By Chris Robinson
A tremendous firefight took place on Saturday night when WBO featherweight champion Orlando Salido successfully made the first defense of his title with a stirring 10th round TKO over Juan Manuel Lopez in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Showtime-televised thriller was classic stuff and once again Salido, just as he had done during his first stoppage victory over ‘Juanma’ last April, was able to withstand any punishment that came his way as he simply grinded Lopez down round after round while sustaining serious punishment himself.
Watching the fight from his home in Southern California, HBO color analyst Larry Merchant seemed to figure that Lopez, who had stopped 27 of his 30 opponents before meeting Salido, needed other answers if he was to win the second time around.
“When you’re a power puncher facing a guy can handle the power than you find out how much more he had to offer,” Merchant coined during our conversation this past weekend.
“Salido’s just a really tough guy and you just have to give him credit for walking through the fire and then putting out the fire.”
The ninth round of Lopez-Salido II two was especially frantic as the two fighters pressed the action with a certain kind of reckless abandon that is only seen in the rarest of prize fights.
Merchant was asked exactly what was going through his head during that memorable ninth stanza.
“You wondered who was going to give in first,” Merchant stated. “Who’s not going to be able to handle this kind of intense, back and forth, or who could handle it better? Salido took a lot of punishment in that fight but he was the guy standing straight at the end.”
During his interview with announcer Jim Gray after his loss, Lopez, perhaps still a bit discombobulated from the tremendous war he had been in, showed his frustration towards the WBO’s selection of referee Robert Ramirez Sr., who he claimed had a previous gambling problem prior to the fight.
It was an obvious attempt at Lopez to put the blame for his loss on the shoulders of someone else and the Puerto Rican fighter’s actions didn’t seem to surprise Merchant.
“First he had a bad marriage in his marriage and now he had a bad marriage with a referee,” Merchant said of the recently-divorced former champion. “It’s called alibies and if he knew about a problem this referee had then he should have protested before the fight. You don’t protest after the fight.”
Still, post-fight theatrics aside, Merchant showed some affinity for Lopez and isn’t quick to write him off.
“You know, he got up from the first defeat and he came back and made a good effort,” Merchant said of Lopez. “And you don’t know what he’s got left. It takes two to make a terrific fight. He’s been in two terrific fights in a row. I’m sure if he wanted to step in and fight somebody else at that weight, that television would love to have him.
“I mean, wouldn’t you want to see him fighting [Nonito] Donaire stepping up in weight?” Merchant asked. “When a guy gives you those kind of great fights, we still want to see more of him. The question is whether he still wants to see more of him.”
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