As mentioned on the first part of this series we will not be going in chronological order. This week it was timely to look at one of the recent and successful participants in the Mexico – Puerto Rico rivalry. Orlando Salido has now had two sets of fights that should be considered a highlight of the countries’ rivalry. We’ll start with the first series Salido had with Juan Manuel Lopez.
Juan Manuel Lopez was considered the favorite the first time he faced Orlando Salido and besides one scare that almost turned into a complete train wreck against Rogers Mtagwa, had really gone throughout his career knocking out opponents without much resistance. Lopez was coming off the best campaign of his year and a win over his best opponent to date in Rafael Marquez. Lopez was a two-division world champion and seemed to be on the verge of being the next Puerto Rican superstar.
Orlando Salido came up the hard way in boxing. Salido turned professional while he was still a teenager and had no easy fights or roads of safety set for him on the way to get a title. In Salido’s professional debut he lost via TKO in the 4th round. Salido had a resume before facing Lopez that included the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero, Cristobal Cruz, and Yuriorkis Gamboa. All of these fights resulted in losses, however he did avenge his loss to Cruz. The Guerrero fight was a huge victory for Salido, but was overturned due to a failed drug test that Salido still disputes to this day. Most importantly coming into this match up Salido was treated as the final marinating ingredient to a showdown between Lopez and Gamboa. Salido gave Gamboa a very tough fight and was able to knock down Gamboa in the 8th round of their match up.
Orlando Salido is not Canelo Alvarez and does not have the popularity or the leverage that Canelo has, but he should still be commended for taking the Lopez fight in Puerto Rico. The atmosphere for this match up was electric and many fans were anticipating another knockout for Lopez, Salido had other plans in mind. From the beginning Salido brought the pressure to Lopez and was consistently landing an overhand right to Lopez while in exchanges. Salido came into this matchup with 11 losses but he also came in with underrated technique, experience, and the chin to take what Lopez had to offer. Salido kept the pressure and while he may have lost the first three rounds to Lopez, Salido made it count in the 5th round where he was able to freeze Lopez in an exchange with a straight left and then clock him with an overhand right that knocked Lopez down. Lopez only survived because the knockdown took place in the last 16 seconds of the round. Juan Manuel Lopez made it competitive and landed some great straight lefts and right hooks on Salido during the next few rounds, but was unable to move out of the way of any overhand rights and the end came in the 8th round with Salido pummeling Lopez against the ropes. The stoppage could be argued to be a bit premature as Lopez had the power to change the fight back in his favor and he was throwing back at Salido. The controversy of the stoppage and the upset that Salido had come into Puerto Rico and knocked out the champ set up for a marvelous rematch.
The rematch took place in March 2012 in a year that, if not for Brandon Rios – Mike Alvarado and the 4th Manny Pacquiao – Juan Manuel Marquez matches, this would have won fight of the year. If that atmosphere for the first match up was electric than this was atomic as the crowd was a sell out and with the added appearances of Felix Trinidad and Ivan Calderon in Lopez’s corner, the crowd was ready for a great fight. The fans in Puerto Rico had great respect for Salido and Salido was on a mission to keep his title that night. The fight started off with Lopez attempting to box even using a shoulder roll to some success as from that stance he was able to land lefts to the body quite frequently. Lopez seemed somewhat reluctant to let his hands go and when he did it seemed that many of his punches were arm punches. Lopez couldn’t go from defense to offense seamlessly and Salido took advantage by pressing the fight and giving Lopez new looks, as Salido was able to give angles that seemed to catch Lopez off guard. The fight was back and forth, but in the 5th round Salido began to visibly hurt Lopez and while Salido was lunging in chasing after Lopez, Lopez was able to land a sneaky right cross that put Salido down and hurt him; it looked like Salido was going to have trouble beating the count. After the round Lopez charged at Salido and from this point on the fight was a full on war. Lopez still attempted to box Salido from the outside, but Salido was just too relentless and would not allow Lopez to fight in that manner. The 9th round was the climax of the action as Lopez put it all on the line and fought Salido toe to toe until the very end of the round. Lopez may have lost his prime, punch resistance, and ability to have snap in his punches. After this round he was never the same again as he wobbled back to his corner. As soon as the 10th round began Salido came out and landed a beautiful combination that froze Lopez and dropped him. The referee immediately stopped the fight.
The crowd was shocked, but not disappointed as they had just witnessed an absolute classic match up and had seen their man go out on his shield. Much has been said about Juan Manuel Lopez not living up to his potential, but he always gave it his all in the ring and one that can truthfully say has never had a boring fight. To this day this is still Salido’s greatest moment and performance. The combination he landed against Lopez would later find new life in another fight of the year candidate against Terdsak Kokietgym.
In the annals of the Mexico – Puerto Rico rivalry these two men won’t be considered one of the best their countries ever produced, but if Cotto – Canelo can even match half the intensity, heart, and passion that these two men showed when they stepped into the ring against each other the night of November 21st, 2015 will be a night to remember for all boxing fans.