Orlando Salido has declared that his last fight as a featherweight will be Saturday's defense of his WBO belt against Vasyl Lomachenko, whom he calls "very beatable."
Lomachenko has said that he wants to make history by becoming a titleholder in what is being billed as his second professional fight. According to Fight Fax Inc., boxing's official record keeper, Lomachenko is actually 7-0 because he was paid to take part in six World Series of Boxing fights.
A three-time beltwinner, Salido (40-12-2, 28 knockouts) has suffered half of his losses in the first 15 fights of his career, including a unanimous-decision setback to Juan Manuel Marquez at 126 pounds in a bid to win the IBF and WBA titles in September 2004.
He won the IBF belt against Cristobal Cruz in 2010 and the WBO title facing Kenichi Yamaguchi in 2011, defending the latter once with a tenth-round TKO of Juan Manuel Lopez.
Salido, 33, won a featherweight belt for the third time in October with a seventh-round stoppage over Orlando Cruz.
"I have been an underdog all my professional career, and this fight is no different," said Salido. "I come to fight and do the best I can and I don't pick my opponents and never have. I know why Lomachenko is getting this opportunity. He was one of the best amateur boxers and has two gold medals.
"I came up the hard way and I worked hard for everything I have. I guess we will find out on Saturday night. He does have skills. He has fast hands, moves well in the ring, but we will see in the ring if he can take my pressure and constant work rate that I will dish out to him."
As Salido said, Lomachenko, 26, won gold medals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games, and reportedly notched a staggering amateur record of 396-1.
On the undercard of Salido-Cruz, Lomachenko scored knockdowns in the first and final rounds to win what was billed as his pro debut by fourth-round knockout over Jose Ramirez.
"I am not nervous at all," said Lomachenko. "I am the one who chose this path to a world title fight. All of this was my decision. Salido has fought the best of the best. He will be a hard fighter to defeat.
"I like fighters like him with the tough Mexican style. It makes it so much more challenging. Salido is a great champion because he is calm, never talks trash, is cold-blooded and has beaten the best. This is a real fight, a battle."
Salido-Lomachenko will take place at The Alamodome in San Antonio on the undercard of a rematch between Julio Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera.
Below, RingTV.com polled 21 boxing insiders for their predictions.
Orlando Salido by late TKO over Vasyl Lomachenko: I have no doubt that Lomachenko is the truth over the four- and five-round distance. I was impressed with his boxing talent, skill and athletic ability during his fight with Ramirez last October.
But I wasn't blown away by his performance. Don't get me wrong — I thought it was enough to earn him Prospect of the Year status with one fight, but I didn't see a guy who is ready for the 12-round distance against a proven veteran like Salido.
If Salido can safely make 126 pounds, I think he'll be too much for the Ukrainian amateur star and stop him late — probably in the championship rounds. If Lomachenko beats Salido I will be "blown away."
Record: 1-1 [Last pick: Victor Ortiz D 10 Luis Collazo]
Vasyl Lomachenko W 12 Orlando Salido: In Orlando Salido, Vasyl Lomachenko faces a durable, stubborn opponent, a scarred gatekeeper who will be there for 12 rounds.
It's an encounter that is bound to test Lomachenko in ways he never was during his legendary amateur career. To wit: If Salido breaks Lomachenko's nose, how will he react? The guess here: He'll respond.
Lomachenko possesses a combination of speed, skillful defense and power in a right hand that will do its own damage when the left-handed Salido throws wide shots that will leave him open to the Ukrainian's stinging precision.
Record: 3-1 [Last pick: Ortiz TKO 8 Collazo]
Vasyl Lomachenko UD 12 Orlando Salido: Boxing history is actually quite rife with talented lighter weight fighters who've pulled off title-winning victories with little or next to no professional experience under their belts. The late Saensak Muangsurin comes to mind, and so does Jeff Fenech.
Whether you believe Vasyl Lomachenko currently has one pro victory or seven, what's undisputed is his amateur pedigree and the talent he's displayed thus far in the paid ranks. It's all very impressive and hard to bet against.
WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido is nothing if not a hard-nosed professional fighter and it's difficult to know whether his vast championship experience will handicap this title tilt in his favor because there is no doubt who the more talented, fresher boxer is — it's Lomachenko by a mile.
And so it is exactly because the Top Rank signed Ukrainian has the skills and the connections for a bright future in boxing that I am picking the young upstart to win by unanimous decision.
Record: 4-0 [Last pick: Collazo W 10 Ortiz]
Vasyl Lomachenko TKO 7 Orlando Salido: WBO featherweight titleholder Orlando Salido has been there and done it, but he looks to be the sacrificial lamb in this bout against the former amateur standout.
Lomachenko is widely regarded as the finest unpaid fighter of all time, and Top Rank has elected to throw him in at the deep end as a professional against a proud, but ultimately limited, champion.
I don’t agree with the maneuver and feel the Ukrainian should serve his apprenticeship like any other novice pro, but he is, without question, talented enough to dominate the fight. I hope Salido is getting well paid, because he deserves to cash out.
Record: 3-1 [Last pick: Collazo SD 12 Ortiz]
Vasyl Lomachenko W 12 Orlando Salido: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Vasyl Lomachenko is the most technically sophisticated fighter ever to come out of the amateurs — and that includes Guillermo Rigondeaux. His feints, upper body movement, punching technique and ring intelligence are a joy to watch, and his knockout drops will make the masses want to tune in.
That said, Lomachenko had better hurt Orlando Salido early, because if he doesn't, the Mexican veteran will take advantage of a possible Lomachenko weakness — stamina. In his WSB fights, he tended to start fast and finish slower, and Saturday's fight is scheduled for 12 rounds, not five.
My guess is that Lomachenko's knowledge and technical skill will see him through the rough patches, and that Salido will be tough enough to absorb it. Time will tell whether we will witness a star being born, but I believe Lomachenko will take the first step toward doing just that
Record: 1-0 [Last pick: Peterson W 12 Jean]
Vasyl Lomachenko UD 12 Orlando Salido: Yes, Vasyl Lomachenko has climbed the ladder in a manner that still has casual boxing fans confused, but the goods are obvious. Orlando Salido is crafty and hasn't been stopped since 2000, so it will be a task for the Ukraine native to get rid of the WBO featherweight champion.
But the sheer talent of Lomachenko will overwhelm Salido over the course of 12 rounds. I do expect Salido to give it a good run and even have Lomachenko in a little trouble early on. However, the deft boxing ability of Lomachenko will see him claim a world title in only his second professional fight.
Record: 4-0 [Last pick: Collazo UD 10 Ortiz]
Vasyl Lomachenko TKO 9 Orlando Salido: It might seem strange to pick someone with one professional fight to beat an experienced, durable three-time world champion by TKO. But Vasyl Lomachenko's skills are extremely impressive, he has long trained like a 12-round fighter and his hard, accurate combination punches will overwhelm Orlando Salido later in this fight.
If Orlando Cruz had legitimate power, he would've given Salido more trouble. And Vasyl Lomachenko won't ever be mistaken for Orlando Cruz. His stamina obviously is a concern, as Lomachenko has never boxed beyond four rounds in a real fight. But he is more than ready for this. Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler wouldn't have approved this fight if he wasn't.
Record: 3-1 [Last pick: Ortiz UD 10 Collazo]