By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
A year ago, Froilan Saludar looked like a world champion in the first two rounds against Sho Kimura. It seemed the WBO world flyweight title would change hands in Qingdao, China. But the Japanese unleashed a hellish body attack and Saludar eventually crumbled in the sixth.
His cornermen talked about his difficulty making weight and it was eventually decided he would move up. Saludar fought away from the eyes of the media and had wins against Filipino journeymen Donny Mabao and Jonathan Francisco.
The 30 year old from Polomolok, South Cotabato was once one of the promising prospects in the Philippines. But losses to Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo in 2014, Japanese Takuma Inoue in 2016 and in his world title fight to the then champion Kimura made fans wonder if he could perform to expectations in big fights.
Questions swirled going into his fight against Tsubasa Murachi in Tokyo. Was Murachi, who had only four pro fights, going to use him as a stepping stone?
Saludar was now fighting at 115 lbs; was this the right weight division for him?
The 22 year old Japanese prospect started strong, dropping Saludar in the opening round with a sharp counter. But in the second and third, Saludar started to control the fight with his sharp jab and quick combos.
In the fourth, a left hook out of nowhere sent Murachi down. Saludar’s right hand began to find the target. In the fifth and sixth rounds, Murachi pressed the action but Saludar slowly but surely began to pick him apart. Saludar visibly grew in confidence.
A flurry of punches sent Murachi down again near the end of the seventh round. In the eighth, Murachi was sent down again and the referee correctly signaled the end. He was attended to by medical personnel inside the ring and carried out on stretcher.
Saludar thanked his supporters in a video message posted on social media. His trainer Jojo Palacios, had a short chat with this writer after the win.
“Experience and hard work were the keys to victory.” Palacios stated, “His opponent is good. If Froilan was not in good condition, he would have lost. But he trained well for this fight and recovered from the early knockdown.”
Saludar is now 31-3-1,22KO’s. Murachi drops to 4-1,3KO’s.
This win for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific junior bantamweight title will secure a higher world ranking for Saludar, who was ranked number 12 by the WBO prior to this win.
Photo - Froilan Saludar thanking supporters on a video posted on social media after the fight against Tsubasa Murachi.
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