Saludar faces Arroyo with flyweight title shot at stake

Ryan Songalia

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Saludar faces Arroyo with flyweight title shot at stake
Froilan Saludar will face former Puerto Rican Olympian McWilliams Arroyo with the IBF flyweight title's number one contender spot at stake

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino flyweight prospect Froilan Saludar has had numerous starts and stops to his young boxing career, but he’ll be in line for a world title opportunity if he can get past McWilliams Arroyo on Thursday, June 19 (Friday PH time) at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. 

Saludar, 25, of Polomolok, South Cotabato, Philippines was for a short while the most celebrated boxing prospect in the Philippines, scoring several one-punch knockouts of durable trial horses. 

Layoffs and managerial issues kept him on the sidelines for a year following an uneven 2012 win over Jose Tirado. But after three straight wins since September, Saludar finds himself in a 12-round bout with a 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) number one contender spot at 112 pounds. 

“I will not waste this great opportunity given me by fighting McWilliams Arroyo for the IBF title eliminator,” Saludar said at Tuesday’s final press conference. “Although Arroyo is an Olympian and a good and talented fighter, I promise that I will do all my best to win this fight.” 

Saludar, a former three-time national champion as an amateur, comes from a long line of boxers. His brothers Victorio and Rey were national champions as well. 

Saludar, who is one of 15 siblings, grew up working on his father’s pineapple farm, picking pineapples from age 9 on the six-hectare (approximately 60,000 square meters) farm that supplies produce to the Dole Food Company.

As a child, Saludar idolized former two-division champion Luisito Espinosa, and like Espinosa possesses a formidable right cross. The problem for Saludar had been developing his left hand, which could vary his attack and make his right hand more effective.

Saludar’s first round knockout of Remuel Obidos in 2010

That’s what General Santos City-raised trainer Jhun Agrabio has worked on with Saludar since taking over as head trainer two months ago. Agrabio, who led Marvin Sonsona to the WBO junior bantamweight title in 2009, says that he has worked on improving Saludar’s jab and head movement.

The past three fights have been a matter of working Saludar back in shape. His first two bouts, Julius Alcos and Tawanrung Eausampan, were subpar performances. Saludar’s most recent opponent, Rogen Flores, didn’t have the class to properly test Saludar.

“The first week here, I saw it in his face that he wanted to quit but I knew he had a big heart,” said Agrabio, who trained Saludar in Quezon City and at Nonito Donaire Sr.’s gym in San Francisco. “He didn’t surrender. After the first week I spoke to him and said that he needed to do this hard training because this coming fight is very big.”

Arroyo (14-1, 12 KOs) has had his bouts with inactivity as well. The 28-year-old who won gold at the 2009 World Amateur Boxing Championships hasn’t fought since February of 2013. His lone defeat, to Takashi Okada in 2010, came after he was dropped in the second round by the Japanese journeyman.

The winner will earn a shot at IBF titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5 KOs) of Si Racha, Thailand, who at 34 is enjoying the best success of his career. Ruenroeng won the title in January with a decision victory over Filipino Rocky Fuentes. He solidified himself as one of the slickest boxers in the world in May with a split-decision victory over Japanese two-division champion Kazuto Ioka. – Rappler.com

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