Orlando Salido went on the road to Puerto Rico again, and just like the first time, he left Juan Manuel Lopez out on his feet and with another loss on his record.
Salido successfully defended his WBO featherweight title with a 10th round knockout of Lopez in San Juan, after an epic battle that built and built into what truly became one hell of a great fight by the end, with a ninth round that left the crowd on their feet, the commentators speechless, Antonio Tarver involuntarily laughing he was having such a great time, and fight fans around the world with their jaws on the ground.
After that hellaciously brutal back-and-forth round, it was Salido who came out and finished things. With a massive combination that was punctuated by a vicious right uppercut, Salido floored Lopez, who came to his feet but was just out of it, as referee Roberto Ramirez Sr had no choice but to stop the fight as Lopez could barely keep himself standing.
It was a fabulous fight, one that started a bit slow and gradually built into an even better brawl than their terrific first meeting in April 2011.
For Salido (38-11-2, 26 KO), this was sort of a legitimizer fight. After he beat Lopez last year, he took a couple of smaller fights, including a tough one in December where he nearly lost to Weng Haya. But on the big stage again, in his opponent's backyard, he just looked like he was clearly the better man. Bad Left Hook had it 88-83 for Salido at the time of stoppage, which is what Showtime's Chuck Giampa had, as well. That was consistent with the rest of those in our thread, and what I saw on Twitter during the fight.
But the official judges did have it a split decision (86-84, 86-84, 85-85) for Lopez when he was stopped, so who knows what would have happened had he gone the distance? We won't know, because Salido didn't let him, but even though they didn't get to make the call, it's still questionable judging.
Speaking of questionable judgment, Lopez could be seen complaining about the stoppage immediately, and his post-fight interview was...well, it was hardly the stuff of class, to say the least. Lopez accused referee Ramirez and his son Roberto Ramirez Jr (who was the third man for the first Salido-Lopez fight) of having gambling problems and pulling the plug on the fights. The first stoppage was questionable, but this one absolutely was not. It was sad to see someone unravel that way, and hopefully when he clears his head, he'll apologize. I'm not one to call for public apologies, because usually they don't mean anything, but what I mean is I hope that he legitimately, sincerely changes his mind about that stance, and that it was sour grapes in the heat of the moment, or a guy whose brain just got rattled around not thinking clearly.
It's a serious accusation, for one thing. And for another thing, everything he does in the ring can be nullified by that level of "whining" after a fight that he fairly and clearly lost despite a marvelous effort. Lopez is a fighter's fighter between the bells. But if he goes this route after the fight, his reputation isn't going to be worth a whole lot.
For now, we say hats off to both fighters for what they gave us tonight in San Juan. These men laid it all on the line, and both went for the win. They fought their hearts out, and reminded us of what can be so brutally beautiful about this sport, and why we tune in almost every week.