In a great traditional battle between Puerto Rico and Mexico, No. 1 Contender Orlando Cruz, in his first world title shot, will battle former two-time World Champion Orlando Salido for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Featherweight Championship. The two fighters are on the call today from their training camps. Orlando Cruz is in Buffalo, NY and Orlando Salido in Mexico. In three weeks they will face each other in the ring. Also on the call is All Star Boxing’s Tuto Zabala, Jr., who is Cruz’ promoter and Todd duBoef, President of Top Rank, the promoter of the card.
For Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KOs), of San Juan, Puerto Rico, boxing’s first openly gay fighter and a member of Puerto Rico’s 2000 Olympic team, this will be his first world title shot. Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs), of Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, México, will be looking to complete a hat trick in regaining the title he previously held for nearly two years They will be fighting for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight title on the pay-per-view undercard of the Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, Jr. vs. Juan Manuel “Dinamita” Márquez WBO welterweight championship fight on Saturday, October 12, at the Thomas & Mack Center, on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View®, beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT.
TODD duBOEF: We are getting ready and the fighters are gearing up for an incredible show on October 12 in Las Vegas. We talk about the great rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico and this is going to be showcased on October 12 and between the two of them, Salido, a seasoned veteran who has been in with everyone in the featherweight division and Cruz, who has earned his title shot and is a profile in courage.
TUTO ZABALA: Thanks to Top Rank and to the WBO for giving us a shot. Orlando is preparing himself in Buffalo, NY with Juan Carlos De Leon and he’s going to have a media workout in Manhattan on Tuesday the 24th. When we signed Orlando Cruz he had lost two fights in a row with his former promoter and he was looking for help. We got him four fights on the Telemundo Network and the championship shot within two years. I am very proud of him and the job we have done for him and also embraced how he came out of the closet like he did last October. It has changed a lot and it is amazing the happiness that we have in our team. Finally he has the world title shot and everything is set for him. I now want to hand it over to the WBO Latino Champion from Puerto Rico, Orlando Cruz.
ORLANDO CRUZ: I am very happy. Thank you HBO for the opportunity and Top Rank and my promoter Tuto Zabala, my manger Juan De Leon. I am excited and I am ready for the fight.
ORLANDO SALIDO: It’s been great preparation and I am grateful for the opportunity that Top Rank has given me to win another world title. I know that Orlando Cruz is a very difficult fighter, he’s a great boxer, and I know that he has a lot of abilities. I have been getting real good sparring here because I know it is going to be a very difficult fight.
A lot of people thought you were done after your fight with Mikey and now you have another opportunity…
ORLANDO SALIDO: I know the fight with Mikey I wasn’t myself. It was a tough night. But that’s in the past and I know what I’m capable of doing. Right now I feel like I did before my fight with Juan Manuel Lopez and I think you’re going to see that same type of fight from me on October 12.
You’ve been waiting a long time for this opportunity – how have you been preparing for it?
ORLANDO CRUZ: It’s been a while. I have been working hard and I never said “no” to any opponent. I worked really hard to get to this point and my team has been really good. Everybody is healthy and I am very happy to get this opportunity. I have a lot of respect for Orlando Salido. I am not going in there thinking that it’s an easy fight. I know how hard he has worked to get to where he is. I know how hard I worked to get where I am. I think we are both really hungry and we both want to do a really great job. I want to take the title back to Puerto Rico for all my fans.
Salido, how is your eye?
ORLANDO SALIDO: I have had injuries in the past but I have not had one injury in the training camp. So all I have to think about is this fight against Orlando Cruz and winning that fight.
How do you feel about Cruz’ style compared to [Mikey] Garcia?
ORLANDO SALIDO: They are totally different fighters. Orlando is a boxer and he tries to move around the ring. My job is to put pressure on him. I will try to cut him off and I will be throwing so many punches I will hit him somewhere. Then I will go to the body to cut him down and eventually I will make him fight my fight.
Does you think your experience will be the difference?
ORLANDO SALIDO: Without a doubt I have been in there with some great champions. I won some and I lost some and I did gain great experience fighting them. I just feel for this fight it will be whoever is better prepared. We are both hungry. We both want it. It’s just a question of who is going to be the best that night and I think I will be.
