• Breaking a tradition

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    Conrad M. Cariño

    Conrad M. Cariño

    I have been following the careers of top Filipino boxers for more than four decades and I have yet to see a fellow Pinoy pug challenge a compatriot for a world title.

    It looks like a top Filipino boxer challenging another compatriot for a world championship is still taboo, unlike Mexicans pugs who love to smash the faces of their compatriots, especially at the championship level. I also have yet to hear of Russian or East European boxers challenging their compatriots.

    But the tradition of top Filipino boxers squaring off in the ring might be broken soon as Randy Petalcorin, known for his vicious punching power, has challenged newly-crowned International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Milan Melindo.

    Petalcorin (26-2-1 with 19 knockouts) is currently one of the promising Filipino fighters and may one day become a world champion, perhaps at the expense of Melindo (36-2 with 13 KOs).

    What makes both fighters truly interesting is both of them are ranked by The Ring magazine in their weight division: Petalcorin is No. 7 and Melindo is No. 8. The Ring does not have a champion for the light flyweight division and listed at No. 1 is Pedro Guevara of Mexico (30-2-1 with 17 KOs).

    Both Filipino fighters are coming off wins, with Petalcorin stopping in February this year compatriot Mark Anthony Florida, whose 9-7 with 7 KOs record leaves people like me wondering why he is ranked by The Ring ahead of Melindo. For his part, Melindo scored a first round stoppage over Akira Yaegashi of Japan (25-6 with 13 KOs) over the weekend to win the IBF world light flyweight title.

    I really hate to predict who would win the Petalcorin-Melindo fight, but I would like to see it as even at this point. While Petalcorin has the edge in power, Melindo has seen more action at the world championship level, and it took him three tries to finally win a world title, showing how gritty and determined he is.

    Neither has a big physical edge over the other, with Petalcorin standing 5’3” with a 63-inch reach to Melindo’s 5’2” and 65.5-inch reach. Petalcorin is 25 years old and Melindo is 29.

    Should the Petalcorin-Melindo fight materialize, that could motivate other top Filipino boxers to fight their compatriots. And I see pros and cons on that.

    The reason why Mexico doesn’t care if their top boxers smash each other’s face in the ring is the country has so much boxing talent, that finding the next Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Canelo Alvarez, or boxers who would somehow approximate their accomplishments, won’t be much of a problem.

    In the Philippines, the last big names before Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire Jr. and Donnie Nietes were Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Luisito Espinosa, and Dodie and Gerry Peñalosa, among others.

    And before them were Pancho Villa (Francisco Guilledo in real life), Ceferino Garcia and Small Montana.

    That’s a spread of more than 100 years, because Villa fought until 1925.

    But look at how many top boxers has Mexico produced in recent years: Danny Lopez, Salvador Sanchez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Carlos Zarate, Vicente Saldivar, among others. Sanchez beat Lopez twice, while Morales and Barrera have figured in at least two fights.

    Just Google the names of those Mexican fighters and you will somehow be astonished at how much they have accomplished in their careers. Even some top American boxers trace their lineage to Mexico, like Oscar Dela Hoya.

    But there will come a point where two top Filipino fighters in the same weight division might have to slug it out, and Petalcorin-Melindo might be one of them. And given that there are many world-sanctioning bodies in boxing, it is quite easy for a boxer who just got dethroned or lost a title bid to get another title shot in a one to two years. You see, boxing is also a business.

    Pitting two locals in a world championship fight will also help determine which fighting style is more effective for Filipinos: relying more on power punches (Pacquiao and Villa), or more on counterpunching (Elorde, Nietes and Gerry Peñalosa). And maybe more of the “hybrid” style, like Donaire and Espinosa.

    Petalcorin looks more of an offensive fighter who relies more on power, while Melindo leans more toward counterpunching.

    So Petalcorin-Melindo does make a good match up.

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