Back in 2015 fight fans saw Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) put himself on the boxing map as he droped the then WBO Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka, before being stopped himself whilst up on the card in Japan. Today Saludar return to the Land of the Rising Sun and took on Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3, 5) [山中 竜也] for the same title that he had pushed Tanaka so hard for. This time however things were different and it was Saludar taking home the gold after a career defining win over the Japanese slickster.
The fight started quickly from Yamanaka, who looked to make an immediate impact and catch the eyes of the judge's in the opening few moments, After doing that however the bout then slowed to a near standstill for the final minute of the opening round as both fighters stood off each other and looked for opening, but found none. The bout did then move up a level as Yamanaka showed his speed and skills as he countered the challenger and looked like the world champion had schooled Moises Calleros earlier this year. The confidence of the champion grew in round 2 as he engaged in a war on the inside, a war that he seemed to win with body shots and volume. It seemed like a smart game plan from Yamanaka, to get inside and work away on Saludar, who couldn't get the leverage his power needed up close.
Saludar seemed to realise that the inside battle wasn't going to be the best for him and in round 4 started to back off and disengage, forcing Yamanaka to work harder to get inside, and eat some counters on the way in. It was a tactic that worked even better for Saludar in round 5, as he landed some very solid body shots and left Yamanaka looking second best through the full round. It wasn't until round 6 that Yamanaka would manage to get inside again, and the two men spent the final 90 seconds of the round trading blows in round of the fight. It again showed that Yamanaka was the better man up close, with Saludar lacking the power to get Yamanaka's respect.
Unfortunately for Yamanaka he wasn't able to cut the distance particularly well as and when he wanted to, and that showed in round 7 when he was caught by a full blooded Saludar right hand, that send him down. The Japanese fighter recovered to his feet but was still clearly hurt when he got up. Saludar could smell blood and went hunt, chasing Yamanaka, and would twice wrestle him to canvas as Yamanaka survied the round. Although the defending champion had surrived there was still danger and he didn't look like he had recovered as we headed into round 8. The round saw Yamanaka avoid a fight as much as he could. Saludar brought the pressure through the round but could never land a huge shot to see off Yamanaka, who managed to clear his head through the round.
The 9th round saw a recovered Yamanaka try to box with Saludar. It was a tactic that worked at times, with Yamanaka landing several solid right hands, but it left him open to Saludar's power and the challenger landed a very notable right hand, that had it connected the previous round would likely have spelled game over for Yamanaka. It was clear that Yamanaka was behind and in roudn 10 he did what had worked so well for him earlier in the fight, he got inside and worked the body. It was an effective tactic and at one point it did seem like Saludar's legs wobbled. Round 11 followed a similar pattern to the 10th, with Yamanaka getting in close an working, but it ended with Saludar creating some distance late an landing some of the better shots of the round.
Saludar seemed to feel like he was in a comfortable lead and boxed very smartly in round 12. He let Yamanake come to him, whilst he jabbed and moved, landing clean head shots on Yamanaka, who's face ended up half caked in his own blood. It was a brilliant round from Saludar who took next to no risks and took the round through pure skill and ring craft.
Going to the scorecards we felt Saludar had done enough, as did the fighter himself, and the judges agreed, with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112 all in favour of the new champion Vic Saludar.
For the Saludar family this is a great boost and comes just weeks before Vic's brother Froilan Saludar battles Sho Kimura for the WBO Flyweight title. Sadly for Yamanaka it spells the end of his reign after just a single successful defense.
Last year Japanese boxing had some genuinely great stories, such as that of Sho Kimura, who came out of nowhere to claim the WBO Flyweight title by stopping Zou Shiming. Another was 22 year old Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2, 5), who claimed the WBO Minimunweight title with a very hard fought win over Tatsuya Fukuhara to put his name on the map.
Although he won the title last year Yamanaka was still somewhat of an unknown, and lacked the wider attention that many other Japanese world champions were getting. Today however he made a statement, and opened the eyes of many as he dominated the very solid Moises Calleros (28-8-1, 16), and forced the Mexican to retire after round 8.
Yamanaka looked sharp as a tack from the opening round. He was quick, smart and beating Calleros to the punch. Not only was he landing his own shots regularly but he wasn't taking much return fire, with Calleros looking slow, clumsy and awkward.
The success of Yamanaka continued from round 1, to round 2 and then grow round after round. He not only showed he could box and move, as he began to show incredible variation in his work. Standing his ground and countering, slipping shots just outside the pocket, and pressing Calleros who seemed to begin questioning himself very early on.
By round 4 it looked like Yamanaka's only problem's could be that he might slow down, or that he could be caught by a single bit shot. But he looked so relaxed, so calm and so confident that neither of those things looked likely. Instead he seemed to to just build on what he was doing, landing some more telling right hands up top, nasty uppercuts and hurtful body blows. There no answer from Calleros who was looking a like a fighter who simply hadn't got a game plan for Yamanaka or his movement.
Going into round 8 the bout looked a foregone conclusion, but given Calleros' toughness and Yamanaka's relative lack of power it looked like we'd be going the distance. Surprisingly however Yamanaka hurt Calleros, and then went on the hunt, picking the challenger apart with accurate and hard shots. Calleros looked like a spent fighter, out of ideas and out of energy and both fighters knew it. Yamanaka went for the finish but couldn't find it in the ring. It wasn't to matter however as Calleros retired in his corner following the round.
With the win Yamanaka legitimised his reign almost instantly, and whilst he is the newest of the world champions at 105lbs he looks to be the most pure boxer at the top of the division and could be the divisional dark horse given how sensational he looked here.
Earlier todaty fight fans in Kumamoto saw a WBO Minimumweight title fight, though sadly for the fans their local hero Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] was unable to retain the title, as he was out pointed by fellow Japanese fighter Ryuya Yamanaka (15-2, 4) [山中 竜也] in an incredibly competitive bout.
Straight away there was little to separate the two men, with Fukuhara being the more aggressive, and Yamanaka being the better mover, using his legs well to create some space and work at range. Round after round the action was nip and tuck, with neither fighter being able to clearly get contol of the action.
Although the scores weren't publically announced the score cards were 39-37, 38-38 and 37-39 after 4 rounds, showing just how hard it was to split the men, and just how close the bout was in the early stages.
During the middle rounds Yamanaka managed to do enough to take the lead on two of the cards, drawing mistakes from Fukuhara and catching the judges eye with his work, to take a 77-75 lead one two cards, whilst the other had the bout 76-76.
Although it was still a close contest it did just feel like Yamanaka had that little bit extra into the final rounds, and that showed on two of the cards, as he swept rounds 9, 10 and 11, establishing a the lead on all 3 rounds going into the final round. A lead that he refused to give up.
At the final bell it was as if both men felt they could have done enough, but all 3 judges sided with the challenger, scoring the bout 116-112, and 115-113, twice, for Yamanaka.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
World Title Results
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