LOVING MONSTERS: Orlando Salido TKO10 Juan Manuel Lopez


“I like you. You are a nice monster.” Tennessee Williams

In a breathtaking display of ultraviolence, veteran dangerman Orlando Salido battered fearless but outgunned Juan Manuel Lopez into a 10th-round TKO defeat before a packed Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday night.

With the win, Salido, whose know-how can serve as a how-to for any number of young fighters, puts himself into the fray for big money fights. Or, paradoxically, perhaps he has taken himself right out of them. Either way, his give-and-take melee with Lopez solidifies his standing as a genuine prizefighter, a man whose discipline and professionalism—along with an overriding air of Mexican-style menefreghista—will take him anywhere and under any circumstances. No matter where he goes, Salido will pack nothing but trouble in his suitcase, like a gunslinger who never forgets to take extra rounds with him to Dodge City.

Lopez, 125 ¾, opened the rematch moving predominately to his right—away from the right hand that had bedeviled him all night last April. It was a sign that he had made adjustments going into battle, but no sooner was he moving to the right than Salido was cracking him with hard lefts. Operating from behind his flicking southpaw jab, Lopez appeared ready to box; a counter right hook from the outside seemed to be his preferred weapon. Still, Salido, 126, built an early lead over the first four rounds, pressing the action and landing the more effective blows throughout, including two rights that wobbled Lopez and a ripping uppercut that jarred Lopez along the ropes in the third. As always, Lopez tried to fire back, but his timing seemed off and his balance was poor.

It should be noted, right from the start, that Lopez did not appear to be particularly sharp once the fight got underway. Every time Salido connected with a blow, Lopez shook, teetered, or staggered. In fact, with the possible exception of the first, Lopez appeared to be hurt in every round of the fight. In addition, his balance was woeful, and he seemed uncoordinated when he tried mounting an offense, often scissoring his feet as he stepped in to throw combinations. These are some of the early signs of being a shot fighter, and his general raggedness suggested something Davey Moore said about Wilfred Benitez after scoring a freaky second-round TKO over “El Radar” in 1984. “He’s still a young man,” said Moore, “but he’s an old fighter.” If Lopez, 28, is indeed bottoming out, then the courageous stand he made against Salido in San Juan is all the more remarkable.

Lopez did not seem to affect Salido much until the fifth, when he caught an onrushing Salido with a counter right hook that might have been laid out with a protractor, so short and precise was its angle. Salido went down—the fifth time he has hit the canvas in his last five fights—but beat the count, and the bell rang to save him from further punishment. The two men taunted each other before returning to their respective corners.

Rounds six and seven saw Lopez, Caguas, Puerto Rico, retreating in a straight line and Salido chasing him down, rocking “Juanma” with left hooks. Lopez landed a crack right in the sixth, but spent the last 30 seconds of the round taking abuse. Another left shook Lopez in the seventh, but he rebounded with a one-two before Salido, 31, returned fire, crashing rights and lefts against his—as always—exposed jaw.

With his strength ebbing, Lopez seemed to make a conscious decision just before the start of the eighth round, one that, strange as it sounds, could have been plucked from Sartre: “I hate victims who respect their executioners.” For Lopez, it was a leap of faith, an act of sheer will in the face of grim reality. These are the choices real prizefighters make, existential choices, ones that seem to have little to do with sport as we know it. After being outfought over the first half of the bout, Lopez chose to try to alter his waiting destiny by redoubling his fury. Predestination, in a boxing ring, is for losers. Of course, this is why we see so much of it these days, from abject mismatches to fighters who play it safe in the ring at every moment to those who shy away from risk in order to survive to hear the final bell. How much was Lopez willing to give in order to win? Everything, it turns out.

Incredibly, the two-handed cannonade Lopez unleashed in the eighth was against a different Salido, now turned counterpuncher and using the furious energy Lopez generated to his own advantage. Lopez threw punches raggedly from all angles, and as the round wore on, he looked more like a kamikaze in the ring than a world-class fighter. Although Lopez pressed the action behind one fierce barrage after another, it was Salido who landed the most effective blows, and by the end of the round, Lopez was being lashed by left-rights. After 16 years as a pro, Salido, Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico, is simply too clever to be bowled over by rudimentary aggression, no matter how intense it is.

