Quite a career, but is Salido hall worthy?
By Bill Tibbs
He was rough, he was rugged, and he made for some must see TV.
But, the Hall of Fame? Hold on a second, he wasn’t in that league. Was he? Well, wait a minute. Let’s take a closer look.
Maxboxing was recently beating the drums to the alert those in the know to take a long, serious look at veteran trainer and cut man Miguel Diaz as a candidate for the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. On that same subject, another name that has to be discussed, at least considered, is that of Orlando “Siri” Salido, a fighter that had Arturo Gatti-esque credentials in the excitement department. But, he was more than just a game slugger – he wrapped a world title around his waist on 4 occasions!
Boxers with 14 losses in the current era aren’t usually thought of as Hall of Fame material; but that is a reference to the era not the talent. There was a time in boxing when a dozen or so losses meant little except that you had faced tough competition and you hadn’t been put in soft in your career. And, in reality, Orlando was indeed from another era in terms of his approach to the game.
Salido, (44-14-4, 31 KO’s), turned pro in 1996 and went 8-6-1 in his first 15 bouts through the first 4 years. While those numbers don’t shout future, ‘Hall of Fame’ fighter, that was a young, green boxer who was fighting anyone, at any weight, while receiving little or no direction in terms of whom he fought that would allow him to develop.
However, over the next 4 years Salido’s career would tell a different story – that of a fighter who was getting better as he learned on the job; he started to show that he may indeed be a world class fighter. From 2000-2004 Salido would fight 23 times, clocking in wins against former world champions Regillo Tuur and Alejandro Gonzalez as well as world title challengers Lamont Pearson and Radford Beasley. These impressive wins, all deemed upsets at that time, earned him a shot at Mexican legend, and world featherweight champion, Juan Manuel Marquez. It was this first world title shot, a distance loss, that showed Salido could indeed hang with the best in the world.
“Siri” came back with 4 straight wins including victories over former world champion Cesar Soto and world title challenger Rogers Matagwa. This led him to a shot at IBF world featherweight champion Robert Guerrero. Salido beat Guerrero, a victory which should have awarded him his first world championship. However, after the fight he tested positive for a banned substance, a call that manager Sean Gibbons questions to this very day as “unreliable and false”.
Then, 5 more wins led him to a shot at IBF featherweight champion Cristobal Cruz. Salido came up on the short end of a very disputed and questionable SD loss. He would avenge the defeat, and capture his 1st world title, just 2 fights later beating Cruz in the rematch. Salido was now a world champion. After 2 more wins, Salido would defeat Cruz again in his first title defence before losing the title in an exciting ‘Fight of the Year’ war with Yuriorkis Gamboa - a rumble that would see both fighters on the deck.
In April of 2011, Salido was brought into Bayamon, Puerto Rico to play the B-side to hometown hero Juan Manuel Lopez who was defending his WBO world featherweight title. However, in another exciting slugfest, Salido would stop Lopez in the 8th round to capture his 2nd world title. After 2 more wins (including a title defence) Salido would again go into Puerto Rico and stop Lopez, this time in the 10th.
Salido had one more win in 2012 before facing star Mikey Garcia in January of 2013. While Salido would be dropped a few times early in the fight, a broken nose allowed Garcia to bow out in the 8th with his WBO featherweight world title. The nose might have been a lucky break, (no pun intended), as Salido was pouring on the heat when the fight was stopped in what was ruled an accidental headbutt. Watching Orlando rally late in fights, and pull off exciting wins, was a script that Salido fans would enjoy for much of his career.
In October of 2013, Salido would again be crowned a world champion (for the 3rd time) after beating Orlando Cruz for the WBO world featherweight title. Then, in March of 2014, Salido would pick up what was the biggest win of his career in his first title defence – a victory over a fighter who is now often referred to as the best fighter in boxing - Vasyl Lomachenko.
Although amateur legend Lomachenko wanted to win a world title in his debut, that idea was shut down by the Nevada commission. So, Loma had to be content to win the WBO International featherweight title in his first bout by stopping veteran Jose Ramirez; he would challenge Salido for the world title in his 2nd outing.
Salido was struggling to scrape down to the 126-pound limit (he would move up to 130 in his very next fight) and the night before the weigh-in he hit the wall, 2-pounds short of his goal. Unwell, and his body having shut down as far as dropping anymore weight, manager Sean Gibbons told him, “Stop. That’s enough”. They would go to the weigh-in and forfeit money, or whatever they had to do, but it was now unsafe for Salido to try to drain his body of anymore weight.
