By Jake Donovan
Juan Carlos Salgado extended his second title reign to three consecutive defenses with a 12-round points win over Jonathan Barros in their 130 lb. title fight Saturday evening in Puebla, Mexico.
Scores were 115-112 and 116-111 (twice) for Salgado, who has potentially punched his way towards a career-best payday if current water cooler talk ultimately becomes a reality.
Action was tentative at the start, not uncommon for a Salgado fight. The defending titlist was measured in his approach, sizing up Barros in the opening round before increasing the intensity level in the second.
Barros was game for the cause, taking the fight to Salgado in a spirited round three that saw both fighters have their fair share of big moments. The fight also saw its fair share of fouls, mostly from Barros and not all of which were unintentional.
Referee Tony Weeks was busy in the middle rounds, issuing warnings for rabbit punching. A clash of heads left Salgado with a cut over his left eye, which didn’t at all prevent Barros from leading with his head whenever the action worked its way on the inside.
Despite his opponent’s frequent roughhouse tactics, Salgado grew more comfortable with the pace and distance as the fight moved along. The Mexico City native soaked up the cheers from the crowd as he began to dial in with his right hand and uppercut.
The second half of the fight began where the first half left off – Salgado on the attack and Barros fighting behind an earmuff defense. Even when the visiting challenger attempted to let his hands go, he was immediately countered with a flurry of return fire from the crafty titlist.
Salgado appeared on the verge of a stoppage in the ninth round. Barros spent most of the frame trapped along the ropes as the house favorite ramped up his body attack, also coming back with left hooks upstairs. More of the same transpired in the 10th, as Barros struggled to offer a competitive fight.
By the championship rounds, the only remaining question was whether Salgado’s skin would hold up long enough to cross the finish line. His corner did a superb job of tending to the cut, treating the wound every round from the moment Salgado sat on the stool until the moment the bell rang to begin the next frame.
Ever the professional, Salgado remained calm under pressure. A win was well within reach as long as the cut wouldn’t interfere with the outcome. Barros was brave but unable to do anything to change the course of the bout, at least within legal means. The aggressive challenger continued to bill his way forward, but Salgado was wise to stick his jab out in preventing any additional clash of heads from occurring.
With the fight seemingly in the bank, Salgado could have easily coasted. He instead chose to entertain his countrymen in attendance, fighting as hard in the 12th and final round as he did early in the fight. Barros proved just as game, scoring with the occasional right hand over the top and sneaking in left hooks behind Salgado’s tight guard.
It wasn’t enough to pull off the upset, but went a long way towards earning respect. Nevertheless, Salgado picks up his sixth straight win as he advances to 26-1-1 (18KO).
Barros comes up short in his bid at a second title reign in as many weight classes. The former featherweight beltholder has now lost two of his last three, as he heads home to Argentina with his record now at 34-3-1 (18KO). Barros’ featherweight title reign included a controversial win over Celestino Caballero before losing the rematch last October.
Salgado’s lone defeat came at the hands of Takashi Uchiyama more than two years ago in his first title reign. Six wins have followed, including a win over Argenis Mendez in their vacant title fight last September.
A rematch over Uchiyama was always unlikely given the economics involved. Uchiyama is a considerable draw in Japan, while Salgado enjoys a healthy relationship with Televisa, which televised Saturday’s card.
It was believed following Mendez’ repeat win over Martin Honorio in their title eliminator last month that this would be the rematch to which Salgado would turn.
Mendez will still eventually get his turn at a title shot. It just might not come in a rematch with Salgado.
If it does, then it will have meant that the defending titlist either scored the biggest win of his career… or that plans for a rumored November showdown with Yuriorkis Gamboa never managed to shake out.
Salgado has until January 28 to defend against Mendez, which is nine months from his last mandatory defense when he beat Honorio in late April. There is a seven-month optional period for all IBF titlists before they must begin negotiation terms for a mandatory defense to take place. This gives time to work out details between camps, or for the bout to go to a purse bid with enough time to stage said fight within the prescribed mandatory time frame.
In this particular case, it gives Salgado and his camp time to pursue a career-best payday and rare stateside showcase. It will also give newly formed promotional outfit TMT Promotions a chance to crown its first champion, in addition to the current recruited titlists already in its still growing stable.
Gamboa hasn’t fought since last September, scoring a technical decision over Daniel Ponce de Leon. Plans were in place for a showdown with Brandon Rios in April, which would have required the unbeaten featherweight titlist to leapfrog two weight classes against the rising young star.
The Cuban phenom instead pulled out of the fight and his contract with Top Rank altogether. The split began ugly but terms were eventually agreed upon to allow both sides to go their own separate ways. Gamboa was already rumored to be heading with Mayweather Promotions, a Las Vegas-based company that was a promotional outfit in name only, but whose shows always come with someone else’s promotional license (mostly Golden Boy Promotions).
Instead, he became one of the first selections for TMT Promotions (The Money Team, in reference to Floyd Mayweather Jr’s “Money” nickname and also a growing social network trend). He will now have a chance to win the company its first championship if terms are reached, with the bout eyed for mid-November.
The date is important as any later than November 28 and Salgado will have to drop all plans and move towards negotiations for a rematch with Salgado.
While the cut obtained against Barros proved inconsequential in Saturday’s bout, it could play a major factor in dictating how soon he can return to the ring.
The right amount of medicine and sensible enough negotiation tactics could prove to be the most rewarding moment of his career – win, lose or draw against Gamboa. Anything short of that, and he might as well begin preparing plans for a second dance with Mendez.
Alejandro Sanabria scored an eighth-round stoppage over Seechi Okada of Japan in the televised co-feature. Sanabria (33-1-1, 25KO) was in control for the entire bout before the visiting Okada (16-3, 9KO) finally wilted.
The win keeps Sanabria in the hunt for a lightweight title shot. The plan now is to await the outcome of the September 8 championship bout between defending titlist Antonio DeMarco and challenger John Molina before challenging the winner to a fight possibly by year’s end.
Both bouts aired live on Televisa in the latest installment of its “Sabado de Corona” series.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox