April 16th, 2011, was one of the good days to be a boxing fan. At the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, Victor Ortiz scored a unanimous decision over Andre Berto in what was deemed the Fight of the Year for 2011. It was a slugfest that was nationally televised on HBO.
Another war also took place on the same night that was televised on Showtime. It was the first encounter between Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez. The fight provided lots of action that ended in an upset.
Juan “Juanma” Manuel Lopez, of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, was supposed to be the next Miguel Cotto. For a brief time, he definitely looked the part. Lopez started out as a good amateur, and he represented the Olympics in 2004 for Puerto Rico. Once he started his pro career in 2005, it was all uphill for him. Lopez moved up the rankings quickly and was stopping his opponents. He was a southpaw fighter with power in both hands. He would stalk his opponents with effective aggression. Lopez’s shining moment was in 2008 in his first title shot against WBO World Super Bantamweight Champion Daniel Ponce De Leon. The Mexican was also a southpaw with knockout power as well. The fight was expected to be a shootout but also would serve as Lopez’s first test. The fight ended up being a first-round stoppage in favor of Lopez, and people soon realized that a star was born. Lopez made five defenses of the WBO title against solid opposition and then decided to move up to the featherweight division. Immediately, Lopez went for the title shot against WBO World Featherweight Champion Steve Luevano in 2010. Lopez took care of business and stopped Luevano in the seventh round. During this time, a super fight was brewing between Lopez and the undefeated Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa. At the time, both fighters were promoted by Top Rank and fought on the same cards to build up their potential super fight. Lopez made two more defenses of the WBO title, and the super-fight between Gamboa was getting closer.
Then came Orlando Salido.
Orlando “Siri” Salido of Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico, had a different type of career. Salido started professionally when he was only fifteen in 1996 and was matched tough early on. You can basically say that Salido learned on the job. Salido had his share of wins but also suffered his share of tough losses. In 2001, Salido was brought in as a late replacement against the more experienced Alejandro Gonzalez. Salido had a record of 14-7-2 at the time and was not expected to win. However, Salido performed well even though he lost the fight by majority decision. Some observers thought he did enough to win. Salido kept winning more fights, and this ultimately landed him a title shot. He faced off with WBA and IBF World Featherweight Champion Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004. Salido lost by unanimous decision in a gamed effort. Salido would earn another title shot in 2006 against IBF World Featherweight Champion Robert Guerrero. Salido defeated Guerrero handily by unanimous decision, and it was Salido’s finest performance. However, Salido failed a drug test and tested positive for a steroid which changed the result to a no-decision. In 2008, another opportunity landed for Salido as he challenged Cristobal Cruz for the vacant IBF World Featherweight Title. It was another tough break for Salido as he lost the fight by split decision in a fight that some observers felt Salido did enough to win. Two years later, in 2010, Salido got his revenge by defeating Cruz by unanimous decision to win the IBF World Featherweight Title. Salido’s title reign didn’t last, though, as he was defeated by a unanimous decision by Yuriorkis Gamboa.
As mentioned before, the Lopez and Gamboa fight was close, but Lopez then signed to fight Orlando Salido. Given that Salido just lost to Gamboa decisively and now Lopez was going to face Salido, it was expected for Lopez to beat Salido too. As the saying goes, though: styles make fights. Based on Salido’s record, you still had to expect Salido to give Lopez all he can handle. That’s exactly what happened. The fight took place at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, which was the hometown of Juan Manuel Lopez. Lopez was making the third defense of his WBO World Featherweight title and had a flawless record of 30-0, with 27 KO’s. Salido came in with a record of 34-11-2, with 22 KO’s.
