CEBU—Unbeaten flyweight Milan Melindo faces the toughest challenge of his career as he squares off with world rated Jean Piero Perez of Venezuela in a 12-round non-title fight Saturday at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino here.
The 24-year-old Melindo is expected to have his hands full against his Venezuelan opponent who once reigned as World Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight title holder.
Perez is also rated ahead of Melindo by the WBA as the Venezuelan is currently ranked No. 4, three notches ahead of the soft-spoken Filipino.
But the glowing resume of his older opponent at 31 hardly fazed Melindo, who showed up sporting a bald pate during the official weigh-in Friday afternoon at the SM Cebu City Events Center.
Both fighters came in at the exact limit of 112 lbs.
“Obvious naman na takot siya sa akin,” said Melindo shortly after the traditional stare-down between the two fighters preceding the weigh-in.
“Papasukin natin siya once makita ko ang weakness niya,” said Melindo after partaking of arroz caldo and spaghetti following the weigh-in. “Hindi natin makukuha sa mabilisan yan, dadahan-dahanin natin.”
The 5-foot-2 Filipino is likewise not concerned with the three-inch height advantage Perez has on him, saying, “puro naman matatangkad ang nakakalaban ko. Maganda rin ’yung matangkad, madaling pasukin.”
Melindo sports an immaculate 27-0 record with 11 KOs. His profile includes victories over former world champions Muhammad Rachmann, Carlos Tamara, and Jesus Geles.
The pride of Cagayan de Oro City, one of the rising stars out of ALA boxing stable, is ranked in the top 10 of the three other major boxing bodies, including No. 1 in the World Boxing Organization, where fellow Filipino Brian Villoria is the current champion.
A win over Perez (19-4-1, 14 KOs) in the main event of Pinoy Pride XVI, is expected to catapult him closer to a long overdue shot at a world title.
The visitor, however, has other things in mind.
Perez’s trainer Francisco Arroyo said “Melindo is a very good boxer,” but would rather not divulge how they plan to engage the unbeaten Filipino once inside the ring.
“You will find out our strategy on Saturday,” said Arroyo, who was in the corner of Rafael Concepcion when the Panamanian dealt AJ “Bazooka” Banal his first loss four years ago at the nearby Cebu Coliseum.
The major undercard, meanwhile, features Rocky Fuentes defending his Orient Pacific Boxing Federation flyweight crown against top challenger Myung Ho Lee of Japan.
Fuentes weighed in at 111.5 lbs. while Lee came in at 112 lbs.