At first glance, the cries of “robbery” from the camp of Milan ‘El Metodico’ Melindo sound much like Don Quixote’s futile shouts before the windmills. That is, until you get to watch and witness how the Filipino fighter fell prey to lousy officiating. Call it a classic case of ‘Milan Screwed.’
Figuring in his second shot at a world title last Sunday (Manila time), Melindo dropped a controversial sixth-round technical decision to defending International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight (108 pounds) champion Javier ‘Cobra’ Mendoza in Baja California, Mexico. There was no question that Mendoza dominated the fight, but Melindo appeared to be on the verge of roaring back when American referee Gerard White halted the contest at the 2:29 mark of the sixth round after Mendoza sustained a nasty cut just above his left eye.
The fight went to the scorecards and Mendoza retained the belt with scores of 60-52, 60-52 and 59-53. This is where the controversy erupted. Referee White failed to clearly indicate if the cut on Mendoza’s eye was opened by an accidental head-butt or a punch. A clear-cut ruling on the matter is important because if it was an accidental head-butt that caused the cut on Mendoza’s eye and rendered him unfit to continue, only then will the fight go the scorecards. This is what a technical decision is all about; in the event an accidental foul renders one fighter unfit to continue, the fight, if it has gone beyond four rounds, will go the scorecards and whoever is ahead will be declared the winner by technical decision. However, if it was a legitimate punch that opened the cut on Mendoza’s eye, and the Mexican was declared unfit to resume combat because of the blow, Melindo should have been declared the winner by technical knockout.
The result did not sit well with Mexican fight fans and not a few thought Mendoza sought the easy way out after Melindo started gaining momentum. Mendoza actually started the fight by peppering the smaller Melindo with several right jabs. Seemingly content to counter, Melindo dropped Mendoza with a nifty one-two combination in the first round, but referee White ruled out any knockdown and instead categorized the right punch Melindo threw to the side of Mendoza’s body as a low blow.
In the second round, Mendoza swarmed all over Melindo and landed several left straights and crosses. Melindo was finding it difficult to get out of harm’s way and aggravating the situation was the way he spent too much time along the ropes.
Melindo finally came to life in the third stanza, landing several shots to the body and good counter hooks to the head. Melindo continued to attack the body in the fourth round but was again called for low blows by referee White. In the fifth frame, referee White again called a low blow on Melindo and deducted a point from his score.
The sixth round was easily the best as Melindo decided to plant his feet and go toe-to-toe with Mendoza. Both fighters were trading bombs when referee White momentarily halted the contest to check out the cut on Melindo’s right eye. When the fight resumed, the fighters returned to the frying pan until referee White again intervened this time to check Mendoza’s left eye. In the case of Mendoza’s cut, it was declared too deep by the ringside physician and the fight was waived off. To the surprise of many, including the Mexican ringside commentators, the fight went to the scorecards. Melindo and Mendoza were smacking each other without remorse and many claimed it was a clear punch that opened a cut on Mendoza’ eye.
“Pati yung mga commentators y'un din (the punch) ang nakita,” Melindo’s trainer Edito ‘Ala’ Villamor told this writer. “At ayon sa kanila, Milan won the fight by TKO.”
Melindo, 27, saw his record drop to 32-2 with 12 knockouts. ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer is hankering for a rematch and it will be interesting to see if one can be staged here in the country. Make no mistake, Melindo will face an uphill climb in the return bout because the longer reach and swarming southpaw offense of Mendoza gave him a lot of problems, but knowing the type of danger he will confront in a rematch Melindo figures to be better-equipped for the task.
“Kaya ni Milan,” assured Villamor. “Kailangan lang talaga huwag siyang sasabay sa lakas ni Mendoza.”