In a highly anticipated battle of featherweights, WBO champ Orlando “Siri” Salido–widely recognized as the top dog in the weight class–met Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia in New York city. Ring Magazine decided the winner would be crowned the Lineal featherweight champion, adding even more hype to a fight that promised action at a high technical level. Salido went into the fight trying to extend a 5-fight, 5-KO winning streak since losing to Yuriorkis Gamboa, while Garcia arrived sporting a pristine 30-0 record and yearning for a signature win that would elevate him to new heights.
Garcia, wearing an almost placid look on his face throughout the entire evening, completely dominated an outclassed Salido, knocking him down with accurate left hooks twice in the first round and scoring two more knockdowns before the end of the contest. Mikey earned accolades thanks to the way he exploited Salido’s recklessness when trying to close the distance, countering precisely and powerfully, making the Mexican pay dearly for mistakes. Salido had sporadic success in bullying his way into Mikey’s defense, connecting occasional wild right hands and body punches, but Garcia avoided most of these shots, proceeding to clinch and deny “Siri” any chance of mounting a consistent rally. The end result was a wide technical decision in favour of Garcia after eight rounds, with the bout ending early due to the ringside doctor’s recommendation after a Salido headbutt broke Garcia’s nose.
The slightly anticlimactic ending does not diminish in any way Garcia’s victory. It was a bright night for the 25-year-old phenom, who more than fulfilled expectations and should go on to have a break-out 2013. While some observers believe Garcia’s corner took unfair advantage of what is a relatively common injury in boxing, the truth is Mikey had no need to endanger his well-being after suffering what could or could not have been an intentional foul. It is true that some questions we expected to be asked of the new champion did not get a chance to be aired at all, but after such a display of poise and skill, we can only expect big opponents in bigger fights to continue the interrogation.
What the future holds for Salido after such a discouraging defeat is less clear. While there is money to be made by fighting lower ranked opponents in less glamorous venues, it is uncertain whether Salido–a battle-worn 32 year-old–will be either willing or able to rebuild his career. Both the limits of his honest, come-forward style and the natural physical decline brought on by age and ring weariness seem to have affected him, and unfortunately for him, there’s no easy way to overcome either factor. — Rafa Garcia