By Cliff Rold
In the biggest win of his career, Orlando Salido (35-11-2, 23 KO) dropped undefeated Juan Manuel Lopez in the fifth, a punctuation mark on a cresting ass whipping that finally culminated in round eight. The 30-year old Mexican veteran, a professional since 1996 who began his paid tenure as a knockout victim, felt like he had finally arrived.
Which, when one takes a closer look, is a little odd.
After all, the Lopez win marked the third time a fight ended with someone handing Salido a major title belt at Featherweight for photo ops.
It was the second time that he got to keep a belt after the post-fight drug test came back.
And now we find out if he can keep a belt in the ring.
Saturday night, while much of the sport’s attention will be focused on a unification contest in Las Vegas, Salido will be tending to business of his own. Winning a belt is great, even if they aren’t that rare an accomplishment anymore.
But keeping a belt?
That’s where being a champion happens. That’s where Salido has not happened.
He will attempt his first defense against Japan’s Kenichi Yamaguchi (17-1-2, 4 KO). Those who have not heard of him shouldn’t feel alone. Those who have? They should probably get out more. Yamaguchi hasn’t lost since 2003, a knockout defeat, but was struggling with the limited Billy Dib before a “No Contest” was ruled in 2009.
On paper, Yamaguchi looks to have as much a chance as countryman Nobuhiro Ishida had going into his bout with undefeated Middleweight James Kirkland earlier this year.
For now, we can assume the paper safe. If the assumption proves correct, Salido will have a title defense under his belt with a Lopez rematch likely for the fall. Flush with the confidence gained in their first encounter, and settled into his role as a man who has defended his crown, Salido could be a tough nut to crack. He might even make himself appealing for another rematch, that with the man who appears to be the most talented Featherweight in the world and the last to defeat him, Yuriorkis Gamboa.
The first defense comes first.
He might have pulled this off years ago. Two years after suffering a one-sided loss to the great Juan Manuel Marquez in his first crack at a major belt, Salido found himself in the ring with IBF titlist Robert Guerrero in November 2006. He laid it on Guerrero, winning nine and ten rounds on two of the scorecards en route to a unanimous decision win.
A positive test for banned steroid Nadrolone stripped Salido of the title, the victory, and left a question mark over his integrity as a fighter.
He has answered in the ring since by going 8-2 with clean urine samples all around. It doesn’t prove him 100% clean as the success of many steroid users in beating tests in voluminously detailed over the years, but it’s the standard and he is meeting it. Of his defeats, one was a split decision for a vacant IBF belt against Cristobal Cruz in October 2008.
He avenged the loss in a strong unanimous decision in 2010. That was the belt he got to keep. It was also the one he lost to Gamboa in his very next fight. It’s been a long road for sure, but long roads often make for long stories and stories thrive in boxing, maybe more so than in any other sport outside Baseball.
It’s not every sport that can give its fans a 15-year old kid getting drilled in a fistfight into semi-consciousness for cash, only to have that same kid learn his craft through three different decades, losing to some great and not-so-great fighters, beating his share of toughs, and suffering the humiliation of a drug bust and loss of a world title dream, only to be called ‘champ’ two more times.
That’s compelling stuff.
Now all he has to do is stick around and soak in the calls of ‘champ’ for longer than the space between one fight and the next. Given everything else Salido’s been through, how hard can that be?
But wait, there’s more…
Viloria One More Time: http://www.boxingscene.com/roller-coaster-up-viloria-review-ratings-update--41729
Divisional Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--41692
Cliff’s Notes… What now at HBO? Ross Greenburg is out. What replaces him? And is that person set up to fail? There are still contractual obligations to be met so anyone expecting an overnight shift is likely to be disappointed. It’s going to take time and patience to right the ship fully...Antonio Tarver’s win over Danny Green could set him up foe a crack at a legitimate titleholder at Cruiserweight. The crazy thing is, even at 42, Tarver is in the fight with just about any of them…Who the hell cares which Manny Pacquiao stooges are coming and going? Seriously…CM Punk is the man and Chicago crowds rule. Period…Dereck Chisora vs. Tyson Fury? Whatever…Amir Khan-Zab Judah? Hell yeah. Just a few more days...And just how sweet will it be to see the best HBO fighter of the 1990s back on the network in a main event? Pernell Whitaker is in the corner of Judah and brings his own redemption story along with his charge. Whitaker, like many a great athlete, struggled when sport was behind him. Now working with Judah, among others, the idea of Whitaker potentially passing along to new generations the genius that George Benton passed to him is mouth watering.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]