The ever reliable Webster dictionary identifies the word “rouge” with the color red; in particular reddish makeup on the cheeks. In the case of Filipino mittslinger Milan Melindo, you can say that his recent bid for the world flyweight championship went array the moment he went, well, Milan rouge.
Challenging incumbent World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight king Juan Francisco Estrada, Melindo’s fate was decided by the two kinds of red he saw in the bout. In the 6th round, Estrada’s countless left jabs bloodied Melindo’s left eye, obscuring the Filipino’s vision and loosening his defense. Late in the fight, Melindo saw another “red;” he became hostile and started slugging it out with Estrada. The change in strategy— Melindo was counterpunching beautifully before deciding to step out of his comfort zone—sealed Melindo’s fate. He kissed the canvas in the 11th round and had to hold on for dear life in the 12th to finish the fight on his feet.
The fight started out as a chess match before degenerating into a back-alley brawl. Melindo came out strong and wobbled Estrada with a left hook in the opening round. Counter punching with textbook precision, Melindo repeatedly threatened early in the fight with well-timed double left hooks to the body and head. For his part, Estrada boxed with grace, peppering Melindo with left jabs and wisely moving from side-to-side to dodge the challenger’s counterpunches. Melindo was holding his own until his complexion, and that of the fight, completely changed when he got cut in the 6th frame.
Visibly bothered by the cut, Melindo started encountering difficulty reading Estrada’s punches. By the 8th round, Estrada’s vaunted hooks and uppercuts were finding their mark in alarming fashion. Arguably sensing that the fight was slipping away from his fists, Melindo decided to step out of his counterpunching cocoon and go for the jugular. The 10th round, easily the best round in the fight, saw the fighters hammering each other like wild baboons.
Melindo paid dearly for his gamble. In the 11th round, while mixing it up at close range, Melindo missed with a lunging left and Estrada instinctively countered with a smashing right hand that deposited the Filipino to the canvas. Melindo barely regained the equilibrium in his legs and was saved by the sound of the bell ending the round. In the 12th and final round, Estrada swarmed all over Melindo with the clear intention of taking out his challenger. Melindo held on and avoided locking lips anew with the canvas.
Officially, Estrada retained his WBA and WBO flyweight titles with scores of 117-109, 118-109 and 118-109. The scores clearly did not reflect the competitiveness of the bout, particularly the fact that Melindo gave Estrada several rough and intense moments. This writer scored the fight 115-112 for Estrada, with the defending champion only sealing the outcome in the trenches when Melindo changed his approach.
Melindo suffered his first defeat after going on a 29-0 run. Then again, in his first setback Melindo has never looked this good. He showed against Estrada that he could compete opposite a marquee foe. Top Rank Promotions head Bob Arum was reportedly so impressed with Melindo’s performance that he promised the downtrodden challenger another title shot in the immediate future.
At age 25, Melindo still has all the time in the world to make a comeback. The key, however, is to proceed from where he left off. This means that from this moment on, there should be no more hand-me-down foes and only quality adversaries for Melindo. He can look good feasting on tomato cans, but the only he way he can truly improve his confidence and skills is by taking on the turkeys in his weight class. If he stays on his current course, we might just see Melindo bringing home the bacon in his next world title attempt.
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