Reached at his home in Las Vegas, manager Gibbons reflected on the ordeal before the fight.
“Orlando’s body had shut off, he literally had no more weight he could lose”, said Gibbons. “He was only 2 pounds out so I know the fight would probably be a go, but he would have to forfeit the title. His only other option was to pull out of the fight and Orlando doesn’t back out of fights. He was a warrior. But, it was what it was, his body had stopped, he couldn’t safely drop another ounce”.
The next day, after giving up some money, the fight was a go. While many had admired Salido up to this point in his career, most felt that his crude and rugged style would be no match for Olympian Lomachenko who, despite only having one pro fight, was considered to be on a completely different skill level.
Salido would go into the ring the next day and take Lomachenko to school roughing him up, keeping the fight in phone booth quarters and mauling his way to a split decision win. Salido surprised many by staying competitive throughout the fight; he shocked more by pulling off the win. However, it should be noted that Salido was not the game but limited club fighter that emerged from the rough and tumble Mexican club circuit years previous. Salido was now a world class fighter with underrated skills and iron toughness that was perfectly suited for a grinding pro style. (Lomachenko would capture a world title in his next fight and has since gone on to an outstanding career, winning many more titles. But, on this night, Salido beat the man who many today call the best fighter in boxing).
“I don’t want to hear any excuses”, said Gibbons, always very protective of Salido. “Never mind the 2-pound difference. Do you think a fighter that can’t compete with a talent like Vasyl Lomachenko, if all of a sudden he had 2 extra pounds, he’d be able to compete with him? C’Mon. That (weight) had little, or no, bearing on the fight. Orlando took him to school that night. He found the perfect style to beat him by keeping the fight right on his chest, he roughed him up, fought him in a style he wasn’t ready for, and beat him. Let’s not take anything away from Salido, he beat Vasyl Lomachenko on that night”, said Gibbons. “And, we’ve seen what Lomachenko has gone on to do in boxing, so, looking back, that win was no small feat”, he added.
After the Lomachenko win, Salido would win a world title for the 4th time when he stopped Terdsak Jandaeng in the 11th round in yet another very exciting fight. In April of 2105, Salido would lose his title to Roman Martinez in a distance loss and then draw with him in the March rematch in a fight that he clearly won. He followed that frustrating draw, repeating again, by drawing with Francisco Vargas in another fight in which he should have got the nod.
Salido would close out his career with a win in May of 2017 and then a stoppage loss to world title challenger Miguel Roman in December. (No offence to Roman but he caught Salido on the way out with one foot in retirement. In his prime, you’d have to like Orlando in this one; Salido would have stormed Roman in what would have been another great war).
Salido, who has done very well with business investments outside of the ring, decided it was time to walk away. Content he had done all he could do in boxing, he moved into full-time politics in his native Obregon, Mexico where he is representing his community and supporting its residents with any and all civic needs - he looks to have a bright future in the political arena conducting himself much like he did in the ring – fighting the good fight.
When the topic of the Hall of Fame came up to former manager Gibbons, who truly did a masterful job guiding the career of his former charge, he was all in.
“Salido is a good person and a good family man so naturally he’s a guy anyone wants to root for”, said a reflective Gibbons. “But at the end of the day, the numbers do the talking as far as where he stands in boxing’s history. The guy came up from nothing and through sheer guts and determination wrapped a world title around his waist on 4 occasions through 3 different weight classes. He defended those world titles. He was often in the most exciting fights of the year. He faced, and beat, some of the very best fighters of his era and he holds the only win over the guy that many have referred to as the greatest amateur fighter ever and perhaps the best professional in boxing right now”, continued Gibbons.
“I know what people think, the losses, losing in a couple of big fights, starting out as almost a 50/50 fighter in the beginning. But, take a closer look. That back half of his career was all world class. Some may say he was just a hardworking, over-achiever in the sport. Listen, there are a lot of hard-working guys in boxing who push themselves beyond where people think they’ll land, and all respect to them. But, let’s keep that in perspective – they don’t leave the sport as 4-time world champions. I think from where Orlando started, to where he took himself, collecting multiple world titles along the way, the many, many exciting ‘Fight of the Year’ style wars he was in, the thrills that he gave fans in world title fights time and again - that’s a Hall of Fame career.”