Milan Melindo enjoys new role but prefers normality
Milan Melindo had arrived in Tokyo on Monday, May 15, for a light flyweight championship fight scheduled for Sunday, May 21. He was accompanied by a team of five of the most important people in his career, namely coaches Michael Domingo, Edmund Villamor and Edito Villamor, plus promoter Michael Aldeguer and his son Franco.
The Filipino fighter prepared for the challenge with arguably the hardest training camp he ever had in his career. All this for a simple reason: He was committed to taking the IBF championship belt from his Japanese opponent Akira Yaegashi, 25-6 (13).
During fight week, Milan, 36-2 (13), participated in press conferences and media roundtables. He was treated with respect by his counterpart’s countrymen.
“People in Japan are fair especially when you fight in Tokyo. Japanese press and media are so kind, respectful and decent. They treated me well, as a Filipino warrior,” Melindo told UCNLive.com.
What always made the former two-time world title challenger formidable to even high-level opposition is his strong mentality. To achieve his goal as becoming champion, Melindo’s willingness was checked even before the sound of the first bell.
“While I was watching Akira’s entrance to the ring, thousands of his followers cheered him on. There was this electricity in the air and I almost got intimidated,” acknowledged the Filipino fighter, who is not shy to share the source of his strength at that moment.
“I looked up above and asked God, ’You are more than anything to this crowd, God, because you made us.’ That is when my confidence grew higher because I knew that God is with me.”
Following national anthems and the introduction of the boxers, the bell rang and the fight was on.
Melindo tried to settle the distance with his jab while the defending titleholder was trying to step in with his own jabs and power shots. Ninety seconds into the opening stanza, the Filipino landed a left hook to the temple followed by a right cross to the jaw during an exchange and Yaegashi hit the floor.
The hard-nosed Japanese rose at six and fought back. Nineteen seconds later, he was down again for a four-count by a half-hook/half-uppercut left-hand while he was stepping backward.
Yaegashi was clearly hurt but resumed fighting. Melindo kept patient and sharp and finished the bout with a straight right hand that landed flush on the chin of the wounded warrior.
Over 6,000 spectators remained silent after referee Edward Hernandez Sr waved his hands to stop the action while Yaegashi was still on the ring apron.
Only the five-man Filipino contingent was loud, as they cheered its fighter and lifted him to celebrate the win.
Akira Yaegashi had always been a tough competitor. He’s never been stopped this early in his illustrious career and the unusual circumstances of the stoppage shocked Melindo himself.
“Yeah, even me got surprised. I only threw punches; I didn’t think about knocking him down. I just wanted to fight and show my skills because I knew Yaegashi is a three-time, three-division world champion. It was God’s work. I did only my part. God did the rest of it,” said the new IBF light flyweight champion.
It has been such a journey for Melindo, who picked up the sport at the age of six. It’s a journey he says he’ll continue traveling.
“All the hard work paid off good but I am not done yet. This is rather the beginning of my journey that God appointed me, to share my ability (and show) how amazing it is if we have God in our life. Look, God helped me in this fight. God is amazing. Nothing is impossible with God.”
Melindo follows the path God assigned him. Fortunately, the Filipino pugilist has also a clear vision of which direction he wants his boxing career to go.
“I will maintain my hungriness to grab all the belts and defend them as long as I can. Be a warrior is to fight like a warrior. No retreat, no surrender. That is how I do it,” acknowledged Melindo.
It seems winning his first world championship has not changed the attitude of the always down-to-earth 29-year-old fighter.
“I am just a normal person. I try to win every fight that I have. Whatever achievements you have in this world is nothing to God. I am just resting my mind and enjoying everything.”