By William Holmes
At this time last year, one of the fights that most fans were salivating over was a potential matchup between Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa in the featherweight division. Both fighters had a lot of hype behind them, fought in the same division, and were promoted by Top Rank. All they had to do was not lose to the underdogs they were scheduled to face.
Photo: Peter Amador/ Top Rank
However, somebody forgot to tell Orlando Salido about Top Rank’s grand plans. Salido defeated Lopez by 8th round TKO in Lopez’s backyard and momentarily halted the chance of seeing Lopez take on Gamboa.
Lopez now returns to Puerto Rico to avenge his loss to Salido, and hopefully place himself back on track to stardom. A preview of Saturday’s main event, as well as the featherweight matchup between Miguel Garcia and Bernabe Concepcion, follows below:
Juan Manuel Lopez (31-1) vs. Orlando Salido (37-11-2); WBO Featherweight Title
Puerto Rico and Mexico have engaged in some legendary battles over the years, and a new one has recently and surprisingly arisen. Juan Manuel Lopez came into his April 2011 matchup with Orlando Salido as the heavy favorite, and was expected to easily dispatch Salido before going on to face Yuriorkis Gamboa. But Salido knocked Lopez down in the fifth round, and unleashed an assault in the eighth round that caused the referee to stop the bout. The three ringside judges had it 66-66 at the time of the stoppage many fans in attendance felt was premature, as Lopez was actively fighting back.
Lopez went on after that bout to take on Mike Oliver, and easily dispatched of him with a 2nd round KO. Lopez comes from a deep amateur background, and participated in the 2004 Olympics but did not medal. As an amateur, Lopez compiled a 126-24 record. Lopez debuted as a professional in 2005, and won his first major world title in 2008 with a 1st round TKO over Daniel Ponce De Leon.
Lopez continues to show incredible power, as 28 of his 31 victories have come by KO or TKO. Since he won the title in 2008, only one of his victories has come by decision. Lopez is known to have exciting fights, and has shown a willingness to exchange with his opponent and risk being knocked down. Even when Lopez fought Bernabe Concepcion, a fighter who seemed to be outclassed in person and on paper, he suffered a flash knockdown in the first. If Lopez wants to avoid the upset, he must be willing to box more defensively in Saturday’s rematch.
Standing across from Lopez will be the battle tested veteran Orlando Salido. At first glance, Salido’s record does not seem impressive, but his career is on the same trajectory path as that of Glen Johnson, a veteran who experienced a surge in success in the later stages of his career. He has gone 15-2 in his last 17 bouts, and has only lost twice since 2005. One of those losses was to the undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa by decision, and the other was a close split decision loss to Cristobal Cruz.
Most of Salido’s losses occurred from 2001 and prior, and he has fought some of the best in the business. He went toe to toe with some of the best in the business, including Juan Manuel Marquez, Rogers Mtagwa, Robert Guerrero, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez. After he upset Lopez, he won his last two bouts by TKO and remains the WBO featherweight champion. He has some power in his hands, as 25 of his victories have come by KO or TKO. It should be noted that he tested positive for steroids after his victory over Robert Guerrero, which was later changed to a no contest.
Lopez is still the favorite for Saturday’s matchup, but has to be willing to fight a more defensive fight if he wants to avenge his loss. Salido is battle tested, and will come into this bout more confident than before with the knowledge that he previously defeated Lopez. Lopez should win, but Salido will make it a battle worth watching.
Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia (27-0) vs. Bernabe Concepcion (29-5); Featherweight
Miguel Garcia comes from a boxing family, as his father was the former trainer of Fernando Vargas and his brothers were also former professional boxers, with Daniel Garcia being the current trainer of Victor Ortiz. Saturday’s bout is a WBO featherweight title eliminator, and the winner of this bout may have a chance at facing the winner of Lopez and Salido. Garcia is also the NABF and NABO featherweight champion.
Garcia is known to switch from orthodox stance to southpaw stance in the middle of his bouts, and has yet to taste defeat. He has exceptional KO power, as 23 of his victories have come by KO or TKO, and only one of his last ten bouts went the full distance. He has to face any top ten fighters in the featherweight division, but was able to stop the previously undefeated Matt Remillard in March of 2011. He defeated Rafael Guzman in June of 2011 before Guzman’s tragic shooting death a few months later.
Bernabe Concepcion is a Filipino boxer who also comes from a boxing family, though they are not on the same level as the Garcia family. Concepcion should consider himself lucky to be in a title eliminator bout, as he has lost three of his last five bouts, including a lackluster loss against the unheralded Juan Carlos Martinez, who had an unimpressive record of 18-12-1.
Concepcion has failed to impress in any of his bouts against well known opponents, even with a first round flash knockdown of Juan Manuel Lopez. He’s lost to Lopez and Steve Luevano in his only major title bouts so far. Concepcion also does not have the power of Garcia, as only 15 of his victories have come by KO or TKO.
Garcia should easily walk through Concepcion on his way to a future major world title shot. Concepcion has been struggling as of late, and unless a miracle happens, he will likely leave Saturday a loser of four of his last six bouts.