Milan Melindo wants to erase past shortfalls with title win
By: Ryan Songalia, Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippines – Milan Melindo wasn’t going to dwell on “what could have beens” as he prepared for his third – and possibly final – attempt at winning a world title.
The 29-year-old from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, came up with an extraordinary suggestion at the gym 3 weeks ago: spar 22 straight rounds with 7 or 8 different sparring partners. To put into perspective how old school that approach is, the last time a championship fight had been scheduled for at least 20 rounds was in 1941, when Joe Louis defended his heavyweight title against Abe Simon with a 13th round knockout.
Melindo figured that if he could fight 22 rounds, then he could fight the 12 good rounds he needs to take the IBF junior flyweight championship from Akira Yaegashi this Sunday, May 21, at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, Japan.
“I need those 22 rounds because my opponent is a brawler; he always comes forward punching so I need a lot of stamina and I need to know I can take the punches also,” said Melindo (35-2, 12 knockouts).
He counted former world title challenger Rocky Fuentes and rising junior bantamweight Jonas Sultan among those in the marathon sparring session at ALA Gym in Cebu City. He also mixed in some amateurs for their speed and work rate, reminding himself of their youth comparable to the 34-year-old Yaegashi (25-5, 13 KOs).
“It was a good sparring,” remarked his trainer, Edito Villamor. “Good for his stamina, legs and arms and his quickness.”
Sultan, who aside from being quick of hand and foot is also two divisions larger, was also left impressed. “He is my favorite sparring partner because Milan has hand speed, is a very stylish boxer and aggressive fighter.”
Hard luck fighter
Despite not having yet won a world title, he’s earned recognition from years of being featured on ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Pride series. And early on, first as a strawweight before floating between flyweight and junior flyweight, he looked like the real deal, utilizing his combination punching and sublime skill to defeat former world champions Muhammad Rachman and Carlos Tamara. But in two world title fights – against unified flyweight champ Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013 and IBF junior flyweight champ Javier Mendoza in 2015 – he was on the wrong side of the scorecards in tough stands.
His two fights after the Mendoza fight – a split decision against late replacement Victor Emanuel Olivo and a technical decision over Maximino Flores where he came in nearly 5 pounds overweight – made promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Promotions question whether Melindo still had the desire to be a top fighter.
But after Melindo outworked Thai Teeraphong Utaida in November to win the interim IBF title, Aldeguer has seen an improvement in Melindo’s attitude.
“Milan has straightened it out. He had a good showing last November and he proved that he’s still very hungry,” said ALA president Aldeguer. “He didn’t even go back to his family last Christmas because he wanted to stay focused because he knew that the fight with Yaegashi was going to be on the horizon already.”
While Melindo has been through some tough fights, the 34-year-old Yaegashi has had his share of wars too. He’s faced champions Eagle Kyowa, Kazuto Ioka, Edgar Sosa and Pornsawan Porpramook in his 12-year career, and was stopped in back-to-back fights by Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara in 2014. Yaegashi sustained a torn rotator cuff in a tougher-than-expected fight against Jose Martin Tecuapetla last year, which led to Melindo fighting for an interim title. His willingness to exchange punches means Melindo will get his chances to land punches.
“It’s advantage to me because I will not chase him because he will go with me; he will get inside. That is advantage to him also because he is a brawler so he needs to be close to me,” said Melindo, who estimates he had an astonishing 600 amateur fights from the age of 6 before turning pro in 2005.
“Maybe I can use the Ioka style, always jabbing and then counterpunching and body punches, which are his weakness. If we have only one strategy, we will lose. But if he can take the punch, maybe I will change the style.”
Edito Villamor, who will work Melindo’s corner with co-trainers Edmund Villamor and Michael Domingo, is optimistic that Melindo will make good on this opportunity.
“We hope that Milan can deliver our game plan during the actual fight without any pressure on his mind,” said Villamor.
The fight will air on a slight delay in the Philippines, at 8 pm Sunday, May 21, on ABS-CBN Sports and Action. Melindo hopes what makes it to TV is good news for fight fans back home.
“It’s not only important for me but also for my country and my stablemates and to Sir ALA, my manager. It’s important for me to make them proud, to all ALA fighters, that they can build confidence also if I win this fight,” said Melindo.
Originally posted on http://www.rappler.com/sports/by-sport/boxing-mma/170071-milan-melindo-title-shot-japan