Wilfredo Mendez confident of dethroning Vic Saludar: ‘We are working hard to take the victory’
Puerto Rican stylist Wilfredo Mendez will look to end his country’s barren run at world level by unseating hard-punching WBO strawweight titleholder Vic Saludar at the The Ballroom of the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Saturday.
Mendez, who is rated No. 10 by The Ring at 105 pounds, earned his mandatory title shot by edging compatriot Janiel Rivera on a hard-fought split decision in May.
“I’m going in with a good opponent, a good fighter, but I’m confident I’ll come out with my hand up,” Mendez (13-1, 5 knockouts) told The Ring through Aleudiro Rosario.
“It’s a big test for my short career. Saludar comes from fighting with good Japanese boxers, but we are working hard to take the victory. He punishes the body well and we have to prepare for that. As for the area that he’s weak in; I understand that he is a static fighter and I move a lot, so I can exploit that area.”
Mendez’s promoter, Peter Rivera of PR Best Boxing Promotions, brokered a deal with Saludar’s team to prevent the fight going to purse bids. In doing so, he secured home advantage for his boxer. Mendez is glad to be fighting at home but admits that it brings added pressure.
“I feel good and it gives me confidence, but at the same time there’s tension,” Mendez said. “Let’s focus on the fight, look good and win that title for my people and my country.”
Rivera is obviously happy that he’s been able to bring the fight to the Caribbean island.
“It’s very important because ‘Bimbito’ [Mendez] will have the support of his people,” said the promoter. “But he is preparing to fight as if he were in the Philippines.”
It hasn’t been a good year for the sport in Puerto Rico, with Emmanuel Rodriguez and Angel Acosta losing their world titles and leaving this proud boxing hotbed without a reigning male world champion. Mendez, who has put himself through an eight-week training camp in San Juan, under the tutelage of Freddy Trinidad and Yowy Gonzalez, plans to initiate a reversal of fortune.
“A lot of people didn’t think I was going to fight for the world title so fast and here we are,” said the 22-year-old southpaw.
“It motivates me to know that we don’t have world champions and it makes me feel super proud and happy that I can become a world champion, like ‘Bomba’ [Jonathan Gonzalez, who fights on the same day in Japan for the WBO’s 112-pound title]. It means a lot to me to know that Puerto Rico is going to have a champion and that I will be a solid champion.”
Rivera, who began his promotional company with brother Ivan in February 2001, has helped develop the likes of Miguel Cotto, Roman Martinez, Juan Manuel Lopez, Eric Morel and Ivan Calderon into world champions. Rivera appreciates that the Saludar task will be difficult but is optimistic that Mendez can add his name to the list.
“It’s a tough fight against an opponent who has won his past two title fights in Japan,” Rivera admitted. “But I understand that ‘Bimbito’ (Mendez) has the talent and boxing (skills) to win and be crowned world champion.”
Saludar (19-3, 10 KOs) was a highly-regarded amateur prior to turning professional in 2013. The 28-year-old lost in his first world title attempt when he was stopped in six rounds by Kosei Tanaka in 2015. However, he rebounded to outpoint Ryuya Yamanaka for the WBO 105-pound title last July and defended successfully against Masataka Taniguchi in February.