WHAT was supposed to be a walk in the park turned into a nail-biter of a trapeze act as Filipino flyweight prospect Milan “El Metodico” Melindo came close to suffering his first defeat against Venezuelan Jean Piero Perez Saturday at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu City.
Headlining the 16th installment of ABS-CBN’s popular television boxing series Pinoy Pride, Melindo came out smoking in the opening round and nearly flattened Perez with a howitzer left. Perez was able to hold on but not a few thought it was going to be a short evening for the Venezuelan.
While a former interim World Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight champion, the 31-year-old Perez was supposed to be over the hill. On June 20, 2011, Perez lost the WBA interim tiara to Argentinian Juan Carlos Reveco, who knocked him out with one body punch in the second round. Perez went inactive after the fight and did not resurface until April 26, when he stopped journeyman Michael Arango in eight rounds.
Perez’s ring rust was evident in his near-collapse in the opening round against Melindo. Perez still looked unsteady in the second round as Melindo poured on the heat. By the third round, however, Perez started keeping Melindo at bay with well-timed left jabs. Melindo was still finding his mark, occasionally rocking Perez with sizzling counterpunches. But as he kept getting flustered by the jab, the Filipino’s combinations began to dwindle in the middle rounds. Perez’s left jab and lateral movements were so good that Melindo encountered difficulty getting inside.
In the eighth round, Perez opened a cut above Melindo’s left eye and the latter was never the same fighter. With blood obscuring his vision, and not wanting to be caught by a punch he did not see, Melindo became wary coming inside. Aggravating the situation for Melindo was his lack of head movement that made him a sitting duck for Perez’s left jabs.
Going into the 12th and final round, Perez looked headed for a major upset. Melindo tried to press the action, but Perez was just too fast on his feet to be caught in a prolonged exchange. When the bell rang ending the fight, the Venezuelan looked as though he had done enough to post an upset.
Fortunately for Melindo, the scorecards had him winning via a majority decision. Judge Salven Lagumbay scored it a draw at 114-114 while Judge Edward Ligas and Tony Pesons both called it for Melindo with scores of 116-112 and 114-113, respectively. The score Lagumbay handed out is the most acceptable. Melindo dominated the first half of the bout while Perez pitched a shutout in the second half.
Melindo kept his resume immaculate at 28-0 with 11 knockouts, but admitted in a post-fight interview that it was indeed a rough night. “Pasensiya na po, yung malagay kayo sa kalagayan ko na nasugatan, mahirap po talaga (I am sorry, if you were placed in my situation, after getting injured, it’s really tough),” Melindo told this writer who served as one of the commentators for ABS-CBN at ringside. “Natutunan ko po sa laban na ito never to give up (I learned from this fight never to give up).”
Melindo remained on course for a world title shot. He is already ranked No.1 by the World Boxing Organization and is on a collision course with reigning champion Brian Viloria, who also happens to be a Filipino. Viloria is booked to fight WBA counterpart Hernan “Tyson” Marquez of Mexico on November 10 and if Viloria wins, he will be mandated to defend the WBO hardware against Melindo.
Melindo thus still has enough time to plug the holes in his arsenal. Perez exposed the ideal strategy to handle the smaller fighter with a mean left hook. All Perez did was throw the left jab and immediately move clockwise to avoid Melindo’s lunging left hooks. Melindo must also work on cutting the ring and learning how to properly get under a foe’s elongated jab.
Melindo was able to dodge defeat against Perez, but don’t expect him to be that lucky the next time out. It is not every day that you get to fight in your home turf with all three judges your countrymen.