• Finally, Melindo is a champ

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    ED C. TOLENTINO

    If at first you don’t succeed, try and try…. and try again.

    After failing in two previous attempts to win a world boxing championship, Milan “El Metodico” (Method Man) Melindo finally made good on his third try, snaring the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight title (108 lbs.) last Sunday with a smashing first-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi in Tokyo, Japan. The first-round stoppage stunned not only Yaegashi but also local boxing fans who know very well that Melindo is more of a tactician than a granite-fisted bomber.

    Then again, Melindo was arguably bent on ending his spate of bad luck in world title bouts. In July 2013, Melindo lost his unbeaten (29-0) record when he dropped a lopsided decision to then world flyweight (112 lbs.) king Juan Estrada of Mexico. Melindo stood his ground, but the talented Estrada knocked him down late in the fight and pocketed a well-deserved unanimous decision. Two years later, May 2015, Melindo battled Mexican Javier Mendoza for the IBF light flyweight crown and lost by technical decision.

    The disappointing loss to Mendoza left Melindo’s confidence in tatters. He struggled in his next two fights, eking out a split decision win over Victor Olivo (November 2015) and barely dodging defeat with a close technical decision win over Maximino Flores (May 2016). In the Flores fight, Melindo showed up some five pounds above the agreed upon catch weight of 110 pounds and looked lethargic throughout the contest. Melindo was cut on the eye and escaped defeat with a technical decision after seven rounds.

    Melindo’s career was heading to the dustbin when he made the decision to get his act together. Melindo started his return to championship form when he decided to leave the flyweight class and return to the light flyweight class where he held several regional titles and showed more crunch in his punches. Melindo lacks the heft and ceiling (barely 5’2”) to compete in the flyweight (112 lbs.) class and returning full-time to the light flyweight (108 lbs.) division where he can pick on guys his size made for a judicious move. Moving down in weight meant training in earnest and Melindo proved himself up to the task when he showed up in fighting form opposite Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin in November 2016. Melindo got the zing back in his combinations and whipped the Thai in 12 rounds to win the interim IBF light flyweight belt.

    Taking on Yaegashi for the regular IBF light flyweight bauble, Melindo left nothing to chance. A noted brawler, Yaegashi tried to take the fight to Melindo but was instead caught flush on the jaw by a textbook counter left hook. Yaegashi fell on his back and while he got back on his feet, Melindo mopped the canvas with his face on two more occasions. The third knockdown came by way of a well-executed left hook/right straight combination from Melindo that literally dumped Yaegashi to the canvas.

    Melindo obliterated Yaeagshi in just 145 seconds in the first round. The win went down in the record books as the fastest world title fight knockout registered in the history of the 108-pound division. More importantly, it gave Melindo the world title he has been dreaming of since his father Melindo Sr. gifted him with a pair of gloves when he was six years old.

    Melindo (36-2, 13 knockouts) is living proof that perseverance and hardwork translate to huge dividends down the road. He seemed ready to call it a day when he struggled against Flores, but is now savoring his time on a boxing throne, only because he kept the faith and made the corresponding sacrifices to bring his dream into fruition.

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    For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.

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