Salido goes back to the island
A funny thing kept happening on the night of Sept. 20 when Orlando Salido faced Terdsak Kokietgym in Tijuana. Mexico. He kept landing on his backside early on in that contest, looking up at the tough Thai, who kept sending him to the canvas. In the first five rounds of their back-and-forth affair, Salido was sent to the canvas three times.
Eventually, “Siri” would gather himself – scoring four knockdowns of his own – and took over the second half of the bout to wear Kokietgym down and capture the vacant WBO 130-pound title he defends this weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico versus the always rugged Rocky Martinez (pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m PT. Please check your local listings and cable provider).
“It was a tough fight as everyone saw. He proved to me that, at 130, I can punch and I can take a punch. You could see I was hurt. I got up and I came back at him. So it let me know what I can do at 130,” Salido said through Top Rank Promotions publicist Ricardo Jimenez last week.
When asked about the three knockdowns, Salido admitted, “I was a little surprised by his punches. Maybe I was standing up too tall and with no movement. I was just in front of him. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do like I did in the second half of the fight.”
It seemed at times like Salido never saw Kokietgym’s flashing left hands. From at least one knockdown, Salido had no idea just how he got to the seat of his pants. You have to wonder, at 34 (in a career that started at age 15) and with 57 professional outings, is his punch resistance eroding? Is there tread on the tires after a long and winding career through tough terrain?
Salido explained, “I think you go into the fights and sometimes, certain guys hit a lot harder than other guys. That’s the difference. I thought [Kokietgym] was a big, strong puncher, stronger than I thought but, to me, the punches are the same. You get hit by a big puncher, you’re going to get hurt no matter when you fight them.”
But the Kokietgym bout was symbolic of Salido’s career: a rough first half followed by a second half rally in which he used a two-fisted attack to break down the body of Kokietgym – whose only losses have come to world-class prizefighters – and systematically beat him into submission. In many ways, it was classic Salido, toughness and grit combined with underrated technique and guile.
“At the beginning, I didn’t feel like I was into the fight. I was a little cold and it took me a while to warm up. But once I did, I was coming on,” said Salido, who won his fourth major world title as a result. His second was his memorable upset of Juan Manuel Lopez on the very same island on which he fights this Saturday night. It was on this night in 2011 when he shed his label as a career journeyman.
It was a career and life-changing fight as he stopped Lopez in eight in Bayamon.
“Without a doubt, going into the ‘JuanMa’ Lopez fight, the exemption was that he was the best 126-pounder in the world. He was at home, that he should win,” recalled Salido, who faced Lopez when he was 30-0 coming into their first meeting. Salido was considered the prohibitive underdog “but I proved everyone wrong and it did take me to the next level. I think I became more well-known because of that.”
And now Salido goes back to the scene of the crime, a place where he has earned grudging admiration from the locals despite the heated nature of the rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. “I’ve gotten respect every time I’ve gone there. The fans have been great to me,” said Salido of the treatment he receives. “They know a lot about boxing. They know what it takes to fight there, win there and I think they respect me for that. I’ve been treated very nice because of that. The fans like to be entertained and I think that’s what I’ve given them.”
Coming back from this boxing-centric island with his title will be no easy task as he faces Martinez, who, in many ways, is fighting for the honor of his people. Based on their track records, it’s hard to conceive this not being another fan-friendly slugfest.
“I think our styles are perfect for one another. We’re matched up very well. My history in Puerto Rico, back-to-back with Lopez, Mexico versus Puerto Rico, two guys going forward, two guys giving it their all. I think it’s going to be the best fight in Puerto Rico this year,” said Salido, who’s no stranger to fighting blue-chip opposition or hitting the road. As tough as Martinez is, he may not be among the top 10 boxers Salido has ever faced. You look at Salido’s ledger and you see names such as Cesar Soto, Alejandro “La Cobrita” Gonzalez Sr., Robert Guerrero, Mikey Garcia, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Vasyl Lomachenko.
But there’s one name that stands out to him above everyone else.
“I always go back to the Juan Manuel Marquez fight,” said Salido, who faced him nearly 11 years ago. “That fight taught me a lot, taught me that I could fight with the best in the world. He taught me a lot. I learned a lot from that fight and, more than anything, it gave me confidence that I could fight anybody in the world.”
Salido has been described by many as an old-school fighter and when you look at his record, 42-12-2 (29), it has that old-school feel to it. Not much – if anything – was ever handed to him. This has been a hard-earned career. With a win on Saturday night, he will squeeze a few more paydays out of it by parlaying his WBO belt.
Regardless, Salido is content with his career. He has gotten what he has wanted out of this sport.
“I’m always going to be thankful to boxing because of where I was, where I came from,” said the hard man from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico.”It’s given me a lot. It made me who I am. I was nothing before and it turned me into something. I’ll always be grateful to boxing for that.”
Here’s the latest edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly.
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