By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Froilan Saludar (31-3,22KO’s) will return to Japan to defend his WBO Asia Pacific junior bantamweight title against Japanese Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4,11KO’s) on February 14. Saludar won the vacant title last September by eighth round TKO against another Japanese, Tsubasa Murachi at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. His defense against Fukunaga will be at the same venue.
Trainer Jojo Palacios told this writer in a short chat that Saludar is now at 90 percent in terms of reaching his peak form for the bout.
“He is now at 118 lbs, so there will be no problem making 115 lbs for the fight,” Palacios stated, “He went through 120 rounds in sparring against Aston Palicte,Raymond Tabugon, Jayson Mama, Glen Porras and Dave Apolinario.”
Team Saludar will leave for Manila on February 10 then fly to Japan the next day.
“If he was in this kind of shape in the Kimura fight, he would have won the world title.” Palacios declared.
During the early part of his career, the 30 year old Saludar was considered one of the bright prospects here in the Philippines. But, he came up short in big fights: In 2014, he was stopped in two rounds by Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo in an IBF title eliminator and in 2018, he was stopped in six rounds by then WBO world flyweight champ Sho Kimura of Japan.
The win against Murachi gave Saludar’s career a new lease on life. Murachi entered the fight a 4-0,3KO’s record and figured to make Saludar a stepping stone to fast track his career. But Saludar had other plans.
It would be interesting to see if Saludar can make the most of this career rejuvenation. His brother, Vic Saludar already won and lost the WBO world mini-flyweight title and is also on the comeback trail.
Fukunaga is a southpaw who has gone 1W-2L in his last three fights. He lost in his first attempt a regional belt,the OPBF Silver super flyweight title, by unanimous decision in Thailand to Jakkrawut Majoogoen.
Photo - Froilan Saludar
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
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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