When unbeaten featherweight contender Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia engages in what is likely to be a career-defining fight against Mexican WBO beltholder Orlando Salido in an HBO-televised main event on Jan. 19, the 25-year-old will be in against a foe unlike any he has previously faced.
The rugged, 32-year-old Salido (39-11-2, 27 knockouts) has won his last five fights by knockout, including two stoppages of ex-titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez.
Since falling by unanimous decision to Juan Manuel Marquez as a featherweight in September of 2004, Salido is 16-2 with 12 stoppage victories and a no-contest, the latter being an overturned triumph over Robert Guerrero in November of 2006.
Although Salido was initially awarded a unanimous decision — 115-113, 117-111, 118-110 — over Guerrero, he was later stripped of the IBF’s 126-pound belt after testing positive for steroids.
In 2011, Salido sandwiched knockouts over Kenichi Yamaguchi and Weng Haya between the two against Lopez. He ended Yamaguchi’s run of 13 straight wins, three by stoppage, and Haya’s streak of three consecutive victories, two by knockout.
Coming off July’s third-round knockout of Moises Gutierrez, Salido last suffered defeat by unanimous decision in September of 2010 against unbeaten former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa, a Cuban Olympic gold medalist and current WBA interim 130-pound beltholder.
An Oxnard, Calif., resident, Mikey Garcia scored his eighth consecutive stoppage victory over Argentina’s rugged former titleholder Jonathan Victor Barros in the eighth round of November’s HBO-televised bout.
Garcia eschews what he calls the traditional Mexican “brawler” or “close quarters” style for a more cerebral Mayweather-like approach which employs his defensive skills, power and range.
But Salido believes that he can defeat Garcia by making him stand and fight.
In this Q&A, translated by Top Rank’s Ricardo Jiminez, Salido talked about his transformation from a fighter who was knocked out five times in his first 15 bouts to one who is considered not only the best in his division, but also, among the best in the sport.
RingTV.com: Do you think that you are the toughest fighter Garcia will have faced?
Orlando Salido: I believe that he has never fought a fighter of my quality or a fighter with my experience. I think that, truly, this will be the best fighter that he has ever faced in his career. We’re going to see if he is ready for it.
RingTV.com: What are the various things that you bring to the table?
OS: I believe that he has never faced a fighter who applies the type of pressure that I do, or that throws as many punches as I do. I come forward, I come to fight, and I’m going to give him trouble from the first bell to the last.
RingTV.com: How have you gone from being 8-6-1 during a period in which you were knocked out five times, to one of the sport’s more exciting, formidable and durable fighters while facing premiere competition?
OS: I think that it was just a question of learning. You learn how to train, and you eat better. Your whole mentality becomes entirely different than it was when you started out.
In the past, you were just out there taking fights on that you weren’t ready for. I just prepare myself a lot better, and I eat a lot better. I just know how much more important it is to prepare properly for a fight than I used to.
RingTV.com: Can you reflect on the controversy surrounding the fight with Guerrero and what you learned from that?
OS: I still feel very proud of that win, even though I know that there was a lot of controversy afterward. I know that I’m a clean fighter, and I know that what I did was right, and I know that I beat him fair and square in the ring.
I mean, nobody can question that. I know that I beat him, and I was well-prepared for him. And now that he’s doing so well in higher divisions, I look at that win as being even bigger than it was when I got it.
RingTV.com: So when you see Guerrero potentially getting a big opportunity against Floyd Mayweather, you still sit back and say that you beat him?
OS: Many people can say that I beat him every round. I know that I beat him every round. Everybody who saw that fight saw me taking care of business in the ring. It’s like I hit him with every punch I threw.
After everything that happened, we talked about doing a rematch, and he never wanted to fight Orlando Salido again. So you know that he understood that he had no chance of beating me.
RingTV.com: What are your thoughts when you see like the success of other guys like Gamboa and Marquez, to whom you lost decisions?
OS: You know, when I faced Marquez, I should have pressured him more. I think that I went into that fight with a lot of respect for him, and I think that I showed too much respect for him.
But I knew that I could have competed better against him. Same thing with Gamboa. When you talk about how these guys are really great fighters, well, I competed with them.
That motivates me, and that shows me that I have similar skills and abilities that rank with the best in the world, and that I can compete with the best in the world. That’s what those fights showed me, that I can do that.
RingTV.com: With five straight knockouts, are you functioning on some new-found punching power?
OS: I just think that I have learned to take care of myself. I don’t have trouble with weight anymore. I know how to take care of myself between fights.
So I think that it’s just a case of me being better prepared, and just taking better care of myself. I think that there are attributes of my power that are with me.
I just feel feel a lot better and more confident going into fights that I’m able to knock guys out because I feel stronger and well-prepared.
RingTV.com: Do you believe you can disrupt Garcia’s cerebral approach?
OS: I think that this guy is going to come right at me because he knows that I’m the champion. I think that he’s from the old school, like, you know, you have to take it away from the champion.
I think that he’s going to be more aggressive than he has shown in the rest of his fights. But if he’s not, then I’m prepared to go after him by chasing him and pressuring him until I cut him down.
RingTV.com: Do you think that you’re going to knock him out?
OS: I know that it’s possible. I know that he’s a strong fighter and a young fighter, but I think that I have the strength and the power and the ability to knock him out. Of course I do.
RingTV.com: Does being the main event of one of the first big cards of the year at Madison Square Garden motivate you to be part of an early candidate for the Fight of The Year or to score the Knockout of The Year?
I want to keep showing people how good I am. I want to keep showing people that I want to be one of the best, and be considered one of the best in the sport.
I want to give them a fight to remember because this is an important fight against an important fighter in an important place.
RingTV.com: If you’re successful at doing that, will you stay in this weight class and pursue another belt, and, if not, will you rise to face someone else such as Gamboa in the junior lightweight division?
I’m willing to wait for those guys if they are coming up, but if not, the I will pursue some fights at 130. I think that I’ve done enough to earn that rematch with Gamboa, and if that’s possible, then I would love to do that.
RingTV.com: Will you measure the time of retirement in terms of years or number of fights?
So I’m looking for the bigger and bigger and better fights that are out there, and then I’ll think about what’s left to my career.
Photo by Rafael Soto, Top Rank
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Rafael Soto, Top Rank
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com