TSS Universe, do you think Salido can keep the upset training chugging on Saturday? (Chris Farina)
Orlando Salido is hoping to become part of a boxing trend on Saturday night.
No less than five matches last weekend produced surprising upsets, the biggest coming when 35-year-old Nobuhiro Ishida destroyed middleweight contender James Kirkland in one round, knocking him down three times and making him look as if the two years he spent in prison had robbed him of both a chin and his reflexive ability to avoid incoming fire.
Kirkland had won twice since being released from prison against minimal competition and his handlers felt they were taking no particular risk matching him with Ishida either. Ishida had no significant victories in his career and there was no reason to think he had the kind of power to drop Kirkland three times in the opening round, as he did before the bout was mercifully stopped before Kirkland hurt his head or Ishida hurt his hands.
One night earlier, old warhorse Marco Antonio Rubio stepped into the ring with undefeated Canadian middleweight prospect David Lemieux (25-0, 24 KO at the time) with the belief that he could do what Lemieux’s promoters never considered possible. He believed he could win even though he knew why the match had been made.
Rubio had been brought in to serve as a stepping stone for Lemieux, a familiar job in boxing in which a respected older fighter becomes a trial horse by which guys like Lemieux prove their mettle after being tested. Well, Lemieux failed the test when Rubio banged him out in the seventh round.
Those types of upsets give hope to a man like Salido, a former two-time IBF featherweight champion who faces the No. 1 featherweight in the world Saturday night in Puerto Rico, Juan Manuel Lopez.
Lopez is undefeated (30-0), a powerful puncher and a great finisher (27 KO). He is widely perceived to be heading for a showdown with the undefeated former Cuban amateur champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (20-0), who just went the distance in defeating Salido himself after Salido was stripped of the IBF title he held before that fight because he gained more than the mandatory 10 pounds between the weigh-in and fight night.
Salido is quite naturally being seen as a measuring stick for Lopez as he and Gamboa slowly close in on each other. What he is not being seen as is a threat to young Lopez unless Lopez cooperates with a foolhardy approach or a late fade.
“He is a measuring stick,’’ Top Rank vice president and long-time skillful matchmaker Carl Moretti said of Salido. “But he’s a dangerous measuring stick if Juanma gets caught up in things.’’
Salido (34-11-2, 1 NC, 22 KO) half agrees with Moretti. He believes he’s dangerous but doesn’t agree he’s a measuring stick. He’s the kind of guy who can take a good shot and land a better one if the opening is there and if there’s one thing about Lopez it’s that openings are there. For all his skill on offense, Lopez can be hit more easily than the Red Sox starting pitching at the moment and that is the moment Salido is looking for.
Against Gamboa, Salido landed one telling combination that appeared to knockdown Gamboa, although some later insisted it was a slip. The referee was not among them but Salido was never able to follow up on that. If he gets the same opportunity against Lopez he plans to make better use of it.
“I am not intimidated to come to his home country for this fight,’’ said Salido, who is Mexican. “I know what I am capable of doing and I will be ready for war.
“This is a great opportunity for me. My confidence is sky high for this fight. I know this could be my last (title) chance and I want to take advantage of it.
“I believe he’s the best featherweight in the world but he likes to fight and that will be to my advantage. We both have power.’’
In other words, Salido believes he can do to Lopez what Ishida did to Kirkland. He can hurt him in a way from which there is no escape.
“I know it will be a war,’’ Salido conceded. “It will be tough for both of us. I know Juanma comes with everything the first few rounds. I will have to be smart and stay focused. The longer the fight goes will be to my advantage. He’s not the same fighter at the end that he is at the beginning.’’
Frankly, Salido is right about that but getting to the end with Lopez is a hardy undertaking. Since winning first the WBO super bantamweight title and then the WBO featherweight championship only one fighter, Rogers Mtagwa, has gone the distance with Lopez and frankly Mtagwa is tougher than the IRS to get rid of.
Salido will have his work cut out for him if he is to continue the upset trend in boxing but he has come to Puerto Rico intent on doing it. He knows he went the distance in a losing title try against Juan Manuel Marquez, who is one of the very best fighters of his era, and he took out the same Mtagwa who went the distance with Lopez in five rounds in 2006.
In other words, he has reason to believe. I don’t happen to share that belief because Lopez, to me, is a cut above Salido’s level. Then again, so was Gamboa and Salido was more than simply competitive against him, seeming at times to have Gamboa wondering if he needed a better matchmaker.
“Salido is a very good fighter,’’ Lopez conceded this week. “He is strong and will come after me all night long. I have to be smart and try to win as many rounds as I can, but if I hurt him I will go for the knockout.’’
That is understandable and would not be out of character for Lopez but if he tries too soon or simply becomes too intent on doing to Salido what Gamboa could not that is where the real danger lies for him.
If he gets caught up in proving a point instead of just winning a fight, Juan Manuel Lopez could become a victim like James Kirkland, David Lemieux and the others last weekend because boxing is the ultimate reality TV show. It is a sport where one fist landed on the right spot and at the right moment can correct many wrongs and even out many other factors.
Orlando Salido has learned that the hard way in his own career and would like nothing more than to deliver that lesson to Juan Manuel Lopez. It is possible he could because in boxing anything is possible.
I just wouldn’t count on it happening this time.
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