By Kirk Jackson
Another chapter in the historic rivalry between Mexico vs. Puerto Rico concluded last night as Orlando Salido successfully defended his WBO Super Featherweight Title against Juan Manuel Lopez in their much anticipated rematch that is certainly a fight of the year candidate.
Photo Credit: Amanda Kwok/SHOWTIME
The fight even outdid the action and excitement of the first fight, and even lasted longer, going the course of ten rounds instead of eight this time around. A grueling war of attrition for both fighters, Salido took charge in the later rounds and knocked Lopez out in the opening seconds of the tenth round.
I predicted this outcome, although I thought the result would occur a bit quicker than the first time. I anticipated a tactical fight from Lopez, especially during the opening rounds, and expected a fire to ignite between the fighters and an all-out brawl manifesting as the fight progressed.
The reasons, as to why I thought Salido would prevail again in the rematch, were Salido’s size, awkward style, tenacity, and the lack of discipline and defense from Lopez.
Salido is bigger than the opponents Lopez is accustomed to facing, as he has fought as high as junior welterweight (140 pounds) and is a seasoned veteran who is tough as nails. Salido gave Cuban phenomenon Yuriyorkis Gamboa problems, and also fought against the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero and easily beat Rogers Mtagwa, a guy who almost koed Lopez.
Salido resembles a blue collar, rigid worker, who brings his lunch pail to work every fight. Meaning, he is going to be in your grill all night long, and it’s going to take one hell of an effort to beat him. The fact the rematch took place in Puerto Rico, primarily in front of Lopez supporters only adds to my point of the will of Salido and the lack of discipline of Lopez.
Fighting in enemy territory, can motivate certain fighters. Guys like Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, and Salido, also fits the bill. Also, in order to pull out a victory, I felt that Lopez needed to fight a more disciplined, defensive fight. The electrifying crowd cheering Lopez on only ignited the fire in him and drew out his inner instincts to fight and brawl.
Lopez is a skilled offensive fighter, can work behind his long jab, can put punches together and is blessed with power in both hands. But at the end of the day, Lopez is not a disciplined fighter, he can’t help but brawl. It’s a trait that makes him exciting and endearing to the fans, but it’s also a trait that makes him vulnerable, and he paid the price his last outing against Salido. Although he doesn’t have the sturdiest beard in the fight game, but Lopez does possess the heart of a lion, but you can only withstand so much punishment.
Ultimately, the style of this fight played into the advantages of Salido. The defending champion, Salido, is the more durable of the two fighters. An iron chinned fighter with an irrepressible will and is the naturally bigger man, so he can withstand the power of Lopez a bit better than the previous victims of Lopez.
Lopez started the bout a little tentative; perhaps the memories of being stopped in their first fight lingering in his mind, but he did pick it up during the fourth round and landed some effective punches, but whenever Lopez mounted an effective offense, Salido countered and doused his efforts.
Lopez was stunned repeatedly in the third round, and although he managed to score a knock down in the fifth round, Lopez was stunned and in really bad shape in that round as well. They would wage war from the sixth on, but you couldn’t help but feel Salido’s punches were going to overwhelm Lopez; as he eventually succumbed to the damage in the tenth round.
Last fight, the excuse was Lopez wasn’t focused and was overweight for the fight.
“There was also the fact that I came in very heavy for the fight. From one day to the next, I got very heavy. There were some things I couldn’t do because I was so heavy going into the ring. The plan we had talked about, I couldn’t execute it,” said Lopez.
There shouldn’t be any excuses for this last fight. As a matter of fact, Lopez entered this fight in great condition.
“I’m going to be in the best physical condition I can be in for this fight,” Lopez said, “and that’s going to make a lot of things turn out differently.”
The second fight was a repeat of the first fight and now the lingering question is what’s next for Lopez? A little over a year ago, Lopez was on course to meet Gamboa in a highly anticipated super fight. Now the future of Lopez is in question. Some may say Salido simply has his number. But I think the root of his recent issues goes further than that.
Lopez always had defensive issues, but he was able to overcome his lapses in defense partially because of his heart, and partially because he was fighting smaller guys in the lower divisions. Stepping up in class from super bantamweight to featherweight, may have exposed that. Unfortunately, a lot of the damage sustained from the two wars against Salido, the wars against Rafael Marquez, Mtagwa, etc. may be too much for him to overcome.
Lopez is going to have to do some soul searching after last night’s performance. He may have to tweak his fighting style, go back down to super bantamweight, or even consider retirement.
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