Saturday, February 16, 2019

Dogged in lion’s den

MEXICANS, more or less, are untouchable in world title fights against Filipinos at home. Only a few elite Filipinos have walked away victorious in world title fights against Mexicans in Mexico. Some of the few that have done the rare feat are Luisito Espinosa, Rodel Mayol, Johnriel Casimero and the longest-reigning Filipino world champion Donnie Nietes, who actually did it thrice.

Milan Melindo (32-1, 12 KOs) attempts to do the same when he challenges International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight king Javier Mendoza (23-2-1, 19 KOs) on May 9 at the Centro Ceremonial Otomi in Temaoya.

“He’s very focused and determined,”said trainer Edito Villamor, who is supervising Melindo’s training in the US. “It will be in the opponent’s territory and it will be hard, but we will do our best that Milan will deliver. It’s a big challenge for Milan, fighting a Mexican in enemy territory. Milan has a huge chance to upset the champion if he delivers correctly our game plan and strategy.”

Melindo sparred at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in LA with former world title contender John Mark Apolinario and Japanese fighter Ryota Kihara.

He has already sparred for eight rounds at the Wild Card Gym and has logged close to a hundred rounds of sparring in his whole training camp.

Melindo is also working on his conditioning with strength and conditioning coach Nick Curson, who has done wonders for Nietes as of late.

“He is a typical Mexican warrior, tough and a very talented fighter, but we have studied his weaknesses and hope that Milan delivers on our strategy on how to beat the opponent. In our sparring and during our training we are emphasizing on perfecting our strategy,” said Villamor, a two-time world title challenger in his days as a boxer in the 90s.

The 24-year-old Mendoza won the vacant IBF light flyweight crown following a unanimous verdict over former world champion Ramon Garcia-Hirales last year. He only fought once last year but kept himself busy with a 10-round non-title fight last January, in which he demolished Mauricio Fuentes in two rounds.

Melindo returned back down to the light flyweight division after a failed attempt at a world title at flyweight. He challenged World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013 and lost by unanimous decision in Macau.

The 27-year-old technical fighter has won his last three, including a title eliminator with Saul Juarez in Cebu last November, all by decision.

Sharing the same gym with the best Filipino fighter, Manny Pacquiao, has been a huge morale booster for Melindo.

“So far he has had an impressive showing in training especially that he’s training with Manny although ‘Pacman’ has his private gym. Milan has shown great intensity during his training,” said Villamor.

Pacquiao is preparing for one of the biggest fights in boxing history, a 12-rounder with Floyd Mayweather Jr., a week before Melindo sees action in Mexico.

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