SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Orlando Salido utilized steady pressure and remarkable inside fighting to overcome a knockdown and score another emphatic TKO victory on the road against former titlist Juan Manuel Lopez.
Lopez attempted to adjust tactics these fight by boxing off the backfoot. Taking advantage of Lopez’s inexperience with this style, Salido stayed on top of him with overhand rights and short left hooks inside. By the third round, Salido was completely dominating the inside exchanges with accurate power shots that continually forced Lopez to give ground.
With Salido’s pressure building and the crowd murmuring concern for their countryman Lopez, the challenger responded with a much-needed knockdown in the fifth. Salido had been dominating the round and forcing Lopez backwards when he was caught by a short right hook on the jaw. Salido rose shakily into a quick barrage from Lopez until being saved by the bell.
The knockdown reinvigorated Lopez and gave him renewed confidence in his punching power. He began the sixth by stunning Salido with a left-right hook combination. However, Lopez had begun telegraphing his right hook in hopes of another knockdown, allowing Salido to force an inside brawl of vicious hooks and getting the better of it.
Salido was in complete control by the seventh, raking Lopez with left hooks inside. Lopez again attempted to box off the backfoot, but found little success as Salido simply walked him down and cornered him. Salido’s overhand right, the money punch of the first fight, was again on display along with guard-splitting left uppercuts. The beating continued in round eight, but Lopez showed his heart and realization that he needed a knockout by coming forward and trying to punch through Salido’s assaults.
Round nine was a toe-to-toe battle with both men disfiguring the other with hooks. Salido had the higher output early and appeared close to overwhelming Lopez, who responded furiously by the round’s mid-point by digging hooks to the body and pushing Salido to the ropes. The champion responded with uppercuts to close out a breath-taking three minutes that had everyone in San Juan on their feet and cheerly wildly.
Round nine would prove to be Lopez’s last stand. In the tenth, Salido replicated his strategy of starting the rounds quick while Lopez came out completely spent. Salido pounced inside with a right hook that froze Lopez followed by a left-right uppercut combination that sent Lopez sprawling to the canvas. Lopez struggled to his feet on spent legs, causing referee Roberto Ramirez Sr. to halt the bout and give Salido a second shocking TKO over Lopez in Puerto Rico.
“It was punch for punch,” Salido said of the ninth round. “Luckily he was the one that fell.”
A hometown bias was clear on the scorecards as Lopez was ahead at the time of the stoppage by scores of 86-84 twice and 85-85. Lopez couldn’t accept the loss and accused the referee of having a gambling problem and showing corruptness by stopping a fight he was “dominating.”
Both Salido and Lopez expressed willingness for a third fight. Last night’s win was Salido’s third defense of his WBO featherweight title.
On the undercard, Miguel “Mikey” Garcia easily dispatched Bernabe Concepcion over seven one-sided rounds. Concepcion was never in the bout for one second as Garcia easily controlled him on the outside with an authoritative jab. Garcia varied his offense in the mid-rounds by adding counter left hooks and straight rights on a Concepcion that was now lunging to get inside. Concepcion was dropped against the ropes by a pin-point straight right and quickly dispatched in the seventh with a barrage of hooks against the ropes.
The main event was excellent and both men should be lauded for their efforts. Thankfully, the shoddy hometown judging was no factor on the outcome. Lopez, to his credit, tried to adjust his tactics but he was simply in with a man who clearly has his number. In addition, Lopez appears to be a fighter that will always carry his defensive flaws. It will likely keep him from being a top echelon fighter, but it’ll keep him in exciting fights.
Salido was on a mission. That knockdown appeared to be fight turning, but he went right back to dominating Lopez on the inside. This fight was a perfect example of strategy and punch timing overcoming natural talent. Lopez’s edge in hand speed was a complete non-factor in close, and no fighter could keep taking the flush power shots Lopez absorbed in every round.
So what’s next for both men? If Top Rank and Yuriorkis Gamboa can ever get on the same page, Salido could face the Cuban dynamo in a rematch. There’s also the in-house option of Salido against Nonito Donaire. While Donaire has the much higher skill level, his devastating bantamweight power hasn’t been seen at super batanmweight, and would likely be less should he move up again. If Top Rank feel Mikey Garcia is ready, maybe we’ll see him in with Salido later this year or early 2013. For Lopez, a Puerto Rico showdown with Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. would be a nice bout after some rest and a tune-up.
Whomever Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez end up fighting next, make sure you’re watching.