Orlando Salido: 'There will be fireworks from beginning to finish'

Orlando Salido is happy to headline a main card in Las Vegas, even if it's not title a stake. Chris Farina/Top Rank

Orlando Salido has won four world titles in two weight divisions -- junior lightweight and featherweight -- and engaged in numerous action-packed fights during his 21-year career. But rarely has he been afforded the A-side position of a fight with the exception of some hometown bouts in Mexico.

Now Salido, in the twilight of his career, is finally in that position, even if it came to be by accident, when he takes on Mexican countryman Miguel "Mickey" Roman in a 10-round junior lightweight fight that figures to produce nothing but action in the "Boxing After Dark" main event Saturday (HBO, 10:20 p.m. ET/PT) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Salido (44-13-4, 31 KOs), 37, was initially scheduled to challenge 130-pound titleholder Miguel Berchelt, also from Mexico, in the main event. But when Berchelt suffered a hand injury and pulled out, Salido Zanfer Promotions' Fernando Beltran and manager Sean Gibbons worked with HBO to save the show and find a suitable replacement.

In stepped Roman (57-12, 44 KOs), 32, who had turned in a game and competitive effort in a 12th-round knockout loss to former titleholder Takashi Miura in an HBO-televised title eliminator in January, and then rebounded with a 12th-round knockout victory against Nery Saguilan in June.

Salido is thankful that his fight date was saved and said he's looking forward to putting on another exciting fight, as usual.

"I feel that I am finally getting what I earned and worked so hard to have achieved. I have always gone into the ring and given the fans the best and most entertaining fights that I can give them... Against Miguel Roman, I will give them another fight to remember." Orlando Salido on headlining a major boxing card

"I have always been the Part B of the many main events in the biggest fights throughout my career, and thanks to [HBO Sports executive vice president] Peter Nelson and HBO, I feel that I am finally getting what I earned and worked so hard to have achieved," Salido said this week through a translator. "I have always gone into the ring and given the fans the best and most entertaining fights that I can give them.

"Against Miguel Roman, I will give them another fight to remember. Because of our styles, this fight has the making of a war and there will be fireworks from beginning to finish."

Anyone who has spent five seconds watching a Salido fight knows he's not kidding.

Salido was half of the epic 2016 fight of the year with then-junior lightweight titleholder Francisco Vargas, a bloody battle that ended in a draw. Salido has also been in several other fight-of-the-year contenders, including two junior lightweight title battles with Roman "Rocky" Martinez in 2015, an unforgettable eight-knockdown slugfest with Terdsak Jandaeng in a 2014 interim junior lightweight title win, and upset knockout wins against Juan Manuel Lopez in 2011 and 2012 featherweight title bouts.

Salido, of course, would rather be facing Berchelt (32-1, 28 KOs) for a title but a victory against Roman likely will secure a shot against Berchelt when he returns from his injury.

"I was hoping to be facing Berchelt in this fight, but unfortunately he got hurt and now I must defeat the tough fighter Roman to get the opportunity to fight him for the WBC belt," Salido said. "That's OK though, because thanks to Peter Nelson and HBO I am able to be a headliner in Las Vegas."

Salido could have been fighting for the interim belt while Berchelt is sidelined. The WBC agreed to sanction the bout with Roman, and Salido would have been thrilled to claim the green belt most Mexican fighters covet more than any other.

According to WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, it was HBO that refused to allow it to be a 12-rounder for the interim belt.

"I'm younger and Salido has been in a lot of wars. I believe my time is now and I will be victorious. I have numerous advantages over him." Mickey Roman

"The abuse of power has once again hit our sport in a dramatic way, as Orlando Salido and Micky Roman will be prevented of accomplishing their dream of winning the WBC title due to a decision taken by a man [Nelson] sitting at a desk mandating terms of their bout. HBO has mandated their fight to be only for 10 rounds," Sulaiman said. "The promoters have no say in the matter, and simply take the orders from the power force of the sport, the TV Network. [Card promoters] Tom Loeffler, Fernando Beltran and Oswaldo Kuchle simply have to bow down and remain quiet and accept to go against the essence of our sport. I wonder how will they look into the eyes of their fighters to explain that they will not be competing for the WBC green belt, that their fight is a simple 10-round fight with no meaning whatsoever. It will be like watching a preseason game of the NFL.

"I am very sorry for Salido, as he has expressed countless times his dream of becoming WBC champion. I am very sorry for Roman, who has done the same, and I am very sorry for boxing, as a main championship fight has been downgraded to a 10-round fight."

According to HBO spokesman Ray Stallone, once Berchelt dropped out, Salido-Roman was offered to the network as a 10-rounder. The WBC later agreed to sanction it as an interim title fight.

"If a miscommunication subsequently occurred between the promoter and the sanctioning body, that's unfortunate, but from our perspective it's been a 10-round bout," Stallone said. "It's always been 10 rounds."

Gibbons said Salido is disappointed not to have the opportunity to claim a belt against Roman, but it wasn't worth raising a stink about.

"We were told that HBO wanted to do it as 10-rounder because of time constraints," Gibbons said. "So what are we going to do, argue about it? We were told it's a 10-round fight. The belts don't make Orlando Salido. They're nice and it's every fighter's dream to win the green belt, but if Orlando is victorious he'll be fighting for the full belt anyway against Berchelt. We love to fight for titles but in this case it's not our choice. What are we going to do, scream at HBO about it?"

Roman said he is confident that he will ruin Salido's plans to challenge Berchelt.

"I'm younger and Salido has been in a lot of wars," Roman said. "I believe my time is now and I will be victorious. I have numerous advantages over him. Just like [last week when] Sadam Ali beat the older veteran, Miguel Cotto, I will beat the older veteran. I was very inspired by that fight. I will win, hopefully by knockout."

Undercard action

Junior lightweights Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KOs), 27, of Philadelphia, who is riding an 18-fight winning streak and fighting for the first time since he was shot in the hand earlier this year, and Japan's Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17 KOs), 29, who will be fighting in the United States for the first time, will fight for a vacant world title in the co-feature. They will fight for the 130-pound belt that became vacant when Gervonta Davis was overweight for an Aug. 26 title defense and was stripped.

In the opener, former junior lightweight world titlist Francisco Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs), 32, of Mexico, will take on former two-time title challenger Stephen Smith (25-3, 15 KOs), 32, of England, in a 10-round fight. Vargas, who won the 2015 fight of the year when he dramatically knocked out Takashi Miura in the ninth round to win a junior lightweight world title and then retained it in the 2016 fight of the year in a draw with Salido, lost the belt by 11th-round knockout to Berchelt in January. Vargas is returning from the serious cuts he suffered in that bout.