By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Froilan “The Sniper” Saludar (31-3-1,22KO’s) is bracing for the first defense of his WBO Asia Pacific junior bantamweight title against heavy handed Japanese Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4,11KO’s).
Asianboxing first broke this story last December and a recent feature on the poster section shows the pair headlining the Kadoebi Gym’s “Slugfest 13” card on February 14.
This writer had a short chat with Jojo Palacios, who trains Saludar and asked about their preparations.
“Froilan’s training is going well, he has been in the gym starting December,” Palacios stated, “I have seen a video of his opponent. We are preparing for a puncher. Froilan has sparred with a featherweight, Pitt Laurente.”
Criztian Pitt Laurente (4-0,3KO’s) is a rising boxing prospect in the Philippines. In 2016, he was chosen as the best junior amateur boxer in Asia. The high point of his amateur career was a bronze medal at the 2018 AIBA World Youth Championships.
“I am in Manila awaiting our visas for Japan,” Palacios added, “Once we get them, we can fully concentrate on our training. The fight will be held in Tokyo and we will leave February 11.”
The 30 year old Saludar was born in Polomolok, South Cotabato in the Philippines. In 2018, he was on the verge of making history with his brother Vic Saludar(20-4,11KO’s). Vic dethroned Ryuya Yamanaka for the WBO miniflyweight title two weeks before Froilan was set to face then WBO flyweight champion Sho Kimura.
They could have been the only Filipino siblings to hold world titles simultaneously; brothers Dodie Boy and Gerry Peñalosa won world titles in different decades. But fate had other plans. Froilan was impressive in the first two rounds only to weaken under Kimura’s body attack. Froilan was knocked down once in the fifth and twice in the sixth before the referee signaled the end.
This was Saludar’s second loss on a big stage. In 2014, he was stopped in two rounds by Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo in Bayamon in an IBF title eliminator.
With his career in dire straits, Froilan Saludar moved up in weight and beat Filipino journeymen Donnie Mabao and Jonathan Francisco away from the spotlight. Then he got a shot at the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title against Tsubasa Murachi last September. It seemed Saludar was going to be used as a stepping stone for the young Japanese prospect who at that time sported a 4-0,3KO’s record.
But Saludar survived a first round knockdown to drop Murachi three times in rounds four, seven and eight. The Japanese was attended to by the medical staff at ringside after the fight was stopped in the eighth round. Saludar celebrated, knowing his career was revitalized.
The 33 year old Fukunaga is a southpaw who has gone 1W-2L in his last three fights which included a unanimous decision defeat in an OPBF Silver super flyweight title bout in Thailand to Jakkrawut Majoogoen (30-1,16KO’s).
Saludar’s world ranking will also be at stake as he is currently number nine among the 115 lb. division contenders of the WBO.
File photo – Froilan Saludar
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