Melindo: Next Pinoy world champion
Everything is falling into place for WBO Intercontinental flyweight champion Milan “El Metodico” Melindo of the ALA Boxing stable. Last weekend, Melindo raised his record to a spotless 25-0 with his tenth knockout, this one over an unpredictable Juan Esquer. This lines Melindo up for a world title shot.
“The title fight will come, God will grant me that eventually,” Melindo said. “We will just follow the plan and have one or two more fights before we think about that.”
Melindo seems to have really found his identity as a boxer. He moved up in weight in 2010, and stuck to his technical, deliberate style with great success. He even changed his monicker from “Milenyo” to “El Metodico” or “Method Man” to fit. After all, he didn’t fight like a storm, and didn’t want to grab the name of a typhoon that devastated a great part of the country.
Meanwhile, though Esquer has had an up and down career the last few years, he did not come with a flimsy resume.In fact, “Panterita” or little panther has fought six opponents who would become world champions, beating future WBO minimumweight champion Kermin Guardia and drawing with eventual WBC light flyweight king Gilberto Keb Baas. He also said he didn’t care whose territory he was fighting in, he was there to knock Melindo out.
Even before the fight, you could see the contrast between the two. Melindo was reserved, just loosely moving about in his corner, while Esquer, clearly nervous, was bouncing around the ring as if he had just had a gallon of coffee. Fans did not expect a quick knockout because that was not Melindo’s style. But nobody expected the bizarre ending, either.
Melindo started off at his normal pace, bringing the fight to the Mexican, using his left jab to great effect, repeatedly forcing the Mexican back. The jittery challenger was throwing a messy variety of punches mostly off the mark. Some time in the second round, Esquer started complaining of low blows from Melindo, even ones that barely grazed his hip. Melindo was throwing an impressive mix of hooks and uppercuts with machine-like precision that clearly bothered his opponent.
A couple of round later, Melindo threw a body shot that went barely south of Esquer’s beltline. The punch was not even a real power shot. Ater a split second, Esquer decides to crumple to the canvas as if he had been castrated. He squirmed, grimaced, frowned, howled, squealed, and put on a really big show. Even his cornermen were laughing. Referee Danrex Tapdasan gave him time to recover, and sent Melindo to a neutral corner with a second warning.
Esquer pretended to stand thrice, then slumped back to the canvas squirming in faked pain. After more than three minutes, he got up, shaking his head as if still hurting, and the fight continued.
“He was trying to do something because I could feel he was getting tired,” Melindo told this writer in the vernacular after the fight. “It was a matter of time before I would beat him.”
The crowd at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu was howling, booing, yelling invectives at the challenger. When the fight continued, Esquer tried to show that the champion’s blows weren’t bothering him. Then at close quarters in the seventh round, it was Esquer that threw a clear low blow. Melindo complained, but since the referee hadn’t stepped in, kept fighting. The Filipino hit Esquer in the chest, and Esquer went down, writhing in pain and claiming it was a low blow. His own chief second asked Tapdasan to stop the fight. Esquer quickly left the ring to a mix of boos and jeers.
“My focus was really to follow the plan, look foropenings,” admitted Melindo. “I tried not to mind his antics, but stay focused on doing my job.”
Melindo’s humility, focus and patience are also born of lessons learned, like the time his stablemate AJ Banal, then 19, stepped into the ring against Rafael Concepcion in 2008 for the interim WBA world super flyweight title. At the time Banal, now WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight king, had overtrained, and ran out of gas by the eighth round. He was knocked out in the tenth. It is still Banal’s only defeat to date.
Milan Melindo is biding his time. Whether it’s against WBO flyweight champion and countryman Brian Viloria or someone else, he knows he will be ready. He wants to get there and stay there for a very long time.
By: Bill Velasco