On Saturday night Vic Saludar (19-4, 10) saw his reign as the WBO Minimumweight champion come to an end, as he was widely out pointed by mandatory challenger Wilfredo Mendez (14-1, 5) in Puerto Rico.
The talented Saludar, who had won and defended the title in Japan, found himself in with a stylistic nightmare as Mendez, a talented though sometimes negative, fighter neutralised him with movement, skills and intelligence.
It was rare for Saludar to have any sustained success, though he did in round 5 when he dropped the Puerto Rican in what was his best round. Sadly though that was never going to be enough and after 12 rounds it was clear he hadn't done enough to retain his title, at least not on foreign soil. Instead the decision went to Mendez, with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
For Mendez this was a huge step up in class, and sees Puerto Rico taking another world title, in fact he becomes the third Puerto Rican to hold the WBO Minimumweight title. Sadly for Saludar the bout ends his reign and also ends talk of a prospective unification bout with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart, which had been mooted in the Thai press in July.
Mendez may have taken the win though we do suspect he now has a target on his back, due to his style and lack of power. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see some notable prospects from the Asia region begin to target Mendez, who is a talented fighter, but a much less dangerous champion than Saludar.
The second major show today saw us turn our attention to the Philippines, where we got a really entertaining main event. The card's headline bout was for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title, as John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19) and Mexican foe Cesar Ramirez (18-4, 11) traded blows in an action packed bout.
Casimero was the big favourite entering the bout. He was always expected to win, though he should a real hunger to win in style. He didn't just want the victory but wanted an eye catching win.
The fight started with a feeling out round but as early as round 3 Casimero was beginning to get significantly more aggressive. It was in round 3 the had scored his first knockdown, which really seemed more of a slip than a legitimate knockdown, and that he first showed that he wanted to take out Ramirez.
Ramirez bounced back excellently in the following round, as he upped his work rate, but had another 10-8 scored against him in round 5. This was another another case of a push being scored a knockdown, though it was clear that Ramirez was taking some punishment, despite giving all he had, and making it clear he wasn't going to just fold.
Ramirez's fire and desire showed again in round 6, as he forced a war and Casimero, for one of the few times, looked like he might be in some trouble. Whatever problems Casimero had were short lived however and he would score a very legitimate knockdown in round 7, nearly sending him out of the ring to secure a third 10-8 round. By now it was clear that Casimero was hunting a KO win, not just a win.
By now almost everything Casimero threw was a bomb, with either the left or right. It was a very energy sapping tactic for Casimero who appeared to get out worked in round 9 and even showed some signs of tiring. It was however a tactic Casimero felt comfortable with and was one he was trying to make a statement with. In round 10 that statement was made with a huge barrage from Casimero who hurt Ramirez with a body shot, the landed a right hand up top sending the Mexican to the canvas again. This time Ramirez was out, and the referee quickly waved off the action.
For Casimero this is his first defense of the WBO interim title, and should set up a shot with WBO regular champion Zolani Tete, in what should be an excellent match up. For Ramirez this was a painful loss. He gave everything and everything wasn't even close to enough, and it's really hard to see him competing at the fringes of world level any time soon. He's a gutsy and brave fighter, but technical limitations will always hold him back.
Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) got one of his toughest tests today as successfully retained the WBO Flyweight title, making his second defense, and over-came Puerto Rican challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1, 13).
Prior to the bout Tanaka really struggle to make weight and showing signs of dehydration at his medical. He has looked unhappy through fight week and rumours had grown that he had really taken a lot out of himself to make Flyweight.
That looked to be the case early on, as the Japanese fighter didn't look his usual sharp, aggressive self. Instead he looked clumsy, almost plodding, as he struggled to keep up with Gonzalez. The Puerto however looked sharp, crisp and like a man who was confident of picking up the upset. Gonzalez fought off the back foot excellently, moving and landing his straight left hand with alarming regularity.
Tanaka managed to have a huge break through in round 3, when he dropped Gonzalez with a huge body shot. To his credit Gonzalez got back to his feet and continued the round, though was perhaps fortunate there was only seconds of the round left. He looked badly hurt and had the shot come 30 seconds earlier the bout could have looked very different.
Tanaka looked to try and build on his knock down in the following round but was dropped himself in round 4, from a Gonzalez left hand behind the ear. It was a balance issue, rather than Tanaka being hurt or buzzed but it essentially wiped out his success from round 3.
