By Chris Cella
The Mecca of boxing—Madison Square Garden—will be the setting of three world championship fights this Saturday, January 19. The Garden has been home to some of the most renowned matchups in boxing history, featuring more than a few of the sports legends of the past and present, including—Marciano, Ali, Frazier, Louis, Robinson, LaMotta, Gatti, Duran, Cotto and many, many more.
Having the chance to bang on the grand stage of the sport’s most prestigious setting is something every boxer who has laced the gloves up aspires to do.
Saturday night at 9:45 p.m. as part of HBO’s Boxing After Dark Series, six fighters will look to etch their name in the Garden’s history and emerge from battle with their hand raised.
Orlando “Sin” Salido (“39-11-2, 27 KO) will defend his WBO featherweight title against undefeated top contender Mikey Garcia (30-0, 26 KO) in a 12-round bout.
It has been nearly two years since Garcia has gone the distance in a fight, stopping his opponent in eight straight trips to the ring. But rather than simply showing one punch knockout ability, he has punished his opponents, breaking them down round by round.
“People have been talking about this being the first big fight of the year and I’m glad to be part of it,” Garcia said. “Everyone expects to see a good fight and they want to see a good fight. I am going to try and dictate the pace, but if I have to slug it out, I will. He will probably try and come in and if he does, I’ll be landing punches. He’ll find out that I have the power to hurt him. I will use counter-punches and throw the jab. Whatever it takes. We will see round-by-round how I will fight.”
Against the 32-year-old ring veteran Salido, Garcia will look to impose his will early and establish his pace to the fight with his speed and power. Despite five of his 11 losses coming by way of knockout and showing he had a questionable jaw early in his career, Salido has not suffered a TKO loss since 2000. Salido has shown that he is a gamed opponent, and will undoubtedly want to stand and exchange with Garcia at will.
“I come to fight,” said Salido. “I give it my all every round. I want to give the fans a good fight but I know it will be a difficult fight.”
Much is on the line for the two featherweights, and going to war in the Garden has to add a degree of pressure to rise to the occasion and perform.
In a battle of middleweights undefeated WBA champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (24-0, 21 KO) will put his belt on the line against “King” Gabriel Rosado (25-1, 13 KO)
Rosado is coming up from a junior middleweight for this battle. Through his career he has lacked consistency between the ropes, but is currently riding the longest win streak of his career at seven wins.
“For this fight we are really working on speed,” said Rosado. “My last few fights I have been really strong, walking guys down and really punishing them. But with this fight I want to work on speed; I’m a lot faster than he (Golovkin) is, and I feel speed is what will win me this fight. So we are working on combinations and speed.”
Golovkin is a powerful, hungry puncher who has been a bit of a quiet storm. He made his United States debut this past September, and easily outperformed Grzegorz Proska en route to a fifth round TKO victory.
Rosado is out to prove a lot in this fight, and his over anxiousness may prove to be his demise if he tries to get into a phone booth fight with GGG.
And lastly, two-time WBO super featherweight champion Roman “Rocky” Martinez with number one ranked contender Juan Carlos “Mini” Burgos.
Having won the WBO super featherweight title in 2009, Martinez successfully defended his belt twice before suffering a unanimous decision loss against Ricky Burns. But this past September he reclaimed the vacant title with a split decision win over Miguel Beltran Jr.
Although coming in with the belt, Martinez has more to prove in this fight; he needs to show the world that he belongs in the company of the top ranked divisional fighters.
Leading up to 2010 Burgos worked hard and moved his way up the ranks, eventually earning at the WBC featherweight belt. He came up short against Hozumi Hasegawa, and has diligently been taking out one opponent after another en route to earning this shot Martinez—including taking down two undefeated prospects within the past 15 months and rising to being ranked in the top 5 super featherweights in the world.
But none of that matters to Burgos without the title.
“This is my second opportunity for a world title, and I don’t know if this chance will ever come again,” said Burgos. “I am dedicating this fight to my uncle (Victor Burgos). Ten years ago my uncle won his world championship. He won the title against a Puerto Rican and on Saturday night I can win a world title against a Puerto Rican also.
The stage is set for Burgos to go in there and complete his storybook ending, but Martinez is ready to move through his opponent and retain the belt, and work towards bigger names and bigger paydays in 2013.
“I am representing my country in this fight,” said Martinez. “I think working the body is the biggest key for me in this fight. I think that will be to my advantage because of how tall Burgos is. I learned a lot in my last fight against Beltran. After that fight I went right back to the gym and haven’t stopped training since.”
The action packed fight card begins on HBO’s Boxing After Dark at 9:45 p.m. Eastern Saturday night.