Milan Melindo (end right) stands by his ALA Promotions teammates, from left to right, Arthur Villanueva, Donnie Nietes and WBO strawweight titleholder Merlito Sabillo
MANILA, Philippines – After maintaining his unbeaten record with a fourth-round knockout earlier in the night, Milan Melindo took a ringside seat to watch Juan Francisco Estrada upset Brian Viloria by decision to win the WBO/WBA flyweight titles at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China in April.
Melindo (29-0, 12 knockouts), of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, has been the WBO’s mandatory challenger for over a year, and instead of hesitating at the change in plans, Melindo saw opportunity.
In particular, the opportunity to face a hungry boxer from Mexico, with whom the Philippines has had an intense rivalry for the past decade, for the title. A match with Viloria, a Filipino-American, was met with mixed feelings domestically as few supported a meeting between two Filipino boxers for a title.
Melindo also saw the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities in Estrada that Viloria couldn’t.
“I saw the fight, then I see the weakness of Estrada,” said Melindo, who faces Estrada (24-2, 18 KOs) on July 27 at the Venetian Resort in Macau. “I know how to fight him.
“I think that Viloria had a mistake in his game plan. If Viloria had a good plan, I think Estrada (would not have won) that fight.”
Dennis Canete, who is the vice president of Philippine-based ALA Promotions, which represents Melindo, said that Melindo was analyzing the Estrada-Viloria fight throughout.
“He was focused on Estrada. He kept telling me how to beat Estrada, what’s his style.” said Canete.
Melindo, 25, has already beaten one Viloria conqueror in Carlos Tamara, who is the only man to stop Viloria. Estrada, 23, has only lost to current titleholders Roman Gonzalez and Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. in competitive bouts.
Estrada is THE RING No. 1-rated flyweight, while Melindo is No. 7.
The two will meet in the co-featured bout to the second professional outing of two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming, who made his debut on the April card on which Estrada won the title. IBF featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8 KOs) will also make his first defense against Mauricio Munoz (26-3, 12 KOs) on the card, while Melindo’s stablemate Genesis Servania (20-0, 8 KOs) will be in action in an eight-round bout.
Melindo admits that he has to improve his stamina to keep up with Estrada for 12 rounds, and will step up his roadwork and sparring in preparation for the bout.
“I have a lot of issues with stamina before,” admits Melindo. “I saw the YouTube comments, they said I have a lack of stamina. I need to work on my stamina but the power is always there.
“I have to overcome the pain, the tired feeling. Then run more, then get more (rounds of) sparring. Maybe I’ll try to spar 15 rounds.”
Melindo’s trainer Edito Villamor, who himself once challenged Ricardo Lopez for a world title in 1996, said that Melindo will spar with his gym mates for this fight, including WBO light flyweight titleholder Donnie Nietes, Arthur Villanueva (rated No. 9 by THE RING at junior bantamweight), as well as junior bantamweight prospect Melvin Gumban.
When asked whether he thinks his life will change if he wins the title, Melindo said he feels like it’s business as usual.
“Only it’s normal because I’m a warrior boxer,” said Melindo. “I’m not thinking a lot, I’m thinking to give honor to my country and my beloved Filipino people and to my ALA stablemates. I will use my mind to win this fight.”
Photo / Ryan Songalia
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be foundat www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.