By Jake Donovan
Argenis Mendez knew midway through his first fight with Juan Carlos Salgado that something dramatic needed to happen in order to leave Mexico with a victory and the vacant title that would come with it.
It almost happened for the Dominican, who rallied hard in the second half of their Sept. ’11 bout, a run that included a 12th round knockdown to close strong. It wasn’t enough, as the judges decided Salgado’s early lead was enough to hold on in the end.
Salgado remains a 130 lb. titlist to this day, which is good news for Mendez (20-2, 10KO). There were always designs on gaining revenge. His chance now comes with not just a title at stake, but also with televised coverage on Televisa and HBO Latino when the two meet this weekend at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, California.
"History will be different (this time) in California,” Mendez insists. “I have studied my opponent well and know all of his weaknesses. I am prepared to go 15 rounds. This will be the difference between defeat and becoming world champion.”
Mendez has only fought twice since their clash in Mexico, though enough to put him in line for a second title crack. His last ring appearance came in July, when he decisively outpointed Martin Honorio in a rematch to decide the mandatory challenger for Salgado (26-1-1, 16KO).
The rematch with Salgado was originally slated as the co-feature to a heavyweight clash between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne. The battle of big boys has since been postponed (again), upgrading the 130 lb. title fight to the main event.
Regardless of its place on the show, this weekend was already being viewed by Mendez as the biggest moment of his career. The top 130 lb. contender represented his native Dominican Republic in the 2000 Summer Olympics and has already challenged for the world title.
Yet this fight came with a far different feel, which was why he took training camp to the UK, home of his head trainer Lee Beard. The team arrived in Los Angeles last week in preparation for this weekend, which Mendez believes will provide the storybook ending he has long sought.
“Last time in Mexico, I was well on my way to knocking him out,” Mendez believes. “I’m coming into the rematch with that mentality. I have a great amateur and pro career behind me. Now, nothing and nobody will stand in my way of becoming world champion.”
Jake Donovan is the Boxingscene.com Managing Editor, as well as a voting member of the Yahoo Ratings Panel, Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox