Saludar in risky Puerto Rico defense
By Joaquin Henson
Sun, 04 Aug 2019
WBO minimumweight champion Vic Saludar of Cotabato del Sur stakes his crown against mandatory challenger Wilfredo (Bimbito) Mendez in the Ballroom of the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan on Aug. 24 with the daunting task of overcoming the homecourt disadvantage in his second title defense.
Saludar, 28, is one of four reigning Filipino world champions with super WBA welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao, super WBA bantamweight beltholder Nonito Donaire, Jr. and IBF superflyweight ruler Jerwin Ancajas the others. He took the WBO 105-pound title on a unanimous 12-round decision over Ryuya Yamanaka in Kobe last July and turned back Masataka Taniguchi in his first defense in Tokyo last February. Saludar?s record is 19-3, with 10 KOs. His losses were to Powell Balaba via retirement in Cagayan de Oro in 2013, Kosei Tanaka on a sixth round stoppage in Nagoya in 2015 and Toto Landero on a split 10-round decision in Mandaue in 2017.
Mendez, 22, is the new ?nino bonito? of Puerto Rico where the WBO is based. He rose to the No. 1 position despite a low quality of opposition with nine of his 13 victories coming against fighters with more losses than wins. A victim Ramon Cedano was beaten twice by Mendez, once when his record was 2-38 and a second time when it was 2-41. Another victim Yenrry Bermudez had a record of 7-25-2 when he lost an eight-round decision to Mendez last year. A southpaw, Mendez has a 13-1 record, with 5 KOs. His only loss was a decision to Leyman Benavides in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he has fought in eight bouts.
?We?re very optimistic of this defense because of Vic?s experience and skill level,? said Saludar?s manager Kenneth Rontal. ?However, our concern is Mendez? hometown advantage. We?ve already requested the WBO president (Paco Valcarcel) to provide a neutral referee and neutral judges.?
Saludar is deep in training with coach Jojo Palacios and chief sparmate Dave Apolinario in General Santos City. His team will leave for San Juan on Aug. 19. Apolinario, 20, is a 5-5 lefthander like Mendez and has a record of 11-0, with 6 KOs. Palacios has trained Saludar in his last five fights which he swept.
Making weight is no problem for Saludar. ?Vic is comfortable at 105,? said Rontal. ?He has no difficulty getting the weight so we are in good condition. Vic is happy in training camp every time we do it in General Santos so he?s doing well. We don?t really like to make presumptions on percentage chances of winning. But we?re positive on the outcome.?
The fight will be broadcast live on Wapa Deportes and is the first boxing event in the Ballroom of the Puerto Rico Convention Center. PR Best Boxing Promotions president Ivan Rivera said it will be an edition of the Casino Metro Boxing Nights series. ?We have worked hard to bring this fight to Puerto Rico and we managed to do it here,? said Raul Pastrana, president of Spartan Boxing which represents Mendez. ?We are confident that Bimbito can become a world champion and fill the emptiness of champions we have at the moment.?
Through the years, Puerto Rico has produced several world champions, including Carlos Ortiz, Wilfred Benitez, McJoe Arroyo, Danny Garcia, Miguel Cotto, Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Vazquez, Hector Camacho, Wilfredo Gomez and Jose Torres but there is no reigning Puerto Rican world titlist today.
Photo: WBO minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (right) lands a right flush on challenger Masataka Taniguchi?s face in his first title defense in Tokyo last February.
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