Orlando Salido retained the WBO featherweight title he won from Juan Manuel Lopez last April by again traveling to Puerto Rico and knocking out the popular Puerto Rican in front of his fans in their anticipated rematch in San Juan on Saturday.
Salido (38-11-2, 25 knockouts) outworked Lopez from the opening bell, got up from a fifth-round knockdown, and went toe-to-toe with the game challenger in the late rounds before knocking out the proud Puerto Rican puncher with a series of frightening power shots at the start of the 10th round.
A straight right followed by a huge right cross that was backed up by a hook-uppercut combination put Lopez (31-2, 28 KOs) down hard on his back. The former two-division titleholder got up, but was on wobbly legs. Referee Robert Ramirez Sr. did the right thing by waving the slugfest off 32 seconds into the round.
Lopez, who protested when Ramirez’s son, Robert Jr., stopped his first bout with Salido in the eighth round last year, was again upset at the referee’s ruling. He accused the father and son referee team of having a “gambling problem” and questioned the legitimacy of Ramirez Sr.’s stoppage.
“I told the (Puerto Rican boxing) commission that they (Ramirez Sr. and Jr.) have gambling problems,” Lopez told Jim Gray of Showtime, which aired the fight live in the U.S. “I was winning the fight.”
Sadly, two of the official judges actually had Lopez leading (86-84) after nine rounds, while the third had the bout even (85-85). They were just as delusional as the fighter, who at least has the excuse having had the sense beat out of him.
Salido may have been knocked down — at the end of a round he was dominating — but he outlanded Lopez 2-to-1 in power punches and was in firm command of the entire fight.
Lopez just has too much pride to admit that. And the Caguas native is too darn tough for his own good. He gave his all by courageously taking the fight to Salido in rounds eight and nine and he had nothing more to give after being dropped in the 10th round. The 28-year-old southpaw was beaten by the better man, who did the right thing and gave Lopez his props after the tremendous fight, which gave fans a number of memorable rounds and a surefire Round of the Year candidate with round nine.
“We knew it would be a tough fight, he is a tough fighter,” said Salido, a grizzled 31-year-old pressure fighter from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico. “It was punch for punch (in the ninth round). I knew this guy was a warrior, so I had three more rounds in the bank (in case he got up from the 10th-round knockdown). This is a classic fight. It always is between Mexico and Puerto Rico. It was my turn to win.”
The repeat victory over Lopez not only brands Salido as an “elite” featherweight, it makes the 16-year veteran “must-see TV.”
His two title defenses after the first Lopez victory, which was aired on Showtime, were not shown on U.S. television (but both fights — an 11th-round TKO of Kenichi Yamaguchi and an up-from-the-canvas eighth-round stoppage of Weng Haya — were entertaining scraps).
His fights after Saturday’s rematch will likely be on premium U.S cable (probably Showtime) against the likes of Mikey Garcia, the undefeated contender who beat Bernanbe Concepcion on the undercard in San Juan, or fellow veteran beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez.
Whowever Salido fights next, fans can count on one thing — an exciting fight.
The same can be said about Lopez, who put forth a great effort in the rematch and has nothing to be ashamed about (except for his post-fight comments about Ramirez).
However, let’s hope both fighters get a nice, long break before they climb back into the ring. Their rematch exceeded expectations because both men pushed themselves beyond their limits — and heaped a lot of punishment on each other in the process.
They’ve earned a rest.
Photos / Peter Amador-Top Rank