Last hurrah for 2015 Saludar eyes WBO crown
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Vic (Vicious) Saludar of Polomolok, Cotabato del Sur, hopes to end the year with a bang and give the Philippines another world title when he battles Kosei Tanaka for the WBO minimumweight title in a scheduled 12-round bout at the Aichi Prefectural Gym in Nagoya tonight.

If Saludar fails in his mission, the country will end the year with four world champions – WBO lightflyweight titlist Donnie Nietes, WBO superbantamweight king Nonito Donaire Jr., IBO lightflyweight ruler Rey Loreto and WBA interim lightflyweight belt-holder Randy Petalcorin. Last Tuesday, Filipino veteran Warlito Parrenas tried to join the championship circle but failed to wrest the WBO superflyweight crown from Naoya Inoue at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo. Referee Mike Ortega halted the fight after Parrenas, the No. 1 contender from Cadiz City, was floored twice at 1:20 of the second round.

After Saludar, the next Filipino with a world title crack is Jetro Pabustan of Sarangani. He’ll take on defending champion Pungluang Sor Singyu for the WBO bantamweight diadem in Loei, Thailand, on Jan. 15. Pabustan, 26, is a 5-7 southpaw with a 26-2-6 record, including 7 KOs. He’s unbeaten in his last five outings and his only losses were via technical decisions to Lowie Bantigue in 2010 and Monico Laurente in 2014.

Pungluang, 27, is more experienced with a 51-3 record, including 35 KOs, and will make the first defense of his second reign as WBO 118-pound champion. In 2012, the Thai stopped Filipino A. J. Banal in the ninth round to claim the vacant WBO throne at the MOA Arena. He surrendered the crown in his first defense then regained it on a second round disposal of Japan’s Ryo Akaho in Ratchaburi last August. It will be Pabustan’s first overseas assignment.

Saludar, 25, is making his foreign debut like Pabustan. He’s coming off nine straight wins, seven inside the distance. His record is 11-1, with 9 KOs and the only stain was a bizarre technical knockout loss to Powell Balaba in November 2013. Saludar decked Balaba with a body shot in the first round then fractured his hand and quit on his stool at the end of the fourth round.

Tanaka, 20, is one of Japan’s latest ring sensations. He holds the Japanese record for winning a world title within the shortest number of fights. Tanaka outpointed Mexico’s Julian Yedras for the WBO 105-pound title in Komaki, Aichi, last May. It was only Tanaka’s fifth pro bout. The previous Japanese record was held by Inoue who took the WBO superflyweight crown in his sixth fight. The world record is shared by Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko and Thailand’s Saensak Muangsurin who won titles in only their third fight. Lomachenko still reigns as WBO featherweight champion and took the vacant throne on a 12-round majority decision over Gary Russell at the StubHub Center in Carson City last year. Muangsurin captured the WBC superlightweight title via an eighth round knockout of Spain’s Perico Fernandez in Bangkok in 1975.

Tanaka has beaten two Filipinos so far – Ronelle Ferreras on points in March 2014 and Crison Omayao on a first round knockout four months later. Saludar, the No. 4 contender, is the reigning WBO Asia Pacific minimumweight champion and is fresh from a first round demolition of Indonesia’s Rizky Pratama last September. He’s the youngest of three boxing brothers. Rey, 27, won the gold medal in the flyweight division at the Asian Games in 2010 and remains with the amateur national pool. Froilan, 26, has a 23-1-1 record, with 14 KOs, as a pro and his only setback was a second round knockout to McWilliams Arroyo in Puerto Rico last year. Another brother Ariel is Saludar’s trainer.

Before turning pro in 2013, Saludar had a distinguished amateur career highlighted by claiming the bronze medal in the lightflyweight division at the 2010 Asian Games. Saludar has never fought abroad as a pro but his rich amateur experience should provide the self-confidence to face Tanaka in his hometown. Tanaka has a 5-0 record, with 2 KOs, and is making the first defense of his crown.

Referee for the Tanaka-Saludar bout is Ortega who also worked Inoue’s defense against Parrenas last Tuesday. Ortega is from Cincinnati. The judges are Lynne Carter of Philadelphia, Levi Martinez of New Mexico and Zoltan Enyadi of Budapest. Supervisor is former WBO featherweight champion Istvan Kovacs of Hungary.

Saludar aims to make up for Parrenas’ loss. Parrenas, 32, was no match for Inoue, a 22-year-old dynamo with a 9-0 record, including 8 KOs. He was a virtual punching bag in the first round and in the second, fell twice before Ortega stepped in to stop the carnage. Parrenas was rocked by a left hook and dropped near the ropes by a right for the first knockdown. He got up on rubbery legs but Ortega allowed the fight to continue. Another left triggered a barrage that sent Parrenas down once more. Parrenas, a familiar face in Japanese rings as he posted a 6-1 record as an import in 2011-12, banged his right hand on the canvas in exasperation after falling on all fours for the second knockdown. The loss snapped Parrenas’ string of eight unbeaten fights. His record fell to 24-6-1, with 21 KOs. Inoue, a hard-hitting combination puncher, was clearly in a different class.

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