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Orlando Salido v. Mikey Garcia on Saturday

Mikey Garcia Orlando SalidoBy Danny Hill: Charles Bukowski once wrote ‘It takes guts to be a great artist and it takes guts to be a great fighter’. Those words are no more apposite than in this match-up. On Saturday, Miguel Angel Garcia (30-0-24Kos) and Orlando Salido (39-11-2-27kos) collide in what could be the most thrilling featherweight fight in years.

Garcia is the great artist, brushing his opponents aside with itch-perfect strokes. But, as he emerges on the bigger stage, questions still surround those ulterior assets that emerge in the depths of fiercely-contested battles.

It’s not to say he hasn’t been in good fights. He’s exciting. He’s very talented. But importantly in this age of marketability; he has that coveted ‘0’. He outclassed the competition he’s faced, but it’s fair to say he’s not truly been tested. Whether this is a testament to his ability or his opponents, remains to be seen. Now it is the time for this gutsy artist to give the world a virtuoso public exhibition.

Orlando Salido is the epitome of a fighter. Strong-willed, battle tested and a veteran of brutality. He’s a pressure fighter in every sense of the word. Uncompromising, unrelenting and utterly persistent in his pursuit for glory. Fighting since the age of 15. His early losses in Mexico only severing as a mere right of passage for those honing their craft in the unforgiving sanctum of the great Mexican boxing circuit.

But with this, it has to be said that his opus comes from a victory feigned with skepticism from those adamant that ‘Juanma’ was an accident waiting to happen. Lopez unravelled in both fights. Waving his chin in the air like he wanted attention. I feel like Salido just happened to be the guy who was there at the right time and persistent enough to get the job finished. Juanma was hurt considerably against Rogers Mtagwa in the same manner and usually dispensed of his opponents quickly enough to not have to endure taking punishment in exchange.

Technically in this fight it’s a question of whether discipline and refined skills will be able to gradually overcome the great rugged will. To a great extent, the will has been demonstrated on numerous occasions but unfortunately, the skills of the younger fighter a haven’t fully revealed themselves.

For Salido there was some semblance of skill in his fight Lopez, particularly a switch to southpaw towards the end of the eighth round that managed to catch Juanma wide open. It’s unfair to say that their wasn’t a level of technique implored in the two fights. It’s skill that has come from honing his craft over the years, you can see an enhancement between the fighter that faced Marquez and the one who demolished Lopez. It’s variety. To be an effective volume puncher you need to land. No matter where, and he now ‘Siri’ gets in closer and works all over to break opponents. Recent photos reveal his physique and it looks like he’s ready to go to war.

But equally, Salido has fallen short on occasions. Losses have been a commonality, but what is important is what the fighter demonstrates in defeat. This may be indicative. Having barely gone the distance with Gamboa, tasting two knockdowns in their final stanza. Whilst also losing to fellow countryman Juan Manuel Marquez. Perhaps evoking the notion that he is susceptible to boxing ability. With both of these fighters being incredible movers and thinkers.

Even in winning recently, he was also floored in against Lopez and hurt many times over the course of their two battles. At age 32, you’d be surprised if that’s not an old 32 given the punishment he has endured over his long 17-year career. What was underplayed of late however, was his pair of knockdowns at the hands of unknown and severely overmatched Weng Haya. Perhaps a sign that he’s vulnerable in the early rounds. But eventually and characteristically overwhelming the challenger.

Garcia has his own brand of devastation, and it’s gradual and meticulous. Technically wonderful, he is classically Mexican fighter. Right-hand held high, with the left hand tentatively floating a few inches from his forehead. Chin tucked-in and hunched over slightly. The upright and balanced stance being the foundation for his power. A strong focus on fundamentals. With the tutelage of Garcia, who is fast becoming the most coveted trainer in the game. I’m sure he will have enacted a game plan to nullify the predictable approach of Salido.

The problem with Miguel relates to his tempo. He starts slow, making him somewhat vulnerable in this encounter. He really wants to be methodical and use his attrition approach. His fights have always unfolded in the same vein. Measuring opponents early, landing gradually before finishing with surgical precision.

Those who have shown signs of being effective against him have soon been discouraged by Garcia’s ability to hold the centre of the ring with succinct movement and jabs. Garcia will not have this comfort with Orlando, he’s not going to let space be a problem. He’ll remain undeterred and will take every inch of the ring to get to press his prey.

Further, there hasn’t been too much inside fighting evidenced from Garcia so far, this will be an asset of his that will surely need to be deployed at some stage in this fight and Salido is probably the hardest test of such aptitude.

With both fighters finishing their last five fights in such dramatic style within the distance, this fight promises to be enthralling, no matter the outcome. Over the last twelve years, no less than twelve Mexicans have been involved in fights of the year. Stats aside, Mexican featherweight battles are synonymous with classic brawls and dramatic nights. There surely couldn’t be a better way to start the year with a throwback-style fight?

Whether you favour the artist or the fighter, what will happen on the canvas that night is set to undoubtedly change the picture of things at 130lbs. By cementing the kingship of Salido or signalling the beginning of a new legacy in Garcia. Either way, with the intensity of both, these men will surely reveal who has the more guts.

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