On Saturday, Pennsylvania-based fighter Rod Salka (19-3-0, 3 KO) gets the biggest opportunity of his pro career: a shot at undefeated Danny Garcia (28-0-0, 16 KO). Garcia’s pedigree might make it tempting for fans to dismiss Salka’s chances, but underestimating Salka is a bad move. Here’s why, in the leadup to Saturday night (fight card begins at 9 p.m. on Showtime), you’d best keep an eye on Salka:
1. He’s coming off one of his best wins.
In April, Salka faced off against the previously unbeaten Alexei Collado and walked away with a unanimous decision victory. How’d he do it? Relentless effort. Salka took a few hits but kept getting in blows of his own.
2. He wore his opponent down.
3. Until he couldn’t stand anymore.
Collado got back up to finish the fight, but his effort wasn’t enough.
4. He’s singularly focused.
Salka’s the underdog and there’s no title belt on the line. He doesn’t care. “I don’t have any other expectations other than coming in there and winning the fight,” he recently told Yahoo. And he’s got plenty of motivation: “I’m fighting the best fighter at 140 pounds in the world.” And check out the clip of him training. Does that look like a guy whose mind is elsewhere?
5. He’s huge in Pittsburgh.
That’s him throwing out the first pitch at a Pirates game last month. And speaking of the Pirates …
6. He has a pretty awesome Pirates-inspired logo.
See the design on that shirt? It pays homage both to Salka (his nickname is “Lightning Rod,” hence the bolt forming the “R”) and the Pirates (take away the lightning bolt and you’re left with a Pirates-style “P”).
7. Many argued his last loss wasn’t a loss at all.
That defeat came last year against Ricardo Alvarez (a.k.a. Canelo’s older brother) by mixed decision. That result was immediately called into question. Both Showtime commentators’ cards had Salka as the winner. Had the judges agreed, Salka would be heading into this bout on a hot streak.