IF there is a positive spin that can be made out of Brian Viloria's recent decision loss to Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada for the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight titles, it is the possibility that another Filipino boxer may end up winning the crowns within the year.
Undefeated Milan 'El Metodico' Melindo (29-0, 12 knockouts), a native of Cagayan de Oro City, fought in the undercard of the Viloria-Estrada title-tiff at the Cotai Arena in Macau and carved out an impressive stoppage of previously unbeaten Indonesian Tommy Seran. Melindo pitched a shutout, mopping the canvas with Seran's mug three times. A textbook left hook from Melindo in the fourth stanza had Seran doing his best imitation of Sleeping Beauty.
Melindo, 25, has been firmly entrenched at the No.1 spot of the WBO's flyweight rankings for some time now. He is long overdue for a mandatory title shot and was in fact on a collision course with Viloria until the latter stepped on a banana peel surnamed Estrada.
Viloria, 32, was the smart money bet against the relatively inexperienced Estrada. Estrada was not even a natural flyweight (112 pounds) going into the fight, his last bout ending by way of a unanimous decision loss to WBA light flyweight (108 pounds) king Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez of Nicaragua in November. But as this writer noted in last week's column, questions abound on Viloria's true fistic worth. Conditioning has been Viloria's Achilles heel and for some reason he just can't get his A-game going against lesser-known opponents. Unfortunately for Viloria, these dents in his armor surfaced anew in the Estrada fight.
Viloria predictably looked good in the early rounds until his gas tank started leaking, allowing Estrada to seize control of the fight. Low blows or not, Estrada put in some good body work to aggravate the situation for Viloria. Estrada, 10 years younger at 22, was the fresher fighter down the stretch as Viloria desperately tried to regain his second wind. Estrada finished strong, unleashing bone-jarring uppercuts and wobbling Viloria in the 12th round. Estrada officially clinched the victory via split decision, earning scores of 117-111 and 116-111 from two judges while inexplicably losing, 113-115, on the scorecard of the third judge. To his credit, Viloria graciously accepted defeat.
Estrada felt so good about the upset victory that he expressed his readiness to return to the squared circle as early as June. Viloria hankered for a rematch, but Top Rank Promotions head Bob Arum hinted at a showdown between Estrada and Melindo in August. Melindo did not back down and proclaimed himself ready to contend for the titles. "He (Estrada) did not knock out Viloria, I can beat him," Melindo was quoted as saying in the post-fight conference.
Unless he decides to drop the WBO belt, Estrada (23-2, 18 knockouts) is mandated to defend against Viloria. You can say that the perception on Estrada has changed following his impressive showing in his last two fights. Estrada outboxed Gonzalez in the early rounds of their fight before losing on points to the feared knockout puncher from Nicaragua. Against Viloria, Estrada showed that he can box and rumble.
Melindo, considerably smaller compared to the lanky Estrada, will be in for the fight of his life. Melindo struggled against lanky Venezuelan boxer Jean Piero Perez in September, barely dodging defeat with a majority decision victory. Melindo struggled to get past the elongated jab of Perez and you can bet this early that Estrada will apply the same strategy when they meet.
As Viloria takes the backseat to heal his wounds and ponder on his future, Melindo will have to work overtime in the gym in the hope of avenging the loss of the 'Hawaiian Punch.'