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
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