Alan Dawson – London
It was a 2011 classic that produced one of the upset victories of the year as Orlando Salido became the first prizefighter to defeat hard-hitting featherweight supremo Juan Manuel Lopez, taking the proud Puerto Rican’s zero in emphatic fashion in Bayamon and now, almost one year on, at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan on March 10, the two are set to collide in a highly-anticipated rematch with both 126lbers confident of scoring a career-best triumph.
“I expect a very different fight,” said Salido, in anticipation of an alternative version of the JuanMa he defeated so convincingly once already, by way of eighth round technical knockout.
The difference between Salido (37-11-2, 25ko) and Lopez last year, was that Orlando’s punch resistance was high, whereas JuanMa demonstrated a repeated inability to provide a defence against Salido’s overhand right; demonstrated by the knockdown he suffered in round five.
Salido anticipates a slightly different approach from Lopez and his corner in March, but believes the same outcome could pan out as Lopez (31-1-0, 28ko) will revert to type and attempt to slug it out with him: “I know he will be better then last time but I don’t see him changing much,” the 31-year-old, who has gone the distance with Yuriorkis Gamboa, Juan Manuel Marquez and Robert Guerrero, said.
“He might try in the beginning to fight in a different style but he will come back to his strengths. He is going to feel that he is the better and stronger man, and that he is not.
“I want to show that my first win was not a fluke,” the Mexican added, before concluding that he is unafraid about the prospect of once again returning to the lion’s den: “I came back to fight in Puerto Rico because he gave the opportunity to me to fight for a world championship here and I have never had any problem winning in an opponents’ home base.”
Lopez has fought just once since suffering the sole blemish on his resume. In October, he out-bullied, out-muscled and out-gunned fast-fisted Mike Oliver at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez; a familiar arena he has boxed in six times. Against Salido, the 28-year-old southpaw will return to the Roberto Celemente Coliseum where he will hope to emulate the performances of his “idol” – Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad, an elite welterweight who was the first to beat both Oscar de la Hoya and Fernando Vargas.
“I am very happy to have the opportunity to fight in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum where my idol Tito Trinidad had so many fights and this is a dream come true for me,” Lopez said. “I knew Salido was a tough fighter and he came prepared and beat me and I offered no excuses,” he added, whilst also noting that his motivation for the rematch will be two-fold as he calls upon the Tito factor together with the do-over representing the “most important fight” of his career: “I will train very hard to regain my title.”
As Salido expected, Lopez stated that he “will make changes for this fight, like all fights”.
JuanMa, though, will not fight with blood and guts but instead adopt a more disciplined and cerebral approach. He said: “I have to be intelligent inside the ring [but] I don’t see him changing at all. He won his first fight with me and I’ve seen his last two fights before that. He’s going to fight the same style. You have to be smart and use your boxing skills. That is the only way to beat Salido. I learned that in our first fight.”
Supporting the match-up that pits two of the top featherweight campaigners against each other, is the presence of 126lb contender Miguel Angel ‘Mikey’ Garcia, a light version of unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko due to his patience, ability to figure an opponent out before breaking them down and scoring a knockout… oft with the jab and right cross combo.
Garcia (27-0-0, 23ko) is a part of the flourishing Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California, who already house super tough lightweight star Brandon Rios. Mikey is expected to follow in Rios’ footsteps and become older brother Robert’s next world champion and the 24-year-old is aligned with Bernabe Concepcion, a Filipino fighter who was trounced in two rounds by main event star Lopez in July, 2010.
Related article: Exclusive: JuanMa Lopez may have been Mike Oliver’s last fight