By Jake Donovan
If it's not the end of the road for Orlando Salido, it was likely his last night spent at this level.
The veteran boxer from Mexico hoped for a hat trick in Puerto Rico. He instead ran into a determined Roman "Rocky" Martinez, who scored two knockdowns en route to a career-resurrecting decision win Saturday evening in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Both fighters weighed under the 130 lb. divisional limit; Salido was 129.9 lbs., while Martinez was 129.3 lbs.
Although the headlining bout of the independent Pay-Per-View carried the marquee of "The War," Martinez opted to make it a boxing match early on. Coming in as a former two-time titlist, the local favorite was steady with his jab, disrupting Salido's rhythm.
Salido adjusted in round two, bringing the action to within phone booth's distance, his normal preference. The strategy backfired, however as Martinez didn't wilt. Instead, the Vega Baja native bit down and floored Salido for the first of two times on the night, the sequence coming in round three courtesy of a right hand.
Martinez struck again two rounds later, flooring Salido towards the end of round five. Ever the warrior, the visiting titlist peeled himself off of the canvas and forced a war with his much younger foe. Both fighters had their say, although Salido was doing damage with body shots in the second half.
A key moment in the fight came in round 11, when Salido was docked a point for a low blows. To most observers, it appeared to be the nail in the coffin for the fight and his stay as a 130 lb. titlist. It hardly prevented the two from throwing down for the remainder of the bout, much to the delight of the capacity crowd on hand.
Scores of 114-111, 115-110 and 116-109 (the latter two a bit too wide for the action that took place) were in favor of Martinez, who improves to 29-2-2 (17KOs). With the win, the Puerto Rican boxer now becomes a three time 130 lb. titlist, with previous reigns ending at the hands of Ricky Burns and Mikey Garcia.
The latter defeat prompted a 13-month ring hiatus before returning with a tune-up win last December. It was enough to put Martinez back into contention, opting to drop back down to junior lightweight after flirting with the idea of campaigning full time in the lightweight division.
His decision to cram back into a 130 lb. uniform was possibly the best move he's made in his resuscitated career.
For Salido, it's quite possibly the last hurrah in a never-say-die career spanning more than 19 years. The 34-year old battle tested veteran sees his latest reign end in its first defense, falling to 42-13-2 (29KOs).
The latest title reign for Salido was brief, but the manner in which he won the crown was unforgettable. The fighting pride of Sinaloa, Mexico was floored three times by Terdsak Jaendaeng, but came back to score four knockdowns of his own in scoring an 11th round knockout in an unforgettable war last September.
The win ranks up there with - or perhaps just a notch below - his pair of knockouts over Juan Manuel Lopez, both of which took place on the road in Puerto Rico. The first of the two wins came in the 8th round of an even fight in 2011, with Salido stopping the previously unbeaten southpaw to begin his second reign as featherweight titlist.
A repeat win one year later extended Salido's stay near the top of the featherweight division. It came to an end less than a year later in a lopsided technical decision loss to Garcia, whose reign didn't even last beyond the weigh-in for his next fight, a 4th round knockout of Lopez in what became a non-title fight after showing up heavy in their June '13 clash.
Salido reaped the benefits, fighting for and winning the vacant title with a one-sided stoppage win over a brave but outgunned Orlando Cruz in their Oct. '13 meet. Salido himself couldn't make it through his next fight with the belt still intact; like Garcia before him, his reign ended at the scales, showing up over the limit for an eventual split decision win over Vasyl Lomachenko last March.
Saturday's bout was his second sanctioned junior lightweight affair after the majority of his career spent at featherweight. Should he choose to fight on, it seems he will remain at the weight - just not likely at the contender.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox