SPORTING CHANCEJoaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) – January 14, 2021 – 12:00am

Since the pandemic breakout last year, the Philippines staged only four boxing promotions, two in Mandaue with Omega and two in General Santos City with Sanman. But next month, there will be two all-Filipino world title fights in the country, a positive development in the battle against COVID-19. Vic Saludar takes on unbeaten Robert Paradero for the vacant WBA minimumweight crown in a venue still to be determined on Feb. 20 while IBF minimumweight titlist Pedro Taduran stakes his throne against Rene Mark Cuarto in General Santos City on Feb. 27. Visiting fighters are required to undergo COVID-19 tests and a 14-day quarantine before cleared to engage.

“We are honored and very happy that there will be two world championship fights coming very soon,” said GAB chairman Baham Mitra. “However, this is a world-wide trend for fights happening within the country to avoid international travel and possible spread of the virus. We will do everything to assist but will not compromise the safety of the boxers as one infection can have an effect on all sports.” Mitra has played an instrumental role in restarting pro sports through his participation in the IATF-sanctioned Joint Administrative Order team.

Promoter Bebot Elorde said yesterday the venue for the Saludar-Paradero bout will be the Elorde Sports Center in Sucat or Dino Olivetti’s gym in Biñan or an arena in Bulacan. If Parañaque is elevated from GCQ to MGCQ, Elorde said the venue will be the Elorde Sports Center. At the moment, Paradero is training in Malaybalay, Bukidnon and Saludar in Polomolok, South Cotabato. “Mga two weeks before the fight, dapat nasa Manila na sila,” said Elorde. “Ang flight booking nila ay Feb. 4.” Elorde has prepared separate quarters in his Sta. Rita, Sucat, compound to quarantine the fighters. Mitra said if Metro Manila is placed under MGCQ by Feb. 1, the fight may be held in Sucat. Paradero’s manager is Dr. Glorio Sajulga while Saludar is with Kenneth Rontal’s stable.

Because of the unpredictable conditions spawned by the pandemic, the fight has been postponed from Sept. 26 to Dec. 5 to Jan. 30. But it looks like the bout is finally a go on Feb. 20. “Naintindihan naman ng WBA ang dahilan for postponing,” said Elorde. “Grateful kami sa WBA for sanctioning the title fight. Magandang laban ito. Si Paradero, fighter, bilib sa sarili at sugod ng sugod. Si Saludar, beterano, former world champion, counterpuncher.” Saludar, 30, is rated No. 4 and Paradero, 24, No. 5 by the WBA. The throne was vacated by Thailand’s Knockout CP Freshmart. The title fight was approved by WBA championship committee chairman Carlos Chavez in president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza’s behalf.

Taduran is now training in La Union and will travel to General Santos to face Cuarto. It will be Taduran’s second title defense since halting countryman Samuel Salva to win the vacant crown in September 2019. In his first defense last February, he was held to a majority technical draw by Mexico’s Daniel Valladares in Nueva Leon. Cuarto is rated No. 3 by the IBF and is the highest-ranked contender since the No. 1 and No. 2 slots are vacant. The IBF’s 105-pound division is loaded with Filipinos as Melvin Jerusalem is No. 4, Salva No. 5, Lito Dante No. 6 and Mark John Rementizo No. 8.

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