by Cliff Rold
They are fighters who have traveled different paths.
The defending titlist turned professional in March 1996 at the tender age of 15, suffering his first of five career stoppage losses. He suffered the last of those five in March 2000, his record a less than average 8-6-1.
Then the switch started to flip.
Orlando Salido hasn’t been unbeaten since 2000, but if a fight ended early it’s because he ended it. 31-5-1 since that rocky start, he’s faced a who’s who of former champions fighting between the Featherweight and Lightweight limits. Salido went the route in a title try against Juan Manuel Marquez He handed Robert Guerrero his second loss and won his first title in 2006, only to cough it up on a failed test for performance enhancing drugs. He lost and then won in cracks at the IBF title against Cristobal Cruz. He had Yuriorkis Gamboa on the deck before falling twice himself in a decision loss for that crown.
Salido is 5-0 since, all of those wins by knockout. The two biggest of those wins give him the title he holds now to the detriment of once undefeated WBO titlist Juan Manuel Lopez. Each of their battles was a candidate for Fight of the Year. In the second, Salido came off the floor to win. He did the same in stopping the unexpected Weng Haya.
Orlando Salido is all sorts of blue-collar fighter, and he learned his craft as he went.
His challenger this weekend comes to battle from a different path. Part of a fighting family, Mikey Garcia is the brother and mentee of one of the game’s best trainers, Robert Garcia. While Salido was learning to stay on his feet, Garcia was watching his big brother win a title at 130 lbs. and trade shots with some of the best Jr. Lightweights in the world.
Garcia had a chance to mature as an amateur, turning pro at 19 with an experienced team around him. He’s made his progressions, working his way through increasingly difficult competition without seriously risking unnecessary defeats. He arrives in his first title shot with 30 wins, a lot of hype, and the physical prime of youth.
Mikey Garcia is all sorts of well-groomed champion in wait. Salido is the type of rugged man who gives him a chance to show off how much blue-collar fighter there is in there too.
Let’s go the report card.
Titles: WBO Featherweight (2012-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: IBF Featherweight (2010)
Weight: 126 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 127.6 lbs.
Hails from: Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico
Record: 39-11-2, 27 KO, 5 KOBY, 1 NC
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-3, 3 KO, 1 No Contest
Rankngs: #1 (Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Ring Magazine, SecondsOut, BoxRec); #2 (BoxingScene, ESPN)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Alejandro Gonzalez L12, Alfred Kotey UD10, Juan Manuel Marquez L12, Cesar Soto W10, Robert Guerrero NC12, Cristobal Cruz L12, UD12, Yuriorkis Gamboa L12, Juan Manuel Lopez TKO8, TKO10)
Title: 1st Title Shot (WBO Mandatory)
Weight: 125.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 126.9 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California
Record: 30-0, 26 KO
Rankings: #2 (SecondsOut); #3 (Ring Magazine); #4 (BoxRec); #5 (ESPN); #6 (Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, BoxingScene)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 2 (Mauricio Pastrana KO2, Jonathan Victor Barros TKO8)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Salido B-; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Power – Salido B; Garcia B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Salido B+; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Salido B+; Garcia B
Salido’s best asset in the fight may be the least obvious: his defense. While he’s not impossible to catch, Salido utilizes good head and upper body movement and knows how to get inside without having to beat up doing it. That could wreak some havoc on a Garcia who sometimes fights a little rigid.
Rigid and sometimes too patient.
Garcia does a lot of things exactly how they’re drawn up. His jab is straight. The right comes down the pipe behind it. His hook is explosive. However, his head doesn’t move much. Instead, he relies on blocking with his gloves. Sometimes he looks like a future star.
Sometimes he looks an awful lot like former Lightweight titlist Julio Diaz. Like Garcia, Diaz was well managed for a long time and his fundamental base impressed. Then he hit the spot where he was to ascend to the next level and he was never quite able to show the adaptability needed at the elite level. The things he did so well made him predictable, which made him hittable. So far, Garcia has shown more durability and gets hit less.
Then again, he hasn’t been in with much.
Bernabe Concepcion and Tomas Villa were competent journeyman. Jonathan Barros is a former titlist by way of flaky hometown decision who one would have a hard time justifying as a top Featherweight in recent years. A plus to Garcia is that he stopped Barros, something men like Gamboa and Celestino Caballero could not do. Salido is his bridge to wherever he’s going. It won’t be the only chance he has to cross, but the first time is the best time to make it happen in a sport where activity is often stunted.
Salido can exploit the predictability. Neither man is particularly quick of hand but Salido’s learn on the job background has meant a refinement of his skills. Against Lopez, he did a great job in both fights of throwing between Lopez’s shots and getting around the guard. If he can start getting his shots around the guard of Garcia, we start to find out what Garcia can take.
We also see if Garcia catch Salido close. In the second Lopez fight, Salido was hurt blind inside with something he didn’t see. Garcia is good going forward but he’s also sharp on the counter. With his heavy hands, he can hurt Salido and he’s not likely to be as reckless as Lopez. His patience in that scenario is a virtue.
There is also the question of what Salido we get. He’s not always consistent. He can look elite one night and ordinary another, even in victory. Garcia has been consistent along his path with clear room to grow. There is a feeling we haven’t seen the best of Garcia yet.
Do we begin to on Saturday?
Salido has had a nice run going, but he's never been super consistent and the belief here is Garcia is the real deal. Garcia can sometimes be too patient but Salido is going to get close to him and the opportunities will open up. Salido was in bad trouble with Weng Haya. He's been stopped five times and while it hasn’t happened in over a decade, he’s flirted with disaster a few times over the yeas. Number six looks imminent. It likely goes deep with some tough moments for Garcia, but the man groomed to be a champion gets to the winners circle this weekend.
Report Card Picks 2013: 0-0
Salido-Garcia isn’t the only solid action this weekend. It headlines an excellent tripleheader on HBO (9:45 PM EST/PST)…In additional title action, WBO 130 lb. titlist Roman Martinez (26-1-1, 16 KO) defending against Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1, 20 KO) could be the fight of the night. Both guys can be hurt, both are fairly slow, and both can make good fights. Martinez has more wear on him; almost all his fights are tough. Burgos is the technically superior fighter and the difference in skill should be enough to hand Martinez his first stoppage loss late in a war…While it should be fun, Middleweight Gennady Golovkin (24-0, 21 KO) versus Jr. Middleweight Gabriel Rosado (21-5, 13 KO) is a total mismatch. Rosado is tough. That won't mean much against the offensive, naturally bigger machine in front of him. It says here Golovkin is already the best Middleweight in the world. He's just waiting for his shot. Rosado will be part of that wait maybe as early as one round, as long as five…All the action Saturday won’t be on HBO. NBC Sports (9 PM EST/6 PM PST) has an excellent main at Light Heavyweight. Former titlist Gabriel Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KO) has more experience, but Sergey Kovalev (19-0-1, 17 KO) will be a handful. Campillo has excellent defense and a vulnerable chin. Kovalev is a little awkward but quick and can clearly crack. He’s also a big Light Heavyweight. Campillo is most vulnerable early. The pick here is for Kovalev to land big in the first five and pull off the mild upset by a stoppage.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]