By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Sumio Yamada
Filipino challenger Vic Saludar (18-3, 10 KOs), 104.75, wrested the WBO 105-pound belt as he dropped defending champ Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3, 5 KOs), 105, Japan, with a vicious right to the face in the seventh and won a unanimous decision over twelve hard-fought rounds on Friday in Kobe, Japan. Carlos Ortiz Jr. (US) tallied 116-111, Daniel Sandoval (US) saw it 115-112, and Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand) saw it 117-110, all for the newly crowned Saludar. The third man was Raul Caiz Jr. (US). Some 2,200 fans were in attendance at the Kobe Central Gymnasium.
We analyze a couple of reasons in Yamanaka’s forfeiture of his belt: (1) Ryuya fought on a wrong strategy as he, a typical speedster based on his footwork and jabbing, mixed it up to aim at Saludar’s weakness in the midsection and he might have to outbox and outleg the hard-punching Filipino more, and (2) he wasn’t as sharp and speedy as he had demonstrated a good form in halting highly regarded Moises Calleros after the eighth round of his initial defense this March.
Vic, one of five Saludar fighting brothers, previously had a shot at the WBO 105-pound belt against Kosei Tanaka, shockingly floored the champ with a solid right and was ahead on points before he abruptly succumbed with Tanaka’s single body shot on New Year Eve in 2015. Saludar was regarded as a dangerous challenger with the fragile breadbasket. It might be logical that Yamanaka attempted to hurt Saludar with persistent body shots, but he seemingly failed to utilize his foot and left hand more frequently.
Yamanaka, who captured the WBO throne by upsetting compatriot champ Tatsuya Fukuhara by a unanimous nod last August, started cautiously to feel out the challenger’s fight plan with Vic throwing a little more opening blows to win a point in the first session. The champ, however, was in command with his aggressiveness in round two.
The Filipino also fought carefully against the Japanese’ quick hand, but dominated the third through fifth sessions with sharp shots, most of which, however, were averted by the champ’s high guard and good blocking. The sixth saw Yamanaka turn loose with body bombardments to Saludar, who cleverly tried to avert his attack downstairs by repeatedly grabbing him with some warnings by the referee. It’s Ryuya’s round.
A climax happened in the closing seconds of the seventh canto, when Saludar impressively connected with a well-timed right to the face, decking the champ with a thud. It’s such a beautiful shot that Yamanaka, temporarily flat on the back, appeared hard to regain his feet and resume fighting. But the champ barely stood up and made good use of his footwork to avert Vic’s follow-up.
Yamanaka, in the eighth, kept circling all the way without positively throwing punches in order to regain his reflexes and damage from the previous visit to the deck. His dancing was successful, but Vic easily gained another point in addition to the 10-8 score in the seventh.
In three rounds from the ninth, Vic tried to be aggressive, throwing solid blows regardless of precision, while Yamanaka attempted to win back points with solid but occasional rights to the challenger’s face. They were difficult rounds to score as seen in the judges’ divided tallies, but Yamanaka’s attack wasn’t enough to overcome his deficits on points—especially by a sole knockdown up to then.
Yamanaka unfortunately suffered a gash over the right eyebrow caused by an accidental butt in the tenth, and another around the right eyelid also by a butt in the next session. The blood became a nuisance for Yamanaka to attempt a last surge or, if possible, a come-from-behind knockout since his face became a bloody mess and his vision was evidently deteriorated without doubt.
Saludar, in the last session, very cleverly fought since he expected the champ’s final attack and kept on counterpunching with stinging lefts and sharp rights to Ryuya’s bloodied face.
The verdict was unanimous even to the eyes of Yamanaka’s adherents. The newly crowned Vic jubilantly said, “I could win as I dropped him with a well-prepared right hand and remained aggressive thereafter. I may come back to accept a rematch with him.”
The crestfallen loser gloomily said, “In the sixth my legs were a little paralyzed probably due to a severe reduction of weight close to the fight. Sorry not to be able to respond to local people’s expectations, but I’ll make a comeback.
Some people may wonder why they booked such a formidable challenger as Vic Saludar, a hard-punching and hot-hearted Filipino. Since Yamanaka recently had improved his speed and skills through winning the WBO belt from Fukuhara and defending it against Calleros, his party might attempt to show a clearer victory over Saludar than two-class champ Kosei Tanaka and raise Yamanaka’s reputation. That might be logical that our world champ wishes to display a remarkable achievement and stand out among many world titleholders here in Japan. The Yamanaka-Saludar was a good matchup, but the champ’s ambition to show his real power by defeating the strong challenger eventually resulted in a forfeiture of his belt.
We may see Saludar fight again here in the near future against Yamanaka in a rematch or another ambitious youngster, and Vic will be a crowd-pleaser as shown this time.
Promoter: Shinsei Promotions.
WBO Supervisor: Leon Panoncillo (US).