Tuesday, January 30, 2001
By Pat Bigold
Jesus Salud has won 62 of his 72 pro fights and knocked out 38 opponents in a career that's spanned 17 1/2 years.
He's owned junior featherweight titles in the WBA and the North American Boxing Federation.
Fighters don't usually last as long in the ring as the 37-year-old Salud and they usually don't survive as well.
His face and wit are intact, and he expresses himself with clarity and logic.
But Salud said he'd never want to see his 15-year-old
son, Jordan, enter the fight game.
"I know how brutal it is and I don't want him to go through it," he said.
"I'd be feeling the pain just as much as he did."
The slurred speech of boxing colleagues his age or younger, and the ring death of featherweight fighter Bobby Tomasello last October underscore his concerns.
Salud, who lost to WBO junior featherweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera on Dec. 1 in Las Vegas, has been in Hawaii the past couple of weeks resting, recuperating and planning the next move in his career.
He's looking at the possibility of a tuneup bout on the Leeward coast.
Relaxing in the bleachers at Kalakaua Gym last week, he reflected on how he's stayed relatively unscathed in a sport that has destroyed many an athlete, physically, morally, socially, mentally and financially.
Salud said it gives him pain to see fighters who are unable to speak properly or unable to remember fights in which they were battered.
"It's sad to see guys get like that," he said. "I know guys I came up in boxing with, like Terry Norris (who beat Sugar Ray Leonard in 1991). Or Meldrick Taylor. They were great fighters at one time."
In a 1996 Esquire magazine article, Pete Hamil wrote, "In this country, old dogs are treated better than old prizefighters."
Salud never wants his career to come to that.
"When I can't avoid the punches anymore, that's when I know it's time to quit," he said.
Meanwhile, he's looking toward another year in the game. He's still cultivating and still preaching the art of defense. He's a boxer. Not a slugger.
"Some fighters think taking a hit is a macho thing, but I personally don't like to get hit," he said. "It's not a matter of being macho. It's being smart."
Salud said that a slugger like Mike Tyson, who will take up to five punches to deliver one, can't look forward to a long career.
But he said a boxer like 130-pound WBC champion Floyd Mayweather, whose defensive skills are part of his mystique, will last a long time.
"If I was a trainer, I'd emphasize defense because offense comes naturally," said Salud.
He said he sees too many young amateurs willing to take the blows.
"When you're talking to yourself in a few years, mumbling, you'll appreciate defense," Salud said. "I always put 110 percent into the gym. It's my best friend."
Salud not only trains, he plays basketball as often as possible. Remaining nimble is critical to him.
He said athleticism is lacking in boxing these days when fans prefer quick knockouts and blood to a scientifically executed fight.
"People want to see blood these days," he said. "They want gladiators. I like a smart fighter. I like a guy who can hit and not get hit."
Asked how many blows to the head a fighter takes per bout in his weight division, Salud said it's hard to call. "But I'd say, maybe 20 to 30," he said. "And that's too much."
How does taking a blow to the head feel in a pro fight?
"It's like taking a sucker punch from a guy's bare hand," he said, pointing out that the light pro glove doesn't feel very padded on the fist of a prizefighter. "The one you don't see coming hurts the most."