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 first world title fight on Japanese soil in 2019 took place earlier today at the Korakuen Hall as the WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) faced off against Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆]. As expected the fight was a hotly contested and fierce one, with both men landing big shots through out, despite being well contested, it ended in a rather clear win for Saludar who seemed to have that extra experience and know how.
Reports from ringside stated that both men looked to land their back hand early on, with Saludar looking to land right hands and Taniguchi looking for left hands. It was Saludar who seemed to get better of those early exchanges before he managed to create distance began to fight well at mid-range, something that Taniguchi couldn't match him at. Fighting at range and grabbing the bout by the neck was smart, given the huge reach advantage that Saludar had.
Taniguchi began to cut the distance in round 5 and had notable success in the middle rounds, clearly taking round 7 and seemingly doing enough to take round 8 as well.
Whilst Taniguchi had been turning the momentum in his favour his sustained success were short lived and it wasn't long until Saludar would take control again, taking the final rounds as his more proven stamina, and ring craft proving to be the difference.
By the end of the bout that no real doubt over who had won, with Japanese fans ringside all suggesting their man hadn't done enough, and that proved to be the case with the judges scoring the bout to Saludar with scores of 118-110, 117-111, twice.
The win sees Saludar scoring his first defense, and building on his great win from last year over Ryuya Yamanaka. For Taniguchi however this is a third loss, a third decision loss, and he really will need to work incredibly hard to earn another world title fight following this defeat.
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.
As we all know 2015 is coming to an end, however to end the year boxing fans get 5 world title fights in Japan. The first of those happened earlier today in Aichi where fans saw a WBO Minimumweight thriller between Kosei Tanaka (6-0, 3) and Vic Saludar (11-2, 9).
The fight started fast with Tanaka looking the more polished, faster and intelligent fighter, however Saludar took the shots well, mostly on the guard, and looked like the sort of strong and tough fighter who was going to take a lot to stop. He also looked very dangerous every time he let his hands go, though did struggle to land much of note. It was a round where Tanaka's movement and speed were his key weapons.
The challenger may not have shined in round 1, but he did in round 2 as he gave Tanaka absolute hell. Tanaka gave away his advantages in footspeed and decided to trade on the inside which was a foolish game plan giving Saludar a chance to use his strength and power up close and prove that he wasn't there to just make up the numbers, he was instead there to become a world champion. The success of the challenger continued in round 3 where he finished the stronger man and left Tanaka with a bloodied nose and left fans wondering why Tanaka was continuing to to brawl with a brawler.
The in fighting continued in round 4, a pretty even and exciting round, and again in round 5, a round in which Saludar's power finally told as he dropped Tanaka with an very solid right hand. It was the first knockdown of Tanaka's career and came from as much from his wrecklessness as it did from Saludar's power, as he left himself wide open. Whilst Tanaka was to blame for the knockdown he was up quickly, at the count of 5, and showed his survival skills to see out the round.
By the following round it seemed like Tanaka had recovered his senses, but not his pure boxing, and instead of boxing and moving he continued to apply the pressure and force a fight on the inside. Although, still, fighting the wrong type of fight he did quickly find a home for his left hand into the body of Saludar. The Filipino continued to fight back, but was, eventually, caught by a peach that dropped the Filipino for the count.
It's fair to say that Saludar was over-looked by Tanaka, who was seemingly looking beyond him, towards a move to Light Flyweight. It was however a mistake to do so and it almost cost him, whilst also showing up the champion as a fighter who still has real maturing to do. He needs to get back to what he's good at, which is out boxing, being speedy and not brawling. In fairness to Saludar however, there is a good chance he will have a title reign in the future.
(Image courtesy of Nikkan Sports)
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.