To close the month of February in the Philippines we got a rare All-Filipino world title bout as the defending IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran (14-3-1, 11) clashed with the unheralded Rene Mark Cuarto (19-2-2, 11). The bout was an interesting one going in, with Taduran having a reputation for his heavy hands and pressure and Cuarto being a talented boxer, but a man taking a big step up in class.
Early on it was the boxing of Cuarto that was the key, with the challenger boxing really well on the back foot. Cuarto seemed fully aware that having a firefight with Taduran in the middle of the ring wasn't going to be a good idea, and instead moved, boxed, and picked his spots, landing some brilliant uppercuts as Taduran came in. It was the boxing, counter punching and movement of Cuarto that allowed him to control the pressure of Taduran, and the clean, crisp, combinations that Cuarto landed allowed him to catch the eye and rack up the rounds.
From the early part of the fight it was round 3 that really got the blood flowing, with Taduran being tagged hard by a Cuarto counter in a thrilling exchange, Cuarto pressed forward himself at one point during the round, before Taduran tried to finish with a strong rally. It was a brilliant round but it was another that showed the obvious skill level of Cuarto, which was higher than that of Taduran.
After 6 rounds it seemed the challenger was comfortably in the lead, but that was only half the task and Taduran wasn't in the ring to hand over his title, or to change tactics, as he kept coming forward. No matter what Cuarto landed Taduran came on, and came on. And had limited success until round 7, when he shook Cuarto to his knees. The challenger was suddenly in trouble, and was clearly hurt for almost a minute of the round, before regrouping, surviving what was left of the round and seeing his way to his corner. He was hurt again in round 8 as Taduran's pressure began to find more and more cracks in Cuarto's resistance.
To his credit Cuarto didn't panic, he didn't worry and he didn't seem to doubt himself. Instead he began to spoil, create distance and try to kill the momentum that Taduran was building. He knew he had to survive, and that's what he was doing, despite being rocked again at the end of round 9. He knew he was in the lead, he knew he only needed to win one of the late rounds and he knew that this was his bout to lose.
Sadly round 10 saw the stream fall apart, though when we were back in round 11 we saw an exciting round, as Taduran continued to try and march forward, hunting a stoppage and Cuarto turned into a seasoned veteran, trying to old man Taduran. He was walking around the ring, landing single shots and getting on his toes. It wasn't the most appealing style at times from Cuarto, but it was exactly what he needed.
Cuarto's toughness and determination saw him surviving round 12 as well, despite looking tired at times and being rocked, again. It was clear he could be hurt, but he was not going to be stopped. Not today, this was his day.
After 12 rounds we went to the scorecards, and it was clearly a close fight, with Cuarto dominating the early rounds with his clean boxing, good movement, and accurate punching, then Taduran coming on strong in the second half. The scorecards reflected the close nature of the bout, with all 3 judges turning in identical 115-113 scorecards. Unfortunately for Taduran they didn't side with him, instead going with Cuarto who's early success saw him do enough to take the title and become the new IBF Minimumweight champion.
Sadly for Taduran this ends a reign that started with a lot promise, following a sensational win over Samuel Salva, though never really got going, due in part to Covid19. As for Cuarto this is a career defining win, and he looked much, much better than the man who lost to the aforementioned Salva in early 2019.
Earlier today we got the latest "All-Filipino world title" fight as former WBO champion Vic Saludar (21-4, 11) clashed with the countryman Robert Paradero (18-1, 12) in a bout for the WBA "regular" Minimumweight title.
Although the bout was for a "secondary" title, and not for the main WBA belt, it was still a highly anticipated one with the contest being a chance to see what Saludar had left following a couple of disappointing recent performances and seeing what the completely untested Paradero had to offer the sport.
The early going saw an energetic but wild Paradero fighting aggressively but leaving himself open. He showed no fear of his more well established opponent, but also looked a bit like a man who had a lot of nervous energy to burn, and was firing off some very wild and crude shots. He was struggling to land clean, though at times Saludar failing to really punish him. The veteran managed to land some counters, but seemed to leave a lot of opportunities on the table in what was a conservative performance early on.
The main drama in the early rounds wasn't a shot from either man, but a headclash in round 2. It was, however, a minor drama with Paradero suffering a very small cut outside of his right eye. A cut that played absolutely no factor in the rest of the fight.
The conservative but smart approach from Saludar saw him having solid success in round 4 before hurting Paradero in round 5. To his credit Paradero got on his toes and saw out the round, despite being hurt. He then seemed to settle down well and through many of the middle rounds Paradero's crude, wild approach was tempered significantly, though this allowed the more slow, cerebral counter punching of Saludar to catch the eye more often. It was a stark change in tempo through the back end of the fight from Paradero who struggled to really show the same hunger.
