Orlando Salido: Throw out Salido’s 11 losses, most of which came early in his career. Throw out a shaky performance against Weng Haya in December. This man is a special fighter. The Mexican proved as much by stopping Juan Manuel Lopez a second time in Lopez’s home country of Puerto Rico, this time in the 10th round of a thrilling scrap. Salido isn’t a beautiful boxer but he’s a pure warrior whose awkward style and relentless pressure twice proved too much for a rival who seemed to be evolving into a superstar. Salido (38-11-2, 26 knockouts) is human. Yuriorkis Gamboa proved that in 2010, thoroughly outboxing the Mexican to win a onesided decision. And it appears that Lopez (31-2, 28 KOs) isn’t quite as good as we thought he was. Still, Salido has demonstrated against the Puerto Rican that he is an elite fighter who also happens to be incredibly fun to watch.
Juan Manuel Lopez: Lopez has nothing to be ashamed of, at least in terms of his performance against Salido. He lost again but demonstrated the kind of courage that makes his countrymen proud and put on a tremendous show. And he didn’t lose to a bum; Salido is a stud. Lopez tried to box more than he did in their first meeting, in which Lopez was stopped in eight rounds. However, as we saw, he reverted to the brawler he is by nature when things got hot. That’s who he is. The problem is that he ran into tougher guy, simple as that. Lopez also has a glaring flaw: He’s easy to hit, something he must work on if he hopes to bounce back from these two frustrating setbacks. And Lopez will be back. He just might not be the pound-for-pound monster we thought he would be.
Salido-Lopez 9: The entire Salido-Lopez fight was unforgettable, a war more of wills than skills that surely will be a leading Fight of the Year candidate for 2012. That Round 9, though. Whew! The fans live for rounds like that, one in which both parties eschew everything they’ve learned about defense and let the leather fly as the crowd goes nuts. I can’t remember a round with that much toe-to-toe action in some time. I don’t think the round was as close as the television commentators believed it was; I think Salido clearly won it. That doesn’t matter, though. The courage demonstrated by both fighters was inspiring; the action was breathtaking. We owe these warriors our profound respect after the show they staged Saturday.
Referee Roberto Ramirez Sr.: Ramirez demonstrated how it’s done. He wasn’t overly intrusive, as so many egotistical referees seem to be these days. He interjected himself into the action only when necessary. He warned Salido more than once about low blows but didn’t deduct a point, which I thought would’ve been a mistake. I liked the way he seemed to dismiss a low-blow complaint by Lopez because Lopez was pushing Salido’s head down. And the stoppage was perfect. Lopez could barely stand let alone fight after the brutal 10th-round knockdown. To send him back into action in that state might’ve been disastrous. The only complaint I have is that Lopez was allowed to hold Salido behind the head too often without stiff warnings. Other that, I think Ramirez deserves kudos.
Salido-Lopez judges: Is it me? I watched a fight in which one boxer clearly landed many more and harder punches than his opponent yet was losing on the scorecards at the time he scored a knockout. Chuck Giampa, a respected former judge, had it 88-83 for Salido. I had it the same. That score, give or take a point, reflected what happened in the ring. The official judges? Dennis Nelson of Minnesota had it 85-85 while Michael Pernick of Florida and Cesar Ramos of Puerto Rico had it 86-84 for Lopez. Punch stats are overemphasized but can be somewhat valuable in assessing a fight. Salido landed almost 100 more punches than Lopez and outlanded Lopez by a 2-1 ratio in power punches, which in my opinion also reflected reality. Another big fight, another disgraceful performance by the judges. Does it ever end?
Lopez’s post-fight comments: Nothing is worse than an ungracious loser. If Lopez believes that Ramirez is corrupt because of some alleged gambling problem, prove it. Don’t announce it recklessly on international television that the fight was stopped because of a rogue ref. They call that slander in this country. And Lopez knows he didn’t dominate that fight, as he suggested he did in his post-fight interview. He might’ve deluded himself out of pride to believe the fight was close but he knows as well as everyone else that he went hell and back in that brawl. Of course, we understand Lopez’s frustration. He has now lost twice by knockout in his own country to the same man. Still, champions lose with grace; they don’t whine and make excuses.
Mikey Garcia: The word that came to mind after Garcia stopped Bernabe Concepcion in seven rounds on the Salido-Lopez undercard was “legit.” The younger brother of trainer Robert Garcia is the real thing. OK, dominating someone as limited as Concepcion (29-6-1, 15 KOs) doesn’t prove that you’re a candidate to crack pound-for-pound lists. Still, we see what we see: A 24-year-old with the poise of a veteran who knows when to attack and has the tools to inflict severe damage. He has knocked out 24 of his 28 opponents for a reason. The Showtime commentators suggested that Garcia (28-0, 24 KOs) must fight more aggressively to enhance his popularity, which I normally would support. However, in this case, he should resist. Garcia might be so good that he can score spectacular knockouts with minimal risk, which is a rarity. Of course, we’ll learn more about Garcia as he continues to step up in class. A fight against Salido is entirely different from a fight against Concepcion.
Ricky Burns: Paulus Moses (28-2, 19 KOs) is no joke. The former WBC lightweight titleholder is well schooled and tough, which is why had lost only to talented Miguel Acosta going into Saturday night. And Burns handled him fairly easily, which says a lot about Burns (34-2, 9 KOs). The 28-year-old Scot had some hiccups earlier in his career – suffering his two losses to more-experienced British rivals in 2006 and 2007 – but he has evolved into a superb boxer. He probably won’t knock you out but he’ll drive you nuts with his all-around skill set, as Michael Katsidis and Moses experienced in Burns’ last two fights. Next up could be countryman Kevin Mitchell, who might be Burns’ toughest test yet. No one will be surprised if he passes it.
The passing of Julio Gonzalez: The former light heavyweight titleholder reportedly died at 35 in a motorcycle accident Saturday in Mexico. Gonzalez, from Southern California, wasn’t a great fighter but he was damn good one and exciting to watch. Tall and lanky, he was an awkward boxer who relied primarily on pressure and guts to beat some very talented opponents. That includes Glen Johnson, Dariusz Michalczewski and Montell Griffin. And he was unusually nice. I got to know him before his title challenge against Roy Jones Jr. in 2001, when Jones was at his remarkable best. Gonzalez couldn’t have more accommodating or down to earth in several conversations leading up to the fight. Of course, Jones won easily. But Gonzalez left everything he had in the ring. He always did. A good fighter and a good man will be missed.
Lopez, after his fight against Salido: “I dominated him.” Yeah, you battered his gloves with your face with remarkable consistency.