Gonzalez would manage to build on his knockdown, using his speed and ring craft to out landing, out move, out speed and out box this lethargic looking Tanaka. Tanaka was being caught regularly by Gonzalez's flurry's and looked incredibly conservative with his output. Not the Tanaka we'd seen recently. Whilst a lot of that could be put down to Gonzalez's skills, and movement there was a lack of crispness to Tanaka's work as he followed Gonzalez around the ring, looking to land single big shots, and was being out worked as a result.
Thankfully in round 7 Tanaka finally moved through the gears, chose to let his hands go. The flurry's we all loved from Tanaka were finally on show, and they were having success, especially the body shots. One thrown early in the round hurt Gonzalez and a follow up dropped him. From then on Tanaka could smell blood, dropping Gonzalez twice more in the round. Every time Gonzalez got up ready to continue, but he had done little to show there was anything left in the tank and the referee wisely chose to stop the fight, rather than let it continue on.
For Gonzalez this was a great chance to show how good he was, and he looked excellent at times, though it also showed his flaws. His lack of power and lack of durability, two issues that have been brought up in the past, were again apparent here. He can come again, but those issues will always be issues, and won't be things he can easily change. We do however wonder whether or not he could make 108lbs.
As for Tanaka the bout, or rather the performance, surely spells the end of his time at Flyweight. A move to the talent laden Super Flyweight division would have him in with more recognisable names, and an all Japanese super fight with Kazuto Ioka is one he has mentioned in the past.
Sadly Tanaka has had these hot and cold performances in the past, and this was similar, in some ways, to his performances against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. Like both of those bouts he was dropped and pushed hard. Notably after both of those bouts he also moved up in weight, citing issues making the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight limits respectively.
Unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] may well be feeling rather fortune right now, following his latest world title defense. A defense that very nearly saw him coming undone to unheralded Filipino challenger ArAr Andales (10-1, 2) in a bout that was much more exciting than many would have anticipated. Not only was it a fun fight to watch, but it was also another that showed just how limited the unbeaten world champion really is.
From the opening round it was clear Andales had no real respect for Knockout, and was entering as the scared little teenager that many anticipated. Instead he entered the bout as the unbeaten challenger, hungry to become champion. Knockout, to his credit, tried to Andales into his shell early on, and seemed to be landing the bigger punches in the early going, with Andales' shots literally bouncing off the champion.
After just a few rounds however Knockout changed tactics.Rather than engaging in a fight with the hungry and energetic Andales he began to revert to type, and spoil the fight. That's something we've seen a lot from Knockout in recent fights and something he really relied on when it was clear Andales wasn't going to be discouraged by his power. Instead of being fought off it was often Andales pressing the action, making a fight of things and letting his hands go whilst Knockout held and tried to stifle the challenger.
The spoiling of Knockout wasn't incessant, but it was enough to give the feeling that he was feeling the heat, much more so than the challenger, who was really stepping up to the occasion.
In round 7 it was clear that Knockout was being given a much sterner test than he or his team had anticipated. Andales lacked the power to hurt him with a single shot, but was landing a lot clean and was really in his face. A minor headclash part way through the round saw both men being told to keep their heads apart as they fought at close range. Only a few moments later Knockout was bleeding from his right eye. It didn't appear to be from the headclash, but it clearly bothered the champion, who stepped up his spoiling tactics. The following round Knockout's left eye would be opened up as well. This was worse than the cut to the right eye and seemed to come from a punch, during a really ugly, mauling sequence.
This cut led referee to take the champion to the doctor, who waved the bout off. Despite no clear headclash causing the cut we were taken to the score cards for a technical decision. Sadly for Andales this was never going to go his way and all 3 judges scored the bout to the local fighter, including one judge gave Andales just a single round and made it clear that he wasn't paying attention to the in ring action.
The official cards were 77-75, 78-74 and 79-73, all in favour of Knockout, who really was fortunate to keep his title here.
Although a very talented fighter this is the 4th straight under-whelming performance from the Thai, who showed a real lack of fire when put under some pressure. As for Andales this might be his first loss, but the teenager appears to be a future world champion in the making and we really hope this loss doesn't discourage him from the sport, as he is a real talent.
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.