In the ninth, they went to work with bone-chilling zest, not only against each other, it seemed, but, symbolically, against the humdrum order of modern prizefighting, where a larger-than-life pursuit is shriveled down to size week by week by week by assorted HTML superstars. With thousands of spectators on their feet howling, Salido took Lopez apart piece by piece, ripping shots to the head and body while Lopez flailed, for the most part, artlessly. But Lopez showed incredible resolve by taking flush punches repeatedly and firing back in response. At one point the two men exchanged a series of vicious bodyshots in close, whipsawing both hands in a blur. Lopez also landed a crushing right hook that backed Salido into the ropes. As glorious as his last stand was, however, there seemed to be more than a hint of fatalism in it. Lopez, flat-footed, threw wide punches with complete disregard for his own safety, and walked right into a number of shots seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were scattering his neurons. Indeed, Lopez wobbled to his corner when the bell rang to end three minutes of mayhem. Between rounds, Lopez was spent, and he leaned his buzzing head against the shoulder of his trainer before the bell sounded to toll his downfall.

Lopez, 31-2 (28), had nothing left in the 10th, and Salido immediately froze him with a left-right. Two pinpoint uppercuts followed by a left then sent Lopez crashing. Lopez hit the canvas hard, his neck whiplashing violently with the impact, and the fact that he made it to his feet so quickly was a testament to both his heart and to the fact that he was completely disoriented. As referee Robert Ramirez, Sr., tolled the mandatory eight, Lopez, glassy-eyed, staggered like a man who had polished off an entire bottle of Don Q by himself. Later, after Ramirez had called an end to the fight, Lopez tried to protest but found himself still reeling on unsteady legs.

Ragtag technique aside, what Lopez lacks most as a fighter is a certain sangfroid in the ring, the ability to move on from setbacks from moment to moment and round to round. Combine this flaw in temperament with the fact that he takes flush blows without turning his head or riding with punches, and you have a fighter destined for long nights in the ring. Final CompuBox stats—not always a reliable reflection of what occurs between the ropes—revealed that Salido outlanded Lopez in powerpunches by a 230-111 count. Not even a margin of error of significant percentage can make those figures look good for Lopez. For every clean shot Lopez would land, Salido, now 38-11-2-1 (26), would respond with two or three thundering punches.

In a postfight interview with Jim Gray, Lopez made outrageous accusations concerning Ramirez, Sr., and may have taken something away from his valiant performance by doing so. But Lopez, who looked like he wanted to fight until the bitterest of bitter ends, has the kind of pride and self-belief that can be found in only the most pathological—and successful—prizefighters. Doubt can be as fatal to a fighter as it is for a tightrope walker or a knife thrower, and Lopez was not going to admit defeat after the fight any easier than he would during it.

Lopez suffered a drawn-out beating against Salido, but, even when all was lost, when he had risen–bloody and bruised–from the canvas like a man waking from a morphine dream, there was nothing he wanted more than to face his tormentor again. It was the ugliest beautiful thing you can ever see in a ring.


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Tags: Featherweights Jim Gray JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ Orlando Salido

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    great recap, seriously. Now that was a prizefight, exactly what it’s all about, or should be. Ferocity, courage and all that. It’s really too bad it took me so long to turn the corner on Lopez. You really can’t have anything but respect for both guys after a fight like that. If I can’t have more Haglers, I’d certainly settle for more Lopezes and Salidos.
    Lopez’ comments post-fight were unfortunate and certainly inspired some attempts at humor from me on fight night. But at the end of the day, who gives a fuck? He apologized. I can’t believe he’s facing “sanctions” and that the ref didn’t accept the apology. Pretty small.
    Was that one of Tennessee Williams’ pickup lines? Anyway, I have to find my bow-tie as I’m running late for the P4P workshop I’m attending. 

