Juan Manuel Lopez has used a lethal right hook to overwhelm the vast majority of his opponents. Lopez’ hook—now considered one of the more dominant weapons in boxing—felled respectable names like Bernabe Concepcion, Steven Luevano, and Gerry Penalosa, and eventually submerged legendary action figure but shopworn Rafael Marquez in the biggest bout of the 27-year-old’s career.
Saturday night at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, he’ll be facing a hardened veteran who has proven to be difficult to overwhelm. Orlando Salido, 34-11-2, has been knocked out five times, but all five KOs were suffered as a teenager over a decade ago. In the five losses since the neophyte stages of his career, no one has looked particularly good against him. Not Robert Guerrero, although Salido’s dominant victory was changed to a no-decision after he tested positive for a steroid; not future hall-of-famer Juan Manuel Marquez, who beat him in a competitive fight; and not his most recent conqueror, Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Thus, the bout serves as a measuring stick for Lopez, 30-0 with 27 KOs, a paragraph in the fight hype narrative that will be repeated ad nauseum should a showdown with Gamboa ever materialize. But Lopez isn’t experienced in dealing with opponents who refuse to budge through the course of 12 rounds. If Salido can withstand the Puerto Rican’s explosive power, he can quickly transition from measuring stick to spoiler.
In fact, the only man to go 12 with Lopez, Tanzania’s Rogers Mtagwa, arguably won the fight despite the judges rewarding Lopez with the decision. While Lopez’ heart was on full display in the 2009 bout, so were his weaknesses. He leaves his chin out like tank tops on a clothesline while throwing combinations. His attack—centered around his right hook—can be a bit one-dimensional. And his whiskers are suspect, as he spent the entire final round against Mtagwa stumbling around the ring after getting nailed with an overhand right.
Salido, Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico, is armed with a sneaky right and a consistent body attack. He’s also difficult to hit flush, adept at ducking under punches and slipping to his right. But he’s a slow starter, which may be his downfall against the energetic Lopez. If he has to crawl back from a deficit, as he did against Gamboa, he might just notch another competitive loss on his belt as a tough journeyman.
That Lopez, Caguas, Puerto Rico, has hardly faced anyone sturdy enough to stand up to him adds enough suspense for this to be an intriguing bout. Marquez and Gamboa had to use guile and strategy to navigate through 12 rounds with Salido. Lopez certainly isn’t as polished as Marquez, and is probably more rough around the edges than Gamboa. What, then, happens if Salido doesn’t blink when Lopez’ right hook crashes into his jaw?
The six-to-one odds that favor Lopez are understandable but overwrought—he’s a phenom with question marks. We’ll learn significantly more about what Lopez is made of Saturday night, win or lose.