Jim Lampley, who has a gay brother, called you a hero to him…
ORLANDO CRUZ: I am happy with the situation and I have a lot of support from all around the world. It is great news for me to know about Jim Lampley and his brother. I just want to thank all of the people that have supported me. I have been working hard for this, it is something that I have been waiting a long time for. I want to win this fight for Puerto Rico and for my community. I want to dedicate my fight to the LGBT and all of Puerto Rico because they are going to have a new champion.
Are you ready for a fight with Salido’s experience?
ORLANDO CRUZ: I am ready for the challenge to face Orlando Salido on October 12 even with all of his experience. He faced great champions like Juan Manuel Marquez, Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez. I worked very hard for this and am grateful for all of the support that I have, from Tuto, the WBO and Top Rank. Carlos DeLeon, the four-time world champion has been working in the gym with me giving me a lot of experience. People don’t understand how much experience you get while training in the gym. You get experience from working hard and doing what the coach tells me. I have been following what the coach tells me and on October 12 I will become champion for Puerto Rico and for all of my people.
What is the challenge in Salido’s style?
ORLANDO CRUZ: The pressure he will bring. The way he comes that is the way I will fight with Salido. I am not going to run. When I need to fight I am going to fight. When I need to box I am going to box. I am going to be the smartest guy in the ring. I am not taking anything away from Salido but on October 12 we are going to make history.
What do you think about Emille Griffith?
ORLANDO CRUZ: I want to dedicate this fight to Emille Griffith and his family. This fight will be for his community (LGBT) and all the fans of Orlando Cruz.
Mexico vs Puerto Rico rivalry…
ORLANDO CRUZ: The rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico, this will be another fight that will bring a lot of excitement in the ring between me and Saldio and I am so happy that it happened because it makes it bigger when I beat a Mexican to bring the belt to Puerto Rico once again.
ORLANDO SALIDO: This is a great rivalry between the two countries and I know when I get in the ring I have to give my best. I always give my best because it’s important to take that victory home. Mexico vs Puerto Rico is always special and a victory over a Puerto Rican is always special for the people of Mexico.
ORLANDO CRUZ: I never refused to fight anybody. Any person Tuto Zabala put in front of me I signed the contract. If they said ‘fight King Kong’ I would fight the person no matter if it was going to be at 126 pounds or above. I don’t care who I fight inside the ring because this is what I love to do – box.
What about Mikey Garcia rematch?
ORLANDO SALDIO: I would love to get a rematch with Mikey Garcia either at 126 or 130. I know I wasn’t myself. I don’t know what happened that night but I wasn’t feeling comfortable in the ring. I would love to fight him again and I feel I would do much better and it would be a much better fight.
Is this going to be the year of Orlando Cruz?
ORLANDO CRUZ: I am sure this is going to be my year. The end of 2013 and going into 2014 will be my time.
How as your life changed since you made the announcement?
ORLANDO CRUZ: My life has changed completely. I am now a different person. I am happy with the support that all of the people have given me and I just want to continue to work hard doing the things that I need to do to make history.
Salido, has Orlando Cruz ever been on your radar for a fight?
ORLANDO SALIDO: It looked to me like he was probably going to be an opponent for me. He has always been there in the top ten. As he was moving up I knew the possibility existed so I was keeping an eye on him.
What have you been thinking about since the loss to Garcia?
ORLANDO SALIDO: After that fight I had a long time to reflect on what happened. I had to take a look at my career to see if this was still what I wanted to do. I still want to do this because I still have a lot left and I think I can still do a lot of things in boxing. But on October 12 I have to show everyone that I am back and what I am capable of doing then go from there. I am not thinking about the future, I just want to show everyone that I am back.
You were supposed to have a fight in June that got canceled – how was that transition to this fight?
ORLANDO CRUZ: All of the work I was doing for June 28 I continued to do. I just changed it up a little because of the type of fighter that Salido is. All I had to do was make some adjustments and I am ready for October 12.
If you win, along with Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon, you’d be the only country to boast three world champions from the 2000 Olympic class….
ORLANDO CRUZ: It is going to be great when I become a champion on October 12. It is going to be a great honor for me to be part of the three, to be with Cotto and Calderon, when I become champion to be part of history in Puerto Rico.
Since your announcement, has media demand taken away from your training?