  • jet79

    Exceptional as always. I was initially pretty hard on Lopez about the post-fight conspiracy theory, but I’ve softened on it for a few reasons. First of all, as was suggested to me, there may be some merit to it. PR is a small island, and it’s possible that Lopez would have access to that information. I’m not saying that the ref’s gambling addiction – if he has one – impacted the fight; but if he does like to wager, and Lopez is privy to this, I could see Lopez rationalizing a stoppage he loathed in this way. This is primarily a statement about Lopez’ iron resolve, not about the referee. Besides, I live in Toronto – who the fuck am I to dispute the truth of what Lopez said? And unlike Amir Khan’s wailing, this hasn’t become a sordid, protracted, joke. Dude apologized, and regardless of the sincerity – which, if absent, actually speaks to Lopez’ desire to win – that’s all the gesture he need make. Secondly, as you wrote, Lopez is a wonderfully sanguinary pug, and to be denied his quarry is anathema to him. He looked lousy in this fight, but he never stopped trying to finish Salido – not steal rounds, not eke out a decision, but put Salido on his ass and keep him there. Salido’s face, and his quite possibly being saved by the bell after the knockdown, speak to Lopez being effective while practicing a rather rudimentary brand of violence. He’s regressed, Lopez has, but his mettle hasn’t corroded. 
    A tip of the cap to Salido, who’s earned whatever’s next, even if it isn’t Mikey Garcia, who might get his ass kick by the cagey champ.
    But hey, don’t let this fight distract you from the fact that Dwight Howard might get traded.

  • thenonpareil

    Hi sugar-sam,
    thank you very much; I appreciate the compliment!

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JPF,
    That’s want we want from fights most of the time–a dramatized event where what happens in the ring reveals more than a basketball dunk or a bunt.  Ahem.  (It’s past three a.m.–what do you want from me?) Boxing is supposed to be a baroque or atavistic pursuit.  Intrinsically, it remains so, but once the top P-4-P superstars as minted by superior bloggers and ratings panels dopes  are dull, passionless clinchers, it ceases even to be what it is by nature: a blood sport.  I mean how often have I, as a boxing fan, tried to turn other people on to fights, and then they click to HBO and see either Devon “The Barker” Alexander dry-humping someone or they see a blowout where one fighter is so hapless that the sport resembles canned hunting?  If they saw Salido-Lopez, they’d be amazed. 
    There were fewer clinches in this entire fight than there are in a single round of an Andre Ward or Devon Alexander masterpiece!  
    Lopez looks all-in to me, so I guess we’ll have to find someone else who wants to tear it up in the ring, refuse to concede defeat, and make sure everybody is screaming and yelling in their seats…..
    Lopez lost his mind after the fight, but, as Jimmy pointed out above–or below, I can never tell!–his accusations didn’t drag on ludicrously like Khan’s against Peterson.  He said some crazy shit and then his PR flack wrote an apology.  It’s all good now, I guess, but at the time, it was really weak, even though fighters that brutally beaten ought not have microphones shoved into their faces.  What Khan did in the weeks after the Peterson fight is beyond the pale. 
    If Tennessee Williams wanted to pick somebody up, don’t you think he’d just say, “Hi, I’m Tennessee Williams?”   That’s probably what the Ancient Aliens guy does.  “Hi, I’m the Ancient Aliens guy!” 

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JT,
    Puerto Rico is, I believe, one of the most densely populated places in the world. Something like 3.8 million people live there and it’s a pretty small island.  So I don’t know if that makes it easier for rumors to get around or harder.  I will say that the WBO is based in PR and the last thing they want is to see one of their biggest stars lose.  If Lopez did actually complain before the fight to the commission about Rodriguez Sr., then they would have done something, the same way they replaced a Puerto Rican judge at Salido’s urging with another Puerto Rican judge! 
    Obviously, the fight needed to be stopped.  There’s no question about that, but, like you, I appreciate Lopez’ incredible gameness even if it manifested itself in a strange, bitter way.  Ramirez did a pretty good job throughout in such a hectic fight and didn’t appear biased in any way.  Even if he did gamble, it’s meaningless, since Puerto Ricans love gambling!  It’s legal out there and you can bet on cockfights, horse racing, boxing matches, etc. and they also have casinos and a big lottery system (both legal and illegal.)  Saying Ramirez Sr. gambles is like saying it rains a lot in Seattle.    
    Salido is a tough bruiser, definitely, but he is simply too smart for Lopez, and actively worked to exploit Lopez’ many flaws.  I love Lopez because he is a thrillmaking machine, but as far as being some P-4-P super talent, I’ve never seen it.  He fought a lot of names with asterisks next to them and was overhyped by the usual suspects, people who discovered boxing in 2007.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is a walking donnybrook and that he’s probably the closest thing we have today to some of the “Raise Hell” types of yesteryear.  As you noted, he was really, really trying to get Salido out of there, if possible, and everything else be damned. 

