The stars were aligning for a Yuriorkis Gamboa-Juan Manuel Lopez super fight. Lopez just needed to get by Orlando Salido – an afterthought.
Salido was coming off a loss to Gamboa months prior, and the former featherweight beltholder was expected to be a measuring stick – a common opponent to see if Lopez could defeat Salido easier than Gamboa did.
Only the 31-year-old veteran from Mexico did not follow the script. Salido entered enemy territory, Lopez’s native Puerto Rico, and took the title from “JuanMa” in spectacular fashion with an eighth-round stoppage.
Salido (37-11-2, 25 knockouts) is out to prove the first fight wasn’t a fluke when he defends his WBO featherweight title againstLopez in a rematch at the Coliseo Robert Clemente in San Juan Puerto Rico on Saturday (10:00 p.m. ET, Showtime).
“I shocked the world last year with my win, but when I do it again no one will be surprised,” said Salido, THE RING’s No. 3-rated featherweight. “I know I belong among the elite in the world at featherweight and look forward to being a world champion for a long time.”
Salido, 31, is expecting a tougher fight the second go-around, knowing Lopez (31-1, 28 KOs) had ample time to adjust in camp.
“I think it’s going to be a different fight, a tougher fight,” Salido told RingTV.com. “I do expect him to be better. I have to wait to see what he’s going to come up with. I can adjust to anything, whatever rhythm he wants to fight.”
Prior to his victory over the 28-year-old southpaw, Salido’s biggest victory came in November 2006, a wide-points decision over Robert Guerrero. But the match was overturned to a no-contest when the native of Sonora, Mexico tested positive for the steroid nandrolone following the bout.
While Salido had a follow-up blood test a day later at LabCorp, which found him to be negative for steroids, the Nevada State Athletic Commission upheld their ruling – a big setback for Salido’s career.
Salido knows he still has doubters stemming from his positive test for steroids, but aims to prove them wrong on Saturday.
“I’m going to erase the doubt in anyone’s mind, I’m going to get rid of him,” said Salido. “If I have to fight again, do it again, if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.
“I expect a very different fight. I know he will be better than last time. But I don’t see him changing much. He might try in the beginning to fight in a different style but he will come back to his strengths. He is going to feel that he is the better and stronger man, but he is not.”
Salido, who suffered eight of his 11 losses between the ages of 15 and 21, is concerned with winning a decision in Lopez’s native Puerto Rico. But he is confident he can once again obtain the knockout, taking the judges out of the equation altogether.
“You’re always worried when you come into the other guy’s hometown that you’re going to get robbed of a decision,” said Salido. “But that’s why I come prepared 100 percent ready to get the victory and get the knockout and get the win clearly.”
“Siri” Salido is expecting a grueling fight, but claims the ability to withstand punishment as one of his foremost strengths.
“I can take a punch, I’m able to absorb punishment, I’m able to deal with it,” said Salido. “But I’m also very strong for a featherweight. My strength and power at featherweight is bigger than other guys.”
Salido plans to take advantage of THE RING’s No. 4-rated featherweight’s defense, or lack thereof, banking that the Puerto Rican hasn’t improved since the last bout.
“He’s always had very suspect defense. His defense is defective and I’ll take advantage of that like the first time,” said Salido. “He’s going to change a little bit, box me or something. … But I know he doesn’t have good defense.”
Above all else on Saturday, Salido knows he isn’t just fighting for his own validation – he’s fighting to notch another victory for Mexico in the vaunted history of its rivalry with Puerto Rico.
“It’s a very great tradition,” said Salido. “Mexico has some great boxers and so does Puerto Rico. To be part of that elite rivalry, it means that we’re a higher level than most boxers because it’s so important.”
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank