick as well,” says Escobedo, a very congenial person outside of the ring who is almost shy. “I have quick hands.”
After participating in the Olympics a lot has been expected from Escobedo who won his last fight at the Home Depot Center against Argentina’s tough Roberto Arrieta in a dogfight.
“I’m really excited about this fight,” said Escobedo who is back in California after spending months in the high altitude city of Mexico City. “Really, I really want this fight.”
Escobedo and Salcido are both at the same juncture. Whoever wins between these very personable youngsters will move on quickly, perhaps fight for a world title.
“He’s always been the top dog as an amateur and even right now,” says Salcido. “Come Sept. 26 we’re going to find out who really is top dog.”
California is a lightweight division country and Friday night on Telefutura you can see it firsthand.
For tickets call Morongo Casino (800) 252-4499.