(Orlando Salido, left, Juan Manuel Lopez, right; credit: Amanda Kwok, Showtime)
To say that in the 9th round of Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez II "Lopez threw caution to the wind" would imply that he usually had any to spare. But, for once, he actually did proceed with some modicum of caution March 10 on Showtime at the start of his rematch with the man who had stopped him the first time they met. It's not that Lopez was scared of Salido, because it's hard to imagine Lopez being scared of anything; the man gets rocked or dropped in every fight, so it's not like pain is a fear of his, nor the onset of unconsciousness. It's just that it seemed like the right idea, given that, at one point, Lopez had been a sharp boxer-puncher before he began a torrid, unhealthy, destructive love affair with his own power, an affair that turned us all into eager raincoat-adorned peeping toms and Lopez into the top kill-or-be-killed star in boxing.
It had only "seemed" like the right idea to proceed with a little caution, though. Lopez no longer was a sharp boxer-puncher, his bad habits having accumulated into a thick crust that would have taken more than one training camp of concentrating on intelligent craft to scrape off. And Salido never has looked like much of a craftsman — in the ring, it sometimes appears that he is trying to break an imaginary table over his opponent's head more than he is practicing the sweet science — but he is a savvy, clever boxer once you look past the awkwardness. And Salido was outboxing Lopez. Except for an out-of-nowhere knockdown by Lopez in the 5th, Salido was winning the fight handily.
That left Lopez with little choice but to revert to the fighter he had become and ditch the fighter he once was. Lopez completed the transformation in the 9th. And once Lopez opened up, Salido took the invitation to open right back up on Lopez. The featherweight brawl that was Lopez's undoing in the first fight reemerged, and because Salido can take a punch better than Lopez, Lopez would meet his doom in the very next round, the 10th. But for a while, it almost worked; Salido retreated at one point, hurt by body shots. The main effect for anyone watching it was admiration of how completely bonkers a boxer has to be to do anything like that with another man for any three minute stretch.
2012 had a number of rounds worthy of ROTY, some of them subtler. You have to watch more than 11 and a half rounds of Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. to appreciate what happened in the back half of the 12th. You have to know about the knockdown Manny Pacquiao suffered against Juan Manuel Marquez in the 3rd to appreciate what came in the 5th. There's nothing wrong with that — context, as we saw with the Knockout of the Year, enhances big moments. But Marquez's knockout of Pacquiao also stands on its own, in much the same way Salido-Lopez II round 9 could be dropped into a time capsule and opened years later without any need for explanation. For savage two-way action unsurpassed anywhere else in 2012, it is the Round of the Year.