Should the Orlando Salido-Miguel Angel Garcia bout, which takes place next Saturday (Jan. 19), be for THE RING’s vacant featherweight title? That question was put before THE RING’s Ratings Panel, which almost unanimously decided that it should be, but not without some reservations and lively debate.
The hesitation from some members of the Panel was due to Chris John, the long-reigning WBA beltholder and THE RING’s No. 2-rated featherweight.
Salido, the current WBO titleholder, is THE RING’s No. 1-rated featherweight. Garcia, a well-schooled technician who is unbeaten in 30 pro bouts, is the magazine’s No. 3-rated contender. Most Panel members believe the two featherweight standouts, who headline an HBO-televised card from The Theater in Madison Square Garden, are worthy to fight for THE RING title.
Saldio, who stormed his way to the top of the magazine’s 126-pound rankings with two knockouts of previously undefeated JuanMa Lopez in 2011 and 2012 Fight of the Year candidates, has gone 16-2 (with one No Contest vs. Robert Guerrero) in his last 19 bouts since dropping a unanimous decision to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004. During that run, the 32-year-old Mexican veteran lost a split decision to Cristobal Cruz that he avenged for the IBF belt, which he lost to Yuriorkis Gamboa (via decision) in his very next bout. (It should be noted that Marquez and Guerrero are both currently ranked at welterweight; Gamboa at junior lightweight.)
Garcia, the 25-year-old younger brother of standout trainer Robert Garcia, has stopped 26 of his 30 pro opponents. The Oxnard, Calif. native has defeated some solid fighters – including Bernabe Concepcion (TKO 7) and Jonathan Barros (TKO 8) – but no “world beaters.”
John, a stick-and-move specialist from Indonesia, is considered a world beater. The 33-year-old veteran is unbeaten in 50 pro bouts. He has defended the WBA belt 16 times, including a unanimous decision over Marquez in Indonesia. Some members of the boxing media believe this was a “home-town/country” decision, others (such as Ring Panelists Martin Mulcahey and Ryan Songalia) believe there was nothing controversial about the 2006 decision.
Even if it was a poor decision, John’s record and consistency is amazing. His talent and skill was evident in his fights against many good fighters over the years, including former 122-pound beltholder Osamu Sato (who he fought in Japan), former featherweight titleholder Derrick Gainer, Roinet Caballero, Hiroyuki Inoki (who he fought in Japan), Rocky Juarez (who twice fought in the U.S. – the first bout in the U.S. Olympian’s hometown of Houston), and Daud Yordan.
Nobody on the Panel doubted John’s credentials. However, most were unsure if he would ever venture to the U.S again and uncertain of how long he intends to continue fighting.
Songalia, who has written recent features on John and even covered one of the Indonesian’s recent title defenses for RingTV.com, had this to say about the matter: “I believe (Salido-Garcia) should be for THE RING belt because of Chris John’s open statements that he has no interest in facing the best of the division. I think he’s most interested in fighting in Singapore, getting money from the new casino there, and retiring unbeaten.”
Panelist Ryan Maquinana echoed Songalia’s thoughts: “Ever since that brief foray into America when he fought Juarez, John has willfully chosen to stay in Southeast Asia (where hardly enough challenges remain to elevate his standing at 126). Ideally, you’d like to have John fight No. 1 for a vacant title, but since there’s virtually no shot of that happening, I’m OK with THE RING belt on the line for Salido-Garcia.”
Panelists Mark Ortega and Anson Wainwright were conflicted about the choice to make Salido-Garcia for THE RING title because they believe Garcia has not faced top opposition.
However, Wainwright also questioned John’s recent competition: “John doesn’t seem likely to look to fight any of the top guys. His last few fights have been against guys who aren’t close to being top ten ranked by THE RING, such as (Stanyslav) Merdov (32-7), (Shoji) Kimura (24-4-2), and (Chonlatarn) Piriyapinyo (44-0 – though he had beat nobody noteworthy himself).”
Mulcahey was the dissenting voice among the Panel members: “Should all boxers be judged on the region they box in instead of their worthiness? Just because John boxes in Asia (where he makes more money – the sport is still prizefighting so you go where money is) does not diminish his achievements.
“I question how Salido ever got rated above John in the first place to merit this RING belt shot? Salido has Juan Manuel Lopez’s (who had all of two title defenses at featherweight) number but otherwise John has a superior resume, and it was Gamboa who did not want to fight John, not the other way around. Then you have Mikey Garcia, who has not really beaten anyone to compare with John’s resume getting an opportunity to jump John without facing him. I doubt this would be happening if we were talking about an American boxer who used his economic clout – like say Roy Jones or Hall of Famer Orlando Canizales – to box in the USA in front of American audiences. I think John’s skills and resume are just too good to be ignored, and honestly Saldio is not exactly a world beater to represent THE RING belt. Garcia can be but he is still young.
“Why can’t Salido or Garcia fight John in Singapore where there is plenty of money to stage such a fight? Why is it up to John to lose money to fight in American again! When is the last time we demanded this of an American boxer, like say Andre Ward for the Mikkel Kessler or Arthur Abraham bouts, when those fights would have made more money in Europe?
“And I don’t buy the argument that John’s career is winding down. So what? Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Vitali Klitschko, Carl Froch, and Juan Manuel Marquez are winding their careers down as well but I doubt we would overlook them if a RING belt where to be fought in their divisions.”
Mulcahey brought up many valid points about how world-class boxers are perceived and rated based on where they fight. There was much follow-up debate between the Panelists regarding divisional rankings based on recent track records, quality of opposition and overall career bodies of work.
These are issues that THE RING’s Ratings Panel will continue to address, just as hardcore fight fans will be sure to debate them.
Regarding the divisional ratings, the past weekend was a quiet one, which resulted in no movement in our rankings.
However, there were a few fights worth commenting on.
Unbeaten junior middleweight prospect Jonathan Gonzalez won a 10-round majority decision over Derek Ennis in the co-featured bout of last week’s ESPN2 Friday Night Fights broadcast from Miami, Fla. Although two judges awarded Gonzalez the win with scores of 97-93 and 98-92, the third judge saw a different fight from the other two judges with his score of 95-95.
Gonzalez, a 23-year-old boxer-slugger from Puerto Rico, has promise but for now he remains unranked at 154 pounds by THE RING.
In the junior lightweight division, Rances Barthelemy won a disputed 12-round split decision over Arash Usmanee in the Friday Night Fights main event. Also, Edgar Puerta retained his WBC 130-pound “silver title” by stopping Abraham Rodriguez in eight rounds. Neither of these fighters are close to being ranked but each would be a decent opponent for some of the fighters ranked in the lower half of THE RING rankings.
At strawweight, former beltholder Akira Yaegashi, who gave Kazuto Ioka all he could handle in losing to Ioka last summer, stopped Saenmuangloel Kokietgym in the ninth round this weekend. Yaegashi fought at 110 pounds but said he wants a world title at any of the 105, 108 or 112-pound divisions. Yaegashi will continue to be ranked in the 105-pound division at this time.