By Rene Bonsubre Jr – The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has been cruel to Philippine boxing. Since the middle of March last year the entire archipelago has gone through various levels of quarantine restrictions. This lead to the cancellation of boxing promotions and all sports activities throughout the country.
Local boxing returned to the Philippines last October. However, it was only allowed in cities where the spread of the coronavirus was considered relatively under control. The majority of Filipino boxers had to endure months if not a year of inactivity.
But things are slowly getting back to normal. Two world title fights on home soil scheduled this month is a sign of hope. On February 20, former WBO world champion Vic Saludar (20-4,11KO’s) will face unbeaten Robert Paradero (18-0,12KO’s) for the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) minimumweight title in Biñan,Laguna. Then on February 27, IBF minimumweight world champion Pedro Taduran (14-2-1,11KO’s) will defend his belt against Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2,11KO’s) in General Santos City.
World title matches involving two Filipino boxers are indeed rare even if three have occurred in recent years. This time, because of travel restrictions, they are a welcome development.
In 1925, the legendary Pancho Villa beat Clever Sencio by 15 round unanimous decision to retain the world flyweight crown in Wallace Field in Manila. In 2019, Taduran stopped Samuel Salva in four rounds in Taguig City for the vacant IBF world minimumweight title. In between, two other all-Filipino world title fights were held in the United States in 2018 – Jerwin Ancajas WUD12 Jonas Sultan (IBF jr.bantamweight title) and Donnie Nietes D12 Aston Palicte (vacant WBO jr.bantamweight title).
Having two world title fights hosted by the Philippine in the midst of a global health crisis is indeed historic.
The 30 year old Saludar, who resides in Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao, is already on his fifth day in the hotel bubble with trainer Jojo Palacios.
Palacios told this writer that their training went well and Saludar is just a pound over the contracted weight of 105 lbs. He is confident Saludar’s championship experience will pull him through.
The 25 year old Paradero, on the other hand, told this writer in a short chat that he is confident he can overcome the experience gap and beat Saludar. Paradero is also isolating in a gym. He has been inactive for almost 22 months due to the covid lockdown.
Paradero’s last bout was on April 2019, a first round stoppage of Jonathan Almacen. Saludar has the shorter lay-off at 14 months.
Saludar took the WBO 105 lb division title in Kobe,Japan last July 13, 2018 against Ryuya Yamanaka by unanimous decision. He beat another Japanese Masataka Taniguchi also by unanimous decision at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo in his first defense. He then lost his title to Puerto Rican Wilfedo Mendez by unanimous verdict in San Juan,Puerto Rico.
The 24 year old Taduran travelled hours ago with his team from the island of Luzon to Mindanao and will undergo routine quarantine and covid-19 procedures. They were however in high spirits and manager Art Monis told this writer in a short chat that their training camp went extremely well.
This will be the second defense for Taduran. In February of last year, he had a four round technical draw against Mexican challenger Daniel Valladares in Guadalupe,Mexico. This was also unfortunately Taduran’s last ring appearance before the covid lockdown started.
The challenger, IBF number 8 ranked Cuarto hasn’t fought for 14 months. With the champion idle for a year, it will be interesting to see who is in better condition on fight night. Cuarto ,also 24 years old, actually lost to Salva – the man Taduran beat for the title- in an IBF ranking eliminator last March 2019. This will be his first world title shot. In his last fight, he beat Jayson Francisco by fifth round TKO.