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Melindo eyes Japanese champions

Milan Melindo lands a straight to the head of Hekkie Budler. PHILBOXING.COM

MANILA, Philippines — Milan Melindo overcame great difficulties on the scales and inside the ring to keep his IBF junior-flyweight crown last Saturday at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City.

Melindo bled from cuts on both eyes, which needed a total of 15 stitches to close, to beat South Africa’s Hekkie Budler via split decision after scoring the only knockdown of the fight in the 12th round.

One judge had it 115-113 for Budler, a former two-division world champion, while the two others had Melindo winning, 115-112 and 117-110.

Melindo said the morning after the fight that he had difficulty dealing with Budler’s dirty tactics.

Gumamit talaga ng ulo (He literally used his head). Pero magaling din (But he’s good),” said Melindo after his first defense of the 108-pound title he won last May.

Melindo, who came in 1.25 pounds over the limit during last Friday’s official weigh-in, suffered cuts in the sixth and 10th rounds, the second one being ruled by the referee as a punch.

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Yun ang mas malalim na cut (That was the deeper cut),” Melindo’s trainer, Edito Villamor, told The STAR yesterday.

Mabuti kahit duguan si Milan, hindi siya bumigay (It was good that Milan did not give up despite being bloodied). Warrior talaga,” said the trainer from Cebu City.

Melindo spent the day resting with his loved ones, and while he’s enjoying the moment, on his mind are thoughts of fighting the other champions in his weight divisions.

Melindo’s next fight will be a mandatory defense. But if he could have his way he’d face a fellow champion.

Mga Japanese,” said Melindo of WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi, WBC king Ken Shiro and WBO titlist Kosei Tanaka.

In another thrilling bout, Jonas Sultan carved out a unanimous decision over former world champion Johnriel Casimero to become the No. 1 contender against IBF junior-bantamweight champion and fellow Filipino Jerwin Ancajas.

Villamor said Melindo almost paid the price on the scales.

Naging over-confident sa timbang (on his weight),” said Villamor of Melindo.

“Lesson learned,” the trainer added.

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