Ususually in this series we get to look about legends of yore, putting on some thrillers. It's with that in mind that fighters like Yong Soo Choi, Takanori Hatakeyama, Lakva Sim, Myung Woo Yuh and Naoto Takahashi turn up so many times in this series. Thankfully we still have some great exciting action hero's in the sport, with the mentality of making sure fans are entertained. Today we look at a cracking bout from 2015 which featured a couple of typically entertaining fighters, in what was one of the final bouts of the year.
Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) Vs Vic Saludar (11-1, 9)
In one corner we hard WBO Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka, who had won the title 7 months earlier, when he had beaten Julian Yedras to take the previously vacant title. Tanaka, who was being managed by former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka, had raced to a world title in just his 5th bout, and had been regarded as a fighter on a similar career trajectory to Naoya Inoue. Despite having on only been a professional for 2 years he had gained a reputation as a special talent, and his 2014 clash with Ryuji Hara had been a sensationally high speed bout between two incredible hugely skilled youngsters. At the age of 20 he was being tipped for big things, but was seen as being a flawed genius, even at this stage of his career.
In his first defense of the title Tanaka took on Filipino puncher Vic Saludar. Saludar had suffered an early career loss, following a hand fracture against Powell Balaba, but hand bounced back from that loss and taken the WBA Asia Pacific title in September 2015. Whilst he was known as a big puncher he had also been a very solid amateur fighter and had competed on the international scene a number of times. At the age of 25 he was a full fledged man and had been tipped by those in the Philippines to be a future world champion. On paper he was stepping up as a professional here, in his first world title bout and his first pro bout outside of the Phillipines, but he was regarded as a very live under-dog, with dangerous power, especially early on. In his 12 bouts up to this point he had stopped 6 in the opening round, and all 9 of his stoppages, up to this point, had come in the first 4 rounds.
Despite entering the bout as the under-dog Saludar didn't look like a man who was worried about Tanaka's reputation and speed. Instead he pressed forward, though did so in a technically smart way, pecking away at Tanaka with jabs through the first round and applying smart pressure. For those who were thinking he was just a puncher he was proving otherwise, and was relying on his boxing fundamentals whilst finding holes in Tanaka's defense. Tanaka tried to use his speed and jab to box on the outside by the smart offensive work and patience of Saludar easily took him the first round.
We had seen Tanaka under pressure from Hara, and Yedras, and assumed he could turn it around. Here however Saludar's physical strength and pressure was making it trickier and trickier for Tanaka to settle. Instead the Japanese wonder kid was being made to look like an ordinary fighter by Saludar who pursued him, hammering him with heavy single shots, and some eye catching combinations. As we moved through the second round it clearly made the fans in Nagoya worry about their new star being exposed, and he looked to have no real answer for the pressure and strength of Saludar.
From there things got worse for the youngster, who moved to plan B. Rather than trying to stay on the outside and use his feet he tried pushing Saludar back, and walked into some big shots from the Filipino challenger, who seemed to hurt Tanaka in round 3.
With Plan A and Plan B both failing for Tanaka things went from bad to worse, with Tanaka being dropped in round 5, from a right hand by Saludar who went for the finish. We leave you here to enjoy the fight, with Saludar looking like he was about claim the WBO Minimumweight title and crush the "KO Dream Boy".
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features