Every so often, boxing produces a pairing that is virtually guaranteed to put forth rocket-fueled toe-to-toe action. Zale-Graziano, Zarate-Zamora and Gatti-Ward are only three examples and many believe Francisco Vargas-Orlando Salido will join their ranks. But this fight almost didn't happen because Vargas tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol, which boosts metabolism and aids in the weight-making process. Despite VADA's finding, the California commission green-lighted the fight. Will they be proved right?
The Weight Game: Vargas and Salido have exploited the "day-before" weigh-ins more than most fighters. In five fights Vargas has gained an average of 13.5 pounds per fight (17 vs. Ira Terry, 10 pounds vs. Victor Sanchez, 14.5 pounds vs. Juan Manuel Lopez, 13.5 pounds vs. Will Tomlinson, 12.5 pounds vs. Takashi Miura) while Salido has packed on an average of 16.1 pounds in three bouts where records were available (15.5 pounds vs. Roman Martinez II, 18.75 pounds vs. Vasyl Lomachenko -- a fight in which he scaled 2.25 pounds over the 126-pound limit and lost his belt on the scale -- and 14 pounds vs. Orlando Cruz). Thus, the presence of clenbuterol in Vargas' system is notable.
The Numbers Game: Once they enter the ring Vargas and Salido fire leather at a breathtaking pace. In winning the title from Miura Vargas averaged 82.8 punchers per round to Miura's 53.9 and out-landed him 269-166 overall, 65-33 jabs and 204-133 power. In stopping Will Tomlinson Vargas averaged 101.2 per round, cranked 73.3 per round during his break-out three-round TKO of common foe Juan Manuel Lopez and 86.4 in out-pointing Jerry Belmontes.
Salido, a 20-year ring veteran, continues to defy chronology. In his most recent fight, a disputed draw against Roman Martinez in their rematch, he averaged 86.4 per round to Martinez's 57.6 and out-landed him 285-189 overall and 249-169 power. He recorded similar output against Martinez in fight one (81.7 per round, but was out-landed 224-221 overall despite leading 197-184 power) and Terdsak Kokiegym (89.1 per round). He's consistent: in his last 11 fights Salido averaged 54.5 power punches thrown perround(#2 among CompuBox Categorical Leaders - Chocolatito: 69) and 18 landed per round- 30% higher than the CompuBox average. 79.8% of Salido's thrown punches are power shots and 91.1% of his landed punches (18 of 19.7 per round) are power shots- both percentages are #1 among CompuBox Categorical Leaders.
Potential Turning Points: Salido has suffered nine knockdowns in his last six fights and his 15 career knockdowns trail only Steve Cunningham's 19 among notable ranked fighters. Vargas was floored by Miura but his chin has remained strong otherwise. Also, Vargas has the height and reach to box if he chooses. He has averaged 8.1 jab connects in his last four fights, including 7.7 per round against the southpaw Miura. Finally, in his last four CompuBox-tracked fights Vargas has tasted a lower percentage of his opponents' total punches (27.4% to 29.7%) and their power punches (31.7% to 34.5%)
Prediction: Chaos. Turmoil. Torrential showers of leather. Knockdowns. Pain. In the end, Vargas' versatility will win out over Salido's experience (405 pro rounds fought to 96 for Vargas) and if there's a stoppage it'll be in the late rounds as Vargas has averaged 7.4 rounds in his last seven while Salido has fought 11.8 rounds in his last four. The more likely result: Vargas on points.