Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


Orlando Salido again at home in enemy territory vs. Roman Martinez


March 10, 2012: Orlando Salido heads for a neutral corner after knocking down Juan Manuel Lopez in their second fight. Photo by Peter Amador/Top Rank.

Enemy territory is something most fighters try to avoid, but Orlando Salido (42-12-2, 29 knockouts) seems to thrive on it. This Saturday the Mexican brawler will go there once again when he meets Roman “Rocky” Martinez (28-2-2, 17 knockouts) in Puerto Rico to defend his WBO junior lightweight belt.

Salido originally took the WBO’s featherweight title from Juan Manuel Lopez on this same island in 2011. He lost the belt to Mikey Garcia, recovered it in 2013 against Puerto Rican Orlando Cruz in Las Vegas, then lost it on the scales against Vasyl Lomachenko the following year.

Salido knows the fight has the potential to steal the spotlight in an action-packed weekend, and he is gearing up for another career-defining fight in a country where few Mexican champs have dared to venture.

We’re ready for a war,” said Salido during the pre-fight press conference. “We know Rocky Martinez and we know he is a strong fighter who presses forwards, so we are waiting for a tough fight this Saturday.”

His presence in the land in which he upset one of the island‘s most promising champions (twice) in Lopez will surely earn him loud reprobation from the crowd, but Salido doesn’t necessarily feel like he’s in hostile territory.

Here in Puerto Rico I won two important bouts, and people have been nice to me,” said Salido, who came to the island one week before the fight to finish his training in Felix Pagan Pintor’s gym (currently run by former world titlist Ivan Calderon), “so I am just relaxed and focused on the fight.”

His win over Lomachenko, though he prevailed after being brought in as a sacrificial lamb for the unbeaten contender, was tainted by being overweight, but Salido redeemed himself in a terrific bout against Thailand’s Terdsak Kokietgym back in September. He visited the canvas three times and scored four knockdowns of his own on his way to an 11th-round stoppage that earned him respect as a legitimate champion. (Note: The Kokietgym fight was for the WBO interim junior lightweight belt, but Salido was later elevated to full status when Garcia vacated the title.)

Martinez, for his part, is hoping to be the one to end Salido’s 5-0 streak against Puerto Rican fighters (he also owns victories against Carlos Gerena and Omar Adorno, in addition to Cruz and his two wins over Lopez) and a 3-0 winning streak on Puerto Rican soil. And for that, he’ll be counting on his own experience as a globetrotting challenger.

I feel in a great condition, like never before in my career. Salido is a strong opponent who comes to fight, and for that I have to be in the best condition,” said Martinez, a two-time champion in his own right who won his first belt in the U.K. against Nicky Cook in 2009 and the next one against Miguel Beltran Jr. in Las Vegas in 2012. “And besides, now I have the extra motivation of fighting in Puerto Rico and winning the title in my homeland.”

All signs point to the relatively inactive but more consistently solid Martinez emerging with a razor-thin victory in this terrific matchup, but you can never count out Salido when he is inspired and focused, and the air of the Island of Enchantment seems to bring out those qualities in him.

The undercard will feature the following bouts:

Jose Gonzalez (23-1, 18 KOs) vs. Marvin Quintero (26-5, 22 KOs), 10 rounds, lightweights

McWilliams Arroyo (15-2, 13 KOs) vs. Ismael Garnica (13-6-1, 5 KOs), 10 rounds, flyweights

Yoandris Salinas (20-1-2, 13 KOs) vs. Martin Alvarado (7-4, 6 KOs), 10 rounds, junior featherweights

John Karl Sosa (12-0, 6 KOs) vs. Joaquin Chavez (9-13, 2 KOs), 6 rounds, junior welterweights

Zachary Ochoa (10-0, 5 KOs) vs. Moises Ríos (5-2, 4 KOs), 6 rounds, junior welterweights

Ryan Martin (11-0, 6 KOs) vs. Miguel Soto (12-5, 12 KOs), 6 rounds, lightweights

Jose Lopez (3-0, 2 KOs) vs. Ray Rivera (1-3-1), 4 rounds, lightweights

Roy Mendez (1-0) vs. Oscar Lopez, 4 rounds, junior flyweights