Win, lose or draw, there are few fighters who are as consistently bankable as Orlando Salido when it comes to being in a thrilling fight.
In recent years, he has gone from a guy booked as nothing more than a tough, experienced opponent to must-see TV because fight in and fight out, the former junior lightweight and featherweight world titleholder has delivered huge value to fans for their time and money. He brings drama, action and the quintessential warrior mentality to the ring.
For years, he has been in one tremendous fight after another: two knockout wins against Juan Manuel Lopez, a disputed loss and draw to Roman "Rocky" Martinez, a win in a seven-knockdown war with Terdsak Kokietgym and, of course, a draw with junior lightweight titleholder Francisco Vargas in the 2016 ESPN.com fight of the year in June.
Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs), as crazy as it probably sounds to a regular person, loves being in action-packed fights. He said he knew his instant classic with Vargas was a great one during the heat of battle.
"When you're in the ring you can tell it's a great fight, and that night I knew we were having a special fight just like the one we promised to deliver," he said. "It was an honor to be part of such a great fight and to give the fans something they will cherish for a long time."
There was a lot of talk that Salido would make his 2017 debut in a rematch with junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko, whom Salido outpointed in a rough fight in 2014. Salido failed to make weight for the fight, however, and was stripped of his featherweight crown. The fight went ahead anyway with Lomachenko, who was eligible to win the vacant title, attempting to set the boxing record of winning a world title in his second professional fight.
Lomachenko wound up tying the record by winning the still-vacant title in his third fight and now owns a junior lightweight title. He wants a rematch with Salido to avenge the defeat, and Salido was interested.
"It was a great fight that did not yield a win for either of us. I think it makes sense to fight again and determined the winner. Obviously, I felt that I won the fight, but it was a great fight and believe a second will just be as good and, hopefully, we will get a winner next time." Orlando Salido
However, he and his team, Zanfer Promotions and manager Sean Gibbons, are now moving in a different direction.
What they want instead is a rematch with Vargas. Salido wants a chance to right the wrong he feels was done to him when he was given a draw. Also, Salido has held world titles but never a WBC version, and he covets the green belt, which has great meaning to most Mexican boxers. He and his team also believe there is more money in a rematch with Vargas than with Lomachenko.
"It was a great fight that did not yield a win for either of us," Salido said of the Vargas fight. "I think it makes sense to fight again and determine the winner. Obviously, I felt that I won the fight, but it was a great fight and believe a second will just be as good, and hopefully we will get a winner next time."
Vargas, who suffered terrible cuts against Salido, fights for the first time since on Jan. 28 (HBO) when he defends his belt against Mexican countryman Miguel Berchelt at the Fantasy Springs resort in Indio, California. Former titlist Takashi Miura faces Miguel "Mickey" Roman in a title eliminator in the co-feature, with the winners of the two bouts mandated to meet. Vargas stopped Miura in dramatic comeback fashion to win the 2015 ESPN.com fight of the year.
But Salido and Gibbons hold out hope that Salido can be next if Vargas wins.
"It's a fight everyone wants to see again, so let's make it happen in 2017," Gibbons said. "Salido has given us some memorable fights and he earned the rematch in the ring. I guarantee everyone that it will just be as good as the first one."
Gibbons said that even though the Lomachenko fight was presented to them, the fight Salido has wanted all along was a Vargas rematch.
"It's a no-brainer," Gibbons said. "It'll be 2017 fight of the year also. But so far Vargas has not seemed interested. The rematch would be for more money than Lomachenko and would draw 10,000 to The Forum (in Inglewood, California). If he fights Lomachenko, Orlando is the draw, and Orlando already beat him anyway."
Gibbons said Salido, who has not fought since facing Vargas, is tentatively scheduled to fight April 8 against an opponent to be determined in his hometown of Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, to stay active.
"But we're waiting to see what happens on Jan. 28 with Vargas and Miura," he said. "What we want is to fight Vargas in the rematch. We had conversations with Bob [Arum, of Top Rank] about a Lomachenko rematch, but it didn't work. Money was an issue, but Orlando was really set on Francisco Vargas.
"He couldn't get it out of his head. He put so much into that fight, so much heart and so much blood and effort, and the green belt has been his dream. He wants Vargas again and he wants to make another great fight."
Chances are that whomever Salido faces next, it will indeed be a great fight.