Photos by Sumio Yamada
ORLANDO SALIDO vs CRISTOBAL CRUZ
The Versus network has a terrific all-Mexican main event on Thursday when Orlando Salido meets Cristobal Cruz for the vacant IBF featherweight title in the neutral setting of Washington state.
This fight has an old school feel about it, with two proud, tough Mexican fighters meeting for a world championship.
Salido, 27, is a former holder of this title, but a positive test for steroids led to his win over Robert Guerrero being changed to a no decision, with the championship becoming vacant. Guerrero regained the belt but is now boxing at 130 pounds, giving Salido the chance to fight for the title again.
Cruz, meanwhile, earned his biggest purse by grinding out a majority but well-deserved, upset decision over Thomas Mashaba in an IBO title bout in March when he finished strongly in the last two rounds to pull ahead of the hard-hitting South African.
Although Cruz is the underdog on Thursday, the 31-year-old from Tijuana is boxing better than at any time in his career and he is one of those fighters who is better than his record indicates.
Cruz has lost three of his last seven bouts, but although outpointed he knocked down Francisco Lorenzo in their closely contested rematch, and he outfought the skilful Puerto Rican, Jose Reyes.
While Zahir Raheem proved much too slippery for Cruz in a dull fight, he is much better when faced with someone who will stand and fight. Salido, while a skilled boxer, is usually crowd-pleasing, the exception being his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas four years ago when each man gave a lot of respect to the other, much to the crowds displeasure.
Salido has to be considered the superior boxer in Thursdays fight and also the better puncher, but Cruz is tenacious, game and battle-hardened. He has fought a lot of well-regarded boxers and has usually acquitted himself admirably, with the occasional upset win such as when he stopped Cornelius Lock and ex-champ Luisito Espinosa and, later, the victories over Reyes and Mashaba.
I am expecting an aggressive, hard-working fight from Cruz on Thursday, but I think that Salidos crisp counter punching will carry the day on the scorecards after 12 entertaining rounds. Versus has had some disappointing shows, with quite a high percentage of blowouts, but I will be very surprised if this main event fails to live up to expectations.