THE good news is that Milan Melindo's long and arduous wait for a shot at the world title will finally come to an end this week. The bad news is that the quest for the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight titles does not figure to be a walk in the park for the 25-year-old challenger from Cagayan de Oro City.
Melindo, 29-0 with 12 knockouts, is booked to challenge WBA-WBO flyweight king Juan Francisco Estrada Saturday in a scheduled 12-rounder in Macau. Estrada, 24-2 with 18 knockouts, catapulted to the 112-pound throne in April when he hammered out a split-decision win over Filipino Brian Viloria.
Estrada turned believers out of a lot of critics with the way he handled the hard-punching and experienced Viloria. The Filipino dominated the early rounds with speed, body punching and excellent counters, and he even hurt Estrada in the fifth stanza. But in the second half of the bout, Estrada started beating Viloria to the punch. The Mexican repeatedly popped Viloria's head with piston-like jabs, double hooks and vicious uppercuts. Viloria barely survived the 12th stanza as Estrada finished the fight with aplomb.
While there was no doubting Estrada's dominance, not a few thought that Viloria's legs (he was 32 years old at the time of the fight) simply betrayed him in the end.
Unlike Viloria, Melindo is coming in fresh as a daisy and hungry as a wolf. Melindo intends to copy the strategy employed by Viloria, only the young challenger is planning to employ it for the entire duration of the fight and not just in the first half.
"Si Estrada pang 12 rounds na fighter talaga siya, pero hindi naman kasi nagawa ni Viloria ng buong-buo yung istilo niya eh," Melindo told Spin.ph. "Nakita ko na pag tinitira ni Viloria si Estrada ng body shots, umaatras si Estrada. Kaya lang, after ng ilang rounds, nawala ang body shot ni Viloria."
Estrada moves a lot in the ring and Melindo intends to unload a ton of body shots to slow the champion down. Being the smaller fighter, Melindo will really have to apply pressure and take the fight to the Mexican. Melindo cannot allow Estrada to set up his elongated left jab and dictate the tempo of the fight.
Melindo's record shows that he is not that effective opposite fleet-footed boxers. Last September 22, the Filipino knocked down Venezuelan Jean Piero Perez in the opening round and seemed headed to a spectacular finish. But when Perez survived the ambush and started flicking the jab and moving side to side, Melindo struggled to get inside. Melindo was extremely lucky to win by majority decision.
"Kailangan talaga patigilin ko yung jab niya (Estrada)," acknowledged Melindo. "Kailangan maganda ang counter ko para mapigil ko yung jab niya. Ang maganda sa kanya, basic lang ang style niya, alam ko kung kailan siya titira at kung ilan ang bibitawan niya."
Estrada, 23, has never been knocked out in 26 total fights. In May 2011, he was knocked down in the opening round of his fight against Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. but he returned the favor in round six before losing by decision. Estrada showed just how tough he is in November last year, when he took all the best shots of Nicaraguan knockout artist and then WBA light flyweight king Roman Gonzalez and lost only by 12-round decision.
Melindo believes that his hunger to become a world champion will make a huge difference. He told this writer that he has been training like a monk and has religiously studied Estrada's every move. Without batting an eyelash, he feels that he is destined to bring home the WBA-WBO flyweight diadems.
"One hundred percent ready na po ako," said Melindo. "Ito na po ang break na ibinigay sa akin ng Panginoon. Sabi nga nila, it is God's will at ito na nga po 'yun."