When the going gets tough, the tough gets a lucky break from the referee.
While there is no question that International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Javier ‘Cobra’ Mendoza dominated his recent title tussle with Filipino challenger Milan ‘El Metodico’ Melindo, the prevailing opinion after the fight is that American referee Gerard White denied the combatants and the fans at ringside in Baja, California, a legitimate and thrilling ending.
Having watched the video of the entire fight, it was clear that Melindo was on the verge of mounting a comeback in the sixth stanza when referee White stepped in and sought the ringside doctor’s opinion on the hideous cut Javier sustained on his left eye while trading vicious punches with Melindo. When the ringside doctor declared Mendoza unfit to continue, the bout went to the scorecards and Mendoza retained the IBF title via technical decision as he was ahead on points in all three official scorecards (60-52, 60-52 and 59-53) at the time of the stoppage.
The technical decision result was heavily criticized. For one, referee White failed to clearly rule if the cut on Mendoza’s eye was opened by an accidental head-butt or a punch. A definitive ruling on the matter is important to determine if the fight should have really gone to the scorecards. If the cut on Mendoza’s eye was caused by an accidental head-butt, only then will the fight go the scorecards. This is what a technical decision is all about: If an accidental foul renders one boxer unable to continue, the fight, it if has gone beyond four rounds, will be decided by the scorecards and whoever is ahead at the time of the stoppage will be declared the winner by technical decision. On the other hand, if Mendoza’s cut was caused by a legitimate punch from Melindo and the Mexican was thereafter declared unfit to fight, Melindo should have been declared the winner by technical knockout. Interestingly enough, even the Mexican commentators at ringside averred that it was a punch that caused the cut on Mendoza’s eye. A slow-motion replay of the video appeared to show a right hand from Melindo slashing the left eye of Mendoza.
Mendoza actually got off to a sizzling start and hurt Melindo in the second round with some howitzer left straights and crosses. Melindo kept zeroing on the body and was slapped a one-point deduction by referee White in the fifth round. After five rounds, Melindo had won only one round (the third canto) in this writer’s scorecard. However, in the sixth round, Melindo planted his feet and traded with Mendoza with gusto. Melindo was getting the better of the exchanges and Mendoza appeared to be running out of steam when the controversial ending happened.
“Ang plano namin was to demolish him [Mendoza] after 6 rounds,” Melindo told this writer. “Kaya nga nung early rounds, phasing lang muna kami. Yung camp ni Mendoza knew na humihina na si Mendoza kaya siguro part of their plan was to stop the fight at baka mapuruhan pa sila. Step-by-step lang ako umatake, body shots to cool him down.”
Even before the surprise ending, Mendoza had been eliciting jeers from the crowd for his penchant to feign pain upon getting hit by what he perceived was a low blow. Melindo shook Mendoza in the first round but no knockdown was called after Mendoza’s acting convinced referee White to rule the body shot a low blow.
A rematch is definitely in the works and the only question is if it can be held in the country for a change. Mendoza will remain the favorite in the return bout because his longer reach and busy offense gave Melindo plenty of trouble. Melindo nonetheless figures to be more than ready the next time out, having sampled the Mexican’s venom. “Kaya ni Milan, kailangan lang talaga huwag siyang sasabay sa lakas ni Mendoza,” mused Edito Villamor, Melindo’s trainer.
“Basta ako, I will do my best to win for the country,” assured Melindo.
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