  • thenonpareil

    Hi MichaelBaron,
    thanks for writing.  Salido was suspended for nandrolone in 2006, although he claims a private lab conducted a test on his behalf and that he passed.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  He hasn’t tested positive for anything since, so I can’t say that every time he wins a fight that I suspect he’s on PEDs.  
    I would say that he is not really a top caliber fighter just because he beat Lopez, who was a figment of the pseudo-media’s imagination.  He has beaten a lot of B fighters and lost to most of the A fighters.  Lopez is simply not an A fighter–courageous, exciting, hard-hiting, yes, but not an A fighter.  Anyone who gets hit like Lopez does is going to be easy pickings for Salido as long as the opponent also lacks mobility– as Lopez does.  A straight-up banger who hangs his chin out  is made to order for a junk artist like Salido. 
    That said, nothing in boxing is beyond the realm of possibility. 

  • HitDog

     @jet79 Just to add one matter to what Carlos said,  jet, maybe you can’t trust your own knowledge of Puerto Rican rumors here, but you can trust your own eyes. Ramirez warned Salido for non-low blows more than once, but frequently let Lopez get away with pushing down on Salido’s head, and pretty nasty elbowing.
    (He also missed a low blow or two by both men, which more suggests a lack of total ring control than corruption one way or the other, although this go-round, Lopez was more often the beneficiary of referee randomness.)
    Truly biased referees do more as Eddie Cotton did in Lewis/Tyson than as Ramirez did here, and I won’t validate Lopez’s delusions any further than that. The more interesting conversation that’s sprung out of this is whether knocked-out fighters should be interviewed at all, and though I don’t know where I fall on that, I do know that Lopez’s team did him one final disservice that night by letting JuanMa talk.

  • jet79

     @HitDog My comment wasn’t directed at the culpability of Ramirez, or his potential corrupt behaviour during the fight (which I never mentioned).  What I did allow, was the possibility that the gambling allegations were founded on more than shifting sand. This isn’t tantamount to saying Ramirez affected the outcome for his own clandestine reasons (maybe he only bets on ponies?); rather, it’s a rationalization – however weak – that explains why Lopez would propose what he did in the post-fight interview. If Lopez knows of Ramirez’ enjoyment of gambling, which CA stated is fairly ubiquitous on the island – than the fighter might apply this as the first possible explanation he could muster for defending his right to continue while criticizing the stoppage. This isn’t justifying Lopez’ allegations, but trying to better understand their source. It’s a syllogism with a missing proposition, and Lopez hasn’t provided evidence to complete the argument. But at least psychologically, his move makes sense. And I included my ignorance of the details of the situation not as a defense of Lopez, but as a recognition of the inherent possible fallibility of what I said.
    As for interviewing fighter’s after they’ve been knocked out – I agree that it’s a conversation worth having. I don’t know what the procedures to determine the wherewithal of the knocked out fighter are, but it seems odd that they can conduct this examination quickly enough to determine that a fighter can reasonably answer questions about something that gutted him. It’s another extreme demand of the sport’s participants, but it brings with it an opportunity for even greater dignity in defeat. Tough call, and maybe not one that has been answered satisfactorily.

  • HitDog

     @jet79 Gotcha. Of course, we won’t get any more evidence a-coming since Lopez and company will want to bury this ever happening as soon as possible. No evidence from Lopez, anyway.