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Resilient Salido has title in sight

He has been up; he has been down. He has been a world champion; he has been disgraced for cheating.

Through it all, Orlando Salido has been resilient. The 32-year-old featherweight from Mexico has one more opportunity to get to the top if he can beat Orlando Cruz and win the vacant WBO title when they meet Saturday at the Thomas &Mack Center. Their scheduled 12-round bout, which will be televised by HBO Pay Per View, is the co-feature to the WBO welterweight title fight between Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

“You never know when it’s going to be your last opportunity,” Salido (39-12-2, 27 knockouts) said through an interpreter earlier this week. “I’ve had many ups and downs in my life, but I always maintained my confidence in myself.”

Salido’s most recent disappointment came on Jan. 19 against Mikey Garcia. Garcia won an eight-round technical decision when the fight was stopped prior to the ninth after Garcia suffered a broken nose from a head butt and the ringside physician refused to allow him to continue. It went to the scorecards, and Garcia was declared the winner.

“I had a few problems in my camp that carried into the Garcia fight,” Salido said. “I thought I overtrained for the fight. I trained twice a day for three months, and by the time I got to the fight with Mikey, I was exhausted.

“For this fight, I trained hard but much smarter. I feel more energized, and I rested more.”

Salido’s life story has Hollywood written all over it. His father died when he was a young boy. His mother abandoned him when he was 14. He turned pro at 16 and by the time he was 18, he had scraped up enough money to have a “coyote” help sneak he and his then-girlfriend across the border into the United States.

Despite a rough start — Salido was 6-5-1 in his first dozen fights — he stayed with it.

“The guy was sleeping on dirt floors,” his manager, Sean Gibbons, said. “He could cope with losing a fight better than most guys.”

Eventually, Salido refined his skills, and he was winning more than he was losing. He grew his resume to the point that he fought Marquez in 2004 when Marquez was the WBA and IBF featherweight champion. Marquez won, but Salido took him the distance in their 12-round fight.

He would get other opportunities to become world champion. He beat Robert Guerrero in 2006 but also tested positive for Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid that is banned for competition in Nevada, and the fight became a no-contest. Salido and Gibbons have maintained that the positive test was not conclusive, but the Nevada Athletic Commission’s ruling stood.

But Salido eventually won a title, avenging a 2008 loss to Cristobal Cruz with a 12-round decision to win Cruz’s IBF belt. He lost the title to Yuriorkis Gamboa less than four months later but bounced back to beat Juan Manuel Lopez the following April to win the WBO belt.

Now, he tries to win it again, this time against a skilled fighter in the 32-year-old Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KOs).

“I have to look out for his speed and his movement,” Salido said. “I’m going to pressure him, but I’m going to do it intelligently.”

Salido has a date with the Immigration and Naturalization Service next month — assuming the government reopens — when he is scheduled to become a United States citizen. Salido lives outside Phoenix with Mayra, the girlfriend he sneaked into the country with 14 years ago and whom he eventually married, and their four children, all of whom were born in the U.S.

“It will be phenomenal,” Salido said. “My kids were born here in the U.S. The only one who is not a citizen is me. But that will change.

“It’s a dream come true.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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