MY heart goes out to Milan Melindo. He gave it his all in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico against defending champion Javier Mendoza, but came up short.

Maybe the stars weren’t aligned properly that fateful Sunday, but because this was his second stab at fistic glory, the disappointment must have been too brutal to bear.

What makes it frustrating was that it was- up until the point of the stoppage, a winnable fight for him.

THE FIGHT. Mendoza started out fast, peppering Milan with jabs and left straights. The defending champion had a very busy first round, although Milan did land some stinging body shots that got “Cobra’s attention.

With about 20 seconds to go, a strange sequence occurred as Milan landed a wayward shot to Mendoza’s right leg and both men became off-balanced and fell to the ground.

Milan landed a couple of solid rights to start the second, but the rest of the round belonged to the local fighter. He tore into Milan with a fury , unloading combinations while the latter was backed up against the ropes.

Mlan kept things honest by landing occasional counters but Mendoza dominated him and got the crowd excited.

“El Metodico” came alive in the third and was able to land his shots when he kept the action in the center of the ring. Mendoza was still able to push him back but Milan kept better control of the action, matching the Mexican’s output.

The fourth was close, but around the 1:30 mark, the action was temporarily halted when Milan landed another shot that was deemed low.

Mendoza of course milked it for all it’s worth and proceeded to do a bad acting job, attempting to sell the low blow by grimacing in pain along the ropes.

The action resumed with both men trading on fairly equal terms.

Both men started slugging in the center of the ring in the 5th and Mendoza once again complained of an alleged low blow.

With about 45 seconds left the referee halted the action due to a head-butt and cautioned Milan, despite the fact that it was clearly unintentional. The round ended with Milan going back to his corner cut and bloodied but you could sense that he was gaining some traction.

Milan started to find his range in the sixth and began unloading combinations. Mendoza was right there with him, but another clash of heads had the referee calling a temporarily halt so the ring physician could examine Milan’s cut. He was deemed fit to continue.

When action resumed both men landed their fair share of leather, but another clash of heads caused the denouement of the fight when Mendoza was deemed unfit to continue.

Replays showed a sequence wherein a Milan right hand to the face was preceded by another clash of heads. However, the referee ruled that the cut was not caused by the legal punch but by the head-butt and so the score cards were consulted to determine the winner.

Unfortunately for Milan, all the judges saw it for Mendoza with scores of 53-59 and 54-60 (twice)

STRATEGY. Mendoza was clearly the stronger fighter, and his aggression won him almost all of the rounds. Milan is a notoriously slow starter, and so I do not doubt his camp’s professed strategy of tiring out Mendoza and coming on strong in the second half.

Unfortunately, the age-old style conundrum between southpaws and orthodox fighters clashing heads reared its ugly head again (pun intended) and so it was tough for Milan for the fight to end in the sixth just as he was building up momentum.

A rematch ought to happen to settle the issue once and for all and Milan would be well served to exhibit more lateral movement so as to negate Mendoza’s aggression.

Finally, Milan needs to learn how to fight a southpaw fighter better. On several occasions, Mendoza found a home for that straight left which stunned him.

Fortunately, Milan is a cunning, cerebral fighter and with the proper strategyadjustments , I am confident he can do better in a rematch.

LAST ROUND. It’s on Tricia Zosa-Anton who recently celebrated her birthday. Cheers! (jingo_quijano@yahoo.com)