After 20 hours in transit, Vic Saludar finally arrived in Puerto Rico from the Philippines. He was ready to stretch his legs out and move around, but not particularly tired.
“I slept on the airplane,” said Saludar, the reigning WBO strawweight titleholder.
Saludar didn’t make the trip for leisure, but rather to make a mandatory title defense against Wilfredo Mendez this Saturday at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, San Juan.
The fight will be the second defense of the belt he won in July of 2018, and will be his third straight fight abroad.
“It will be hard since the fight against them is here,” said Saludar (19-3, 10 knockouts) of Polomolok, Philippines. “But I will do everything I can.”
If Saludar suggests the dilemma of fighting abroad, head trainer Michael Palacios removes any pretense of ambiguity.
“We always have the best camp but this time Vic is more focused and dedicated because he know his situation…That we might get robbed,” said Palacios.
“That is why I keep on telling him, ‘we are the challenger here, we need to dominate every single round.’”
Saludar won’t have the benefit of having Palacios in his corner since his full time coach didn’t get approved for a visa. Instead he’ll have Bobby Villaver, a Hawaii based Filipino American who had previously been the head trainer of Vic’s older brother Froilan Saludar, and had worked with Vic when he was still an amateur.
More than just having the ability to travel feely throughout the U.S. and its territories, Villaver brings a level of familiarity with the training style of Palacios, whom he mentored while working alongside him as a trainer in Thailand at the famed Kokietgym. Villaver will also double as the cutman and is bringing Kawelo Alcos, a 2-0-1 pro, along from Hawaii to work as an assistant.
“They have the same training style,” said Saludar, who is rated no. 3 by The Ring at 105 pounds, behind WBA titleholder Knockout CP Freshmart and WBC titleholder Wanheng Menayothin.
Few things should rattle Villaver, who was the head trainer of Somsak Sithchatchawal when the Thai upset Mahyar Monshipour to win the WBA junior featherweight title in what was named Fight of the Year for 2006 by The Ring and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Saludar describes Mendez as a boxer who likes to punch and hold, preferring to go the distance and win the fight on scorecards. Mendez (13-1, 5 KOs), a southpaw, got to this point by defeating Janiel Rivera by split decision this past May in a title eliminator. At 22, Mendez is six years younger than Saludar.
“All we can do is our best, we have no problem with his style with the left hand,” said Villaver.
Palacios says he feels Masataka Taniguchi, whom Saludar defeated in his previous fight, is a more dangerous and complete fighter fighter than Mendez, and that Saludar should end the fight within the distance.
“ I believe Vic is much stronger now. [The] knockout will just come eventually,” said Palacios.
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