The first round was a feeling out round for both fighters. Salido started out as the aggressor while Lopez was looking to counter. Salido was looking to land headshots on Lopez while Lopez was focused on the body of Salido. Neither fighter opened too much in the round. The fight started to heat up more in the second round. Lopez started to apply pressure on Salido, and he landed a few straight punches to the head of Salido. Then midway through the round, Salido landed some good hook shots to the body of Lopez. The action picked up more in round three. Lopez once again got off to a good start landing his straight left hands to the head of Salido. Just when it seemed Lopez would have his way, Salido picked up the pace and stormed forward. Salido landed good hook shots to the head and body of Lopez. In round four, Lopez started well backing up Salido with power shots, but Salido always fired back with his own power shots. At midpoint in the round, both fighters started to trade punches. Salido kept doing a good job going to the body of Lopez. The fight escalated in the fifth round. Both fighters exchanged furiously at close quarters with their best punches. With thirty seconds left to go in the round, Salido landed a left hook followed by a right hook that dropped Lopez. Lopez got up on shaky legs, and he was in trouble. Salido was looking for the finish, but Lopez survived as the bell rang. Salido came out in round six to finish Lopez, but Lopez hung in tough. The crowd was cheering and hoping Lopez could come back. Salido was landing all types of punches on Lopez the entire round. Gamely, Lopez stayed up on his feet and would occasionally land a punch on the charging Salido. However, there was no steam in Lopez’s punches. Lopez recovered well in the seventh round. It seemed that Salido was taking the round off and taking his time. The confidence of Lopez came back as he was able to land punches on Salido and even backed up Salido towards the end of the round. Even though Lopez had a decent round seven, it would be his final stance. Salido took advantage of this in round eight. Salido started to throw bombs to the head of Lopez, and he hurt Lopez again. Salido landed a right hand that put Lopez on wobbly legs. Salido had Lopez on the ropes, and he went for the finish. Salido landed a few shots to the head of Lopez, and referee Roberto Ramirez, Jr waived the fight off. Lopez was standing and throwing punches, which caused an uproar from the hometown crowd. They felt the fight was stopped prematurely, but it was clear that Lopez was ready to go. It was a close competitive fight that seemed to favor Salido. Per punch stats, Salido landed more punches and with better accuracy than Lopez. At the time of the stoppage, all three judges had the fight even. It seemed that Salido would have needed a knockout to secure victory in enemy territory, and he got it.
Salido had pulled off the upset and dethroned one of the rising stars in boxing. His hard work finally paid off, and he once again became a world champion. During the build-up to the fight, there were rumors that Lopez was going through personal issues, and maybe that affected his performance in the ring. Eventually, Lopez would get a second crack at Salido to prove himself. After Salido made two defenses of the title and Lopez had a comeback win, the two would rematch again in 2012. The rematch was just as good as the first fight. It was another back and forth brawl with both men tasting the canvas. Lopez fought a better fight, but he would get stopped again. This time Salido ended the fight with a tenth-round TKO. It was clear that Salido had Lopez’s number.
After their rematch, the paths went in different directions.
Afterward, Salido would lose his next title defense against Mikey Garcia by an eighth-round technical decision in 2013. He would win the WBO title again when he defeated Orlando Cruz by a seventh-round knockout the same year. Salido would secure another signature win when he defeated Vasyl Lomachenko in 2014 by a split decision but lost his title on the scales for being overweight. Due to weight issues, Salido went up to the super featherweight division and went 2-2-2, which would be his last six fights of his career. In those last six fights, Salido provided action fights, with the most memorable one being his 2016 Fight of the Year with Francisco Vargas. Salido retired in 2017 and will be remembered as one of the toughest Mexican fighters in the sport of boxing.
For Lopez, he had two comeback wins in 2013. He got another shot at a world title against Mikey Garcia but was stopped in the fourth round. He bounced back with a second-round TKO win over Daniel Ponce De Leon in a rematch in 2014. However, he was stopped by Francisco Vargas and Jesus Cuellar for the remaining of 2014. Lopez retired from the sport, but he came back in 2016 with a victory over fellow countrymen Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. Lopez took time off the sport once again and came back in 2018 but lost to Jayson Velez by a twelfth round TKO.
In his last two fights, Lopez had one win and one draw against mediocre opposition. His last fight was in 2019. Lopez was very close to becoming Puerto Rico’s next big thing but fell short. Just like Salido, Lopez was tough and will also be known for providing great action fights.
The Salido/Lopez fight is one of the great rivalries in boxing and one of the great battles between Mexico and Puerto Rico.