A battle for respect and championship glory is set to commence this weekend in Las Vegas. The storyline is not purely about athletics, though.
Orlando “El Fenomeno” Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KO), the sport’s first openly-gay fighter told The Guardian magazine that he revealed his sexual orientation to gain respect. Since his announcement, he has received tons of support from within the LGBT community and the boxing world abroad.
On Saturday, he’ll be in the ring with a tough and dangerous veteran with his own in-ring goals.
Cruz will face former champion Orlando “Siri” Salido (39-12-2, 27 KO) for the vacant WBO featherweight title on Saturday at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The fight is a historic one because Cruz is bidding to become the first openly gay boxer to become world champion in history.
The fight is part of the card that also features the Timothy Bradley vs. Juan Manuel Marquez WBO welterweight title bout. Here’s how you can catch this intriguing card.
The Book on Cruz
Opportunity of a Lifetime
He has won four fights in a row, including a sixth-round KO win over Aalan Martinez in his last bout. Cruz floored Martinez four times before matters ended at the 1:19 mark of the sixth frame.
The 5’4” Puerto-Rican southpaw began his hot streak after two consecutive KO defeats at the hands of Cornelius Lock and Daniel Ponce De Leon. Can he capitalize on this golden opportunity? We’ll see if he can indeed make history.
The Book on Salido
Focused and Determined
Undoubtedly aware of the significance of this fight, Salido is remaining focused on short-term and long-term goals. Per Ryan Burton of Boxing Scene, Salido wants a rematch with Mikey Garcia, which isn’t likely to end any different than their first encounter (a lopsided loss via technical decision), but he must go through Cruz first.
Salido told Salvador Rodriguez of Boxing Scene he planned to “punish” Cruz’s body in the fight. Ponce De Leon actually knocked Cruz out with a body shot. Salido seems to have designs on mounting a similar attack.
Cruz’s southpaw stance could create some issues for Salido, but Siri says he’s been training with southpaws to prepare for the bout. Experience and prior resume would imply Salido has an edge, but fights aren't fought on paper.
Salido will have to come through between the ropes.
Salido has a two-inch height and reach advantage, but Cruz is clearly the quicker, slicker boxer. The major question to be answered in this fight is whether Cruz can hurt Salido with single shots.
Who wins and how?
El Fenomeno doesn’t throw a lot of combinations. This could be an issue, considering Salido’s counter-punching prowess. Throwing one shot at a time will make him easier to counter and time.
This will only increase Salido's aggressiveness. If Cruz can’t slow the former champion's pursuit, stamina could become a problem later in the fight.
If this is the case, Salido will ultimately walk Cruz down. Siri is known for his relentless approach and ability to take shots from solid punchers. Cruz has decent power, but he isn’t explosive. Because he's naturally a smaller man, Salido stands a good chance to absorb single shots in order to engage Cruz in a brawl.
This is a tough fight to call because of the fighter’s styles, height and stance differences. Ultimately, I see Salido being the busier fighter.
He’ll win more rounds because he’s pushing the action. Cruz will give a valiant effort, but tiring at the end of the bout will help Salido take the crucial championship rounds.
I’m going with Salido by unanimous decision.
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