ORLANDO CRUZ: It has not. I have concentrated on the October 12 fight. I understand the press wants to know about my personal life but I have a team I just want to say thank you to all the Puerto Rican people and all of my friends and to not worry, I am going to be ready for the fight. I understand that all of those questions will come and I will answer the best I can but it will not take me away from the focus that I have for Orlando Salido.
After the tough fight in January many people thought you might retire. Did that enter your mind?
ORLANDO SALIDO: As far as I am concerned the opportunity came at the perfect time. I know what I am capable of doing and I know this is one of my last opportunities to win a championship so I worked very hard for this fight. I am going to be ready to win the fight.
You were knocked down a few times in your last fight – is that a worry for you?
ORLANDO SALIDO: You know, everybody in boxing, if you get hit, there are some strong punchers out there. The question is, what are you going to do? I am going to get up and try my hardest. It happens in boxing. You just have to get ready. You prepare yourself by training for each fight – do the best you can in the ring so you can do the best you can in the ring.
What do you think about Mikey [Garcia] going up to 130 especially because it seemed as though you were catching up to him in the later rounds?
ORLANDO SALIDO: I always thought he was a big guy for 126 and I think he will be even bigger and stronger at 130. I look at him like one of those guys that can go up and have no problem with it.
How do you feel about Salido beating fellow Puerto Rican fight, Juan Manuel Lopez, twice?
ORLANDO CRUZ: I have been working hard and am taking this fight more seriously than any other I have had. I know Salido is a strong fighter and I know every round he becomes stronger and stronger and I am preparing myself for that challenge on October 12.
Since your announcement in October, have the events you have been invited to taken away from your training?
ORLANDO CRUZ: I have been training hard and focusing on this fight for October 12 and nothing will take me away from that. Every day I work harder and harder. I want to thank the WBO President Paco Valcarcel and my promoter, Tuto Zabala, who work hard with me every day to keep me motivated so I will become champion on October 12.
Puerto Rico now only has one champion…
ORLANDO CRUZ: The Puerto Rican community has been supporting me and has respected my decision. Puerto Rico has one champion in Rocky Martinez and now they are going to have a second champion on October 12. Puerto Rico will soon have another champion in Danny Garcia.
There is another fighter on October 12, Lomanchenko who could be a next opponent for him…
ORLANDO CRUZ: The only one I am looking at right now is Mr. Salido. I am not looking at anyone else. When the time comes to look at my next fight, I will sit down with my promoter and my team to discuss. That will be great but my focus right now is on Salido.
What is your opinion on the landscape of Puerto Rico boxing. Mexicans have been successful as of late…
ORLANDO SALIDO: I think about what I have done against Puerto Rican fighters. I am 5-0 against them and looking to make it 6-0. I know how to fight them and my experience helps me to do that and I’ll be ready for anything that happens in the ring based on my experience on what I have done in the ring against them.
TODD du BOEF: It is great to hear this dialogue from these two great warriors as they get ready for the fight. Right now we are going to ramp up an incredible promotion with Timmy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. A release will be going out this afternoon announcing the rest of the undercard. We will have Seanie Monaghan against Anthony Caputo Smith for the WBC Continental Americas title and the Olympian Lomanchenko fighting in his pro debut in a ten-rounder against top-10 contender Jose Luis Ramirez out of Mexico. There is a lot of interest in all of the competitive fights on the show and the response has been terrific. The main event between Bradley and Marquez is one of those sit-around-a-bar or table and no one can pick a winner. We know how competitive it is and how closely matched it is. In the next few weeks we will have numerous promotional activities. Also, tomorrow I will be in Los Angeles for the Cotto media day, so if you are in LA, show up.
ORLANDO SALIDO: I think you are going to see another great fight between two guys that really want it and leave everything they have in the ring. I want to wish Orlando Cruz luck and you cant’ beat Puerto Rico vs. Mexico in the ring.
TUTO ZABALA: Thank you everyone for joining the call and we are looking for a great fight. We have the greatest promotional team in the world, Top Rank. Two of the best featherweights in the world. You have Puerto Rico vs. Mexico. You have a great main event. I am very proud of Orlando Cruz and Puerto Rico will have a new champion on October 12.
ORLANDO CRUZ: I want to thank all of the press for joining us today. I want to thank All Star Boxing, Top Rank and the WBO. I wish all the luck to Orlando Salido and Puerto Rico will have a new champion on October 12.