Milan “El Metodico” Melindo Jr. is the country’s new world boxing champion, having recently annexed the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight crown with a scintillating first-round knockout of Japan’s Akira Yaegashi.
It took Melindo three attempts to become a world champion and he humbly admits that he still can’t believe that he finally brought home the bacon. Undeniably though, Melindo has been feeling the trappings that come with his new status as he has been making the media rounds to share the inspiring stories behind his ascension to the throne. This writer was able to corner Melindo for a television special for ABS-CBN, and in the course of our conversation the new champ willingly divulged the secrets behind his coronation.
For Melindo, everything started when he was 6 years old, when his father Milan Melindo Sr. gifted him with a pair of boxing gloves. Melindo still remembers the gloves, noting that it contained less padding and left him with lumps on the face. “Manipis yung gloves, sumakit nga yung mukha ko,” he jokingly said. Melindo was already into boxing at such a tender age, having watched several bouts involving heavyweights Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis via VHS tapes. “Boxer na ako nung binigyan ako ng gloves ng tatay ko. After ma-receive ko yung gloves, hindi na ako ulit naghugas ng mga plato. Boxer na daw kasi ako, baka masira ang kamay ko,” said Melindo.
By his own estimate, Melindo figured in around 600 bouts as an amateur. He wanted to pursue a shot at the Olympic medal, but decided to turn pro after finishing high school. “Wala kasing college scholarships sa boxing after ako mag high school, kaya nag pro na ako,” said Melindo, the youngest of 10 siblings.
Economics was also a reason for Melindo’s decision to turn pro. Melindo’s father earned his keep by cleaning rubber suspension bushings of vehicles, but the money was not enough and thus the need for Milan to box for pay. Milan is officially named Milan Melindo Jr., but he opted to turn pro using his father’s name “Milan Melindo” to honor him. Melindo Jr. was 17 years old when he stepped in the famous ALA Boxing Gym in Cebu.
Melindo failed in his first two attempts to win the crown and only made good in his third try against Yaegashi. He disclosed to this writer that he was very motivated to win because his “special someone” was with him in Japan. “Pinagluto niya ako, naka monitor ang mga kinakain ko,” said Melindo, who was too shy to identify his sweetheart. “Single pa ako, pero taken na,” he added.
Melindo trained in earnest for the Yaegashi fight, knowing too well that it could very well be his last shot at a world title. He tapped a conditioning coach, Pio Solon, and once figured in a 22-round sparring session against seven different sparring partners. Listed as an orthodox fighter, Melindo told this writer that he worked on mastering switching stances (from right-hand to southpaw stance and vice-versa) but never got to display it because he finished Yaegashi in just one round. “Nabigla din ako, hindi ko akalain na matapos ko ang laban sa first round,” he said.
Lastly, Melindo offers his victory to the Champ up there, the One who gifted him with the requisite skills to become a champion. “Nung first two title shots ko, nag-rely lang ako sa talent ko,” he said. “Kay Yaegashi, I rediscovered my faith in God at alam ko hindi nya ako pababayaan.”
With everything in place, his faith and his skills, Melindo turned in the best performance of his career by blasting Yaegashi into smithereens in just 145 seconds. Melindo now sits as the country’s latest boxing king and is looking forward to a respectable reign.
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