Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

December 31, 2016


Orlando Salido, Francisco Vargas


by Shaun Brown

2016 may not have been the year that boxing fans had hoped for, but fight of the year contenders weren’t short in supply.

Two British heavyweights provided the kind of fight that Foreman and Lyle would have been proud of, the cruiserweights continued to deliver thrills and spills around the world, A-listers from Frampton to Thurman participated in their own contenders while fights like Yamanaka v Moreno II, Tapales v Uthok provided the kind of action that once again showed that the smaller weight classes can be in a league of their own.

Above all those contenders and more (Buglioni v Burton, Lebedev v Gassiev, Easter v Commey etc) there was one fight that is justifiably ours and many others fight of the year.

“I think our styles are made perfect for each other.” Those were the words of Orlando Salido a few days before he and Francisco Vargas locked themselves into an unforgettable fight where every round was fought like it was the 12th and final session.

Salido and Vargas are no strangers to being involved in fight of the year contenders as opponents like Rocky Martinez and Takashi Miura will testify to. The venue which staged Salido-Vargas, the StubHub Center in California, was itself no newcomer to hosting such thrilling ring wars. Alvarado v Rios I, Vazquez v Marquez I & III and Guerrero v Kamegai to name but three.

So, it perhaps came as no surprise that Salido and Vargas, a fight for the latter’s WBC super featherweight title, would be high on action, thrills and moments that would lead to 1593 power punches being thrown, a CompuBox super featherweight record (previously held by Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez; 1475 punches).

The crowd of 7,378 were loud, raucous and lived through every shot with noises reacting to the leather being landed.

If they were getting carried away from start to finish, referee Alberto Leon was high on adrenaline from round one as he attempted to stop the first three minutes early by ten seconds!

Salido would move forward from the first second, not stalking, not with surprise but with the kind of bad intentions which Vargas fully expected. The 32-year-old from Mexico City was ready for all onslaughts, and to return unfriendly fire of his own.

It was frenetic, it was frantic, the pace left you breathless. Salido’s knees would buckle a couple of times but there was no instinct to hold on, no interest in retreating, he absorbed the punishment and knew that the only way to survive such moments of peril was to give Vargas a taste of his own Mexican medicine.

By the third round they had been accustomed to what one another was doing, and they simply had a greater answer for any punching question that was asked. When Vargas troubled Salido with a left hand and then hook in round 4, the 36-year-old veteran might as well have shouted “My turn!” and switched on the music from The Terminator movie. Both, relentless.

There were bursts of action, highlight reel combinations that looked like a last throw of the dice from each man. The kind seen in the final round when the crowd rise to their feet in the final seconds, but this was only round five.

Salido survived his dodgy moments with retaliation, and in round seven Vargas relied on no defence, his head not moving, his chin in prime position to be tagged but somehow trusting this war torn head to take his lumps and bumps and hope that his legs would stand him in good stead. They did.

There were Hail Mary hooks launched on a wing and prayer at times, and had the timing been better Salido or Vargas would have surely taken a trip to a canvas which was decorated in blood, spit and sweat thanks to Mexican boxing machismo at its most savage and ferocious.

It was a fight that, regardless of your interest in the sport, had left us all in awe at what we had just witnessed. It was a fight that would make you look at how many pennies you had saved up so that you could travel to the rematch. In 2017, you might have to start opening your piggy banks.