In a Battle of Countrymen, Salido and Roman Risk More Than Bragging Rights

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Diego Morilla

At its very best, boxing places two hungry, evenly-matched fighters in a war of attrition. Many times in his career, Orlando Salido has been one of those fighters. And Salido and fellow Mexican brawler Miguel Román figure to be engaged in one of those wars in the season finale of HBO’s Boxing After Dark series (10:20 PM ET/PT) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Despite their deceptive records, both Román (57-12, 44 KOs) and Salido (44-13-4, 31 KOs) have made names for themselves by being the ultimate overachievers, consistently producing extraordinary fights despite being written off by fans and press alike.

In the case of Sonora native Salido, a 37-year-old and 22-year veteran of the game, describing his career would defy the imagination of any Rocky screenwriter. After losing his debut bout and going 14-7-2 in his first five years, Salido began piling up wins against top opposition. He had to wait 14 years as a professional to win his first title bout in his third attempt, but it wouldn’t be until his back-to-back upset wins against power puncher Juan Manuel Lopez in Puerto Rico that fans and promoters acknowledged him as a legitimate main event fighter. But his single most defining career win would come in 2014, when he narrowly defeated former double Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko in the Ukranian’s second professional bout.

Salido, however, has failed to score a signature win over a top fighter for some time, drawing and losing to Puerto Rico’s Roman Martinez, then having his fight against Francisco Vargas end in a draw. A win over Román could put him on a collision with the winner of the Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux fight, as well a potential tilt against Miguel Berchelt (his original opponent for this event until he dropped off due to an injury) and other fighters in their fire-hot weight-class.

Román had to forge through similar fires himself. The Chihuahua native and 32-year-old veteran went 21-0 before his first loss. Now, he’s on a 19-1 recovery from a bad stretch through most of his step-up bouts, including his lone title bout in 2011 against Argentina’s Jonathan Barros. Former champs like Juan Carlos Salgado and Daniel Ponce de León are among his victims in his recent unbeaten run. Only the tough-as-nails Takashi Miura was able to hold him off in a memorable last round stoppage back in January.

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In the co-main event, another scrappy contender on a terrific streak will attempt to grab his first world title when Tevin “American Idol” Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KOs) will face Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa (22-1-0, 17 KOs) for the vacant IBF super featherweight title. Similar to Roman and Salido, the 27-year-old Farmer was hardly considered championship material early in his career, especially after losing his debut and going 7-4-1 in his first dozen bouts. But after losing to Jose Pedraza, Farmer ended the rough stretch with an impressive 18-0 run. He will try to cap this unlikely comeback with a title-winning performance against the once-beaten 29-year-old Ogawa, who will be making his first trip outside his native Japan after making six defenses of his national title back home.

Opening the HBO broadcast, another Mexican slugger involved in no less than two Fights Of The Year in the past two years will face a stiff test. Francisco “Bandido” Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs) makes his return to the ring after almost a year of inactivity to face two-time title contender in England’s Stephen “Swifty” Smith (25-3, 15 KOs) in a 12-rounder. After his grueling fights against Takashi Miura, Orlando Salido and Miguel Berchelt, Vargas has received more punishment than most human bodies are ready to withstand. His title-losing effort against Berchelt back in January indicates that the fighter is aging rapidly. It's worth asking how much Vargas has left in the tank, and Smith may be the one to answer that question for us if he puts enough pressure on the division's ultimate pressure fighter.

Later that night, HBO Latino will broadcast the earlier part of the card, on tape delay. Opening this special broadcast, Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (25-0-0, 21 KOs) will risk his unbeaten record against his fellow Baja California native Paul Valenzuela (20-6, 14 KOs) in an eight-round super welterweight bout. And in the main televised event, two-time super featherweight world title contender Denis Shafikov (38-3-1, 20 KOs), hailing from Miass, Russia, will be facing Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado (27-8-0, 19 KOs) in a ten-rounder.