Salido, Cruz to fight for vacant title

Barring a draw, you can count on the next featherweight titleholder to be named Orlando.

Former titleholder Orlando Salido of Mexico and Puerto Rico's Orlando Cruz will fight for a vacant world title on Oct. 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Top Rank's Bob Arum said Tuesday.

The fight will be one of the featured undercard bouts on the HBO PPV card headlined by welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr.'s defense against Mexican star Juan Manuel Marquez.

The 126-pound belt that Salido and Cruz will fight for became vacant last month when Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia -- who had won the belt from Salido in a dominant performance in January -- failed to make weight for his first defense against former titlist Juan Manuel Lopez and was stripped.

Cruz, who made worldwide headlines in October when he became the first active boxer to announce that he is gay, was Garcia's mandatory challenger but will now get his title shot against Salido, the next leading available contender.

"We're very happy to have this fight on the card," Arum said. "Sean Gibbons (Salido's manager) says there is no way Salido is losing and the other side says there is no way that Cruz doesn't beat Salido because they say he is a shot fighter. I think it's a good competitive fight and an interesting fight."

The 32-year-old Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs) won his version of the title in 2011 by knocking out Lopez in the eighth round. Salido made two successful defenses, including knocking out Lopez in the 10th round of their 2012 rematch, before being dropped four times by Garcia and losing a lopsided eighth-round technical decision.

Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KOs), a 32-year-old southpaw, has won four fights in a row since suffering back-to-back knockout losses to former world titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2009 and Cornelius Lock in 2010.

"For Salido, he has fared well against southpaws from Puerto Rico [Lopez] and won't be at all intimidated by the magnitude of this event," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. "For Cruz, this is clearly his toughest fight of his career. He is already a champion outside the ring for standing up and proclaiming his openness."

Arum said Cruz being the first openly gay fighter is no issue for him and has nothing to do with how he will promote the fight.

"I couldn't give a s--- if he's gay, straight, whatever," Arum said. "I don't even give it a second thought. We're not going to make it part of our publicity. For me, it's a non-issue. Who cares about his sexual orientation? I care if he can fight. When a guy first comes out of the closet, OK, so maybe it's a story and I can see why it might be news. But once that happens, it's not news any more as far as I am concerned."

Still, if Cruz wins, he would become the first openly gay world titleholder in boxing history.

"It's a very good opportunity for us," said All-Star Boxing promoter Tuto Zabala Jr., who promotes Cruz and said he signed the contract for the fight on Monday night. "It's a great platform to be on. [Cruz] has been in training camp and will be in the best shape in his career. I believe Orlando has all the tools to defeat Salido and become the first gay fighter to win a world title."