Prizefighting is an unpredictable activity by its very nature. You never know what’s going to happen when two athletes square off for gloved combat.
But sometimes, a fan can have pretty good reason for optimism. Certain combinations of fighters are guaranteed action. They are “can’t miss” fights. As soon as both men sign on the line and the fight is announced, fans everywhere circle the date on their calendar, confident that we’ll see a Fight of the Year candidate.
On Thursday afternoon HBO announced that WBC super featherweight champion Francisco Vargas would defend his belt on June 4 against tough, two-division champion Orlando Salido. This one has “can’t miss” written all over it.
Francisco Vargas was the victor in the leading choice for last year’s Fight of the Year, when he climbed off from the canvas in Round 4 and hung tough to stop Takashi Miura, even as his eye was swollen almost completely shut. That heroic performance made Vargas the WBC champ.
Orlando Salido is the ultimate graduate from boxing’s school of hard knocks. He turned professional at age 15 and went 11-7-2 in his 20 fights. In a sport where prospects are often protected on the way up, Salido was simply thrown to the wolves and allowed to fend for himself.
But after that rough apprenticeship, he developed into a true, championship caliber fighter. On separate occassions, he held both the IBF and WBO belts at featherweight. He captured the WBO super featherweight title in 2014 when he stopped Terdsak Kokietgym in arguably the best fight of that year. Salido was knocked down three times in that bout and dropped Kokietgym four times, before the count was waved off in Round 11.
Salido had two wars last year against Roman Martinez. He dropped his belt to the Puerto Rican star in April. Their rematch stole the show on the Floyd Mayweather-Andre Berto pay-per-view. Salido fought like a cyclone and most observers thought he deserved to win, but Martinez managed to retain his belt when the judges scored it a draw.
Francisco Vargas is the younger fighter and has more overall skill. So he’s a clear favorite going into this. But Orlando Salido has been the underdog many times before while managing to prevail.