Despite slowing down Paradero managed to have some really nice moments, particularly in the second half of round 9 where he boxed smartly, used his feet, and prevented Saludar from countering too much. Whilst he was having success we dare say that the change from Paradero told the judges that he was the one struggling, and needing to adapt, rather than making changes to suit himself. Potentially giving the impression that Saludar was having more success than he really was. It also allowed Saludar to come forward a lot, even if he wasn't really letting his hands go, again making it look like he was the one bossing the fight, even when he seemed to be following Paradero around the ring at times.
Going in to the final round it felt close, ad the commentary were suggesting that it was all to play for in round 12. Paradero started the round as if he knew it was close, landing a huge right hand, but then seemed to let things off the boil, show boating, looking over-confident, and really not doing a lot. He was caught in the round by a counter, that may well have stolen the round for Saludar.
After 12 rounds we went to the score cards and they were read out. 115-113, Saludar, 118-110, Paradero and then 116-112. The pause waiting for the winner saw Paradero yell in celebration, before the "Saludar" was read out, giving the veteran the split decision win.
The commentary had the bout even at 114-114.
If we're being honest we had this narrowly for Paradero. We preferred his energy and speed, though he was caught by a number of solid counter shots from Saludar and the difference in experience showed, a lot. He lacked a jab at times and his straight right hand wasn't accurate enough to get to the veteran.
For us Saludar simply didn't work enough at times, he was too conservative at times and as we said, he followed Paradero too much. In all honesty he looked old at times, and has certainly seen better days. He did however land the better single shots, his counters were good and he often sold the impression that he was the boss by pressing forward.
As for Paradero, there's a good fighter there, but someone who is clearly a work in progress and needs a lot of work if he's going to be a top, top divisional fighter.
For Saludar we suspect the plan is to move towards a bout with WBA "super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart. On this performance he wouldn't beat the undefeated Thai. As for Paradero the OPBF title or the WBO Asia Pacific title should be the focus for him over the next year or two as he looks to build on his experience. His inexperience was an issue and something that can be worked on over the coming years before he gets another bout at this level.
On Friday night Joseph "Jojo" Diaz (31-1-1, 15) became the former IBF Super Featherweight champion , losing the title on the scales ahead of a mandatory defense against unbeaten Russian based Tajik fighterShavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12). As well as losing the title Diaz lost 20% of his purse for missing, which he did by more than 3lbs.
Despite Diaz missing weight the bout went on, with Rakhimov able to win the IBF title if he won the bout and the bout remaining vacant with any other result.
Regardless of the pre-fight hiccup on the scales, the bout looked like a fantastic one on paper, between two men liked to let their shots fly and had different styles, but busy styles.
In the opening round it was Diaz who seemed to settle quickly, whilst Rakhimov looked really tense, and the tension of Rakhimov showed through the first 2 rounds before he began to relax. When that happened the Tajik began to really find his groove, and from round 3 his activity seemed to catch the eye time and time again. Prior to that happening however he was tagged by some left hands from Diaz who seemed to try and set a high pace and get his nose in front.
What the Tajik was doing was letting 3 and 4 punch combinations go, then getting out of range, resetting, and doing the same. He was mixing up his hooks, uppercuts and straight shot, and although many shots were landing on the gloves of Diaz he was essentially handcuffing the former champion, out working him, and did enough to leave blood trickling from the former champion's nose.
From rounds 3 to 9 it seemed like Rakhimov was racking up the rounds, and he even managed to shake Diaz twice, as his power showed. Sadly though Rakhimov was doing a lot, and not getting as much success as he'd wanted. He was landing to head, and body, but rarely having sustained success and was visibly slowing by round 9, though Diaz wasn't making him pay.
Sadly for Rakhimov his high work rate in the middle portion of the bout did take a major toll as the went into the later stages, and from round 10 Diaz began to surge. He was forcing Rakhimov back and Rakhimov's own combinations were becoming less and less frequent. In fact if anything it was the clean punches of Diaz that were now catching the eye as the pace slowed. That allowed the American back in to the bout and really closed the gap on the scorecards.
Despite both men being wobbled through the bout, and a solid number of shots being landed by both men, the bout went the 12 rounds, and we got the scores.
The first was 115-113 to Diaz, a score that was within the realms of reasonability. That judge was however over-ruled by two scores of 114-114, resulting in a majority draw.
As a result of the draw the title remains vacant, and we can't help but think that Rakhimov will be kicking himself. He seemed well on the way to winning, but his gas tank ran low and he couldn't keep up his success in the later stages. Regardless we expect to see Rakhimov get another world title shot sooner rather than later.
As for Diaz, he'll be gutted he lost his title on the scales, and we do genuinely, wonder what division he'll be competing at going forward, whether he takes his career seriously and moved back to 130lbs or leaves the division to join the ranks at Lightweight.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.