Pinoy Pride 34: Eye-opener

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

“Pinoy Pride: Back with a Vengeance” provided a deep insight into how hard it is to build a world championship boxer. At the long fight card held Saturday evening at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, three Filipinos who had come tantalizingly close to owning world championship belts started their arduous trek back to world contender status. It also showed how the quality of opposition is getting better, and was an impressive showcase of matchmaking.

The main event showcased Arthur Villanueva going for the vacant WBC international super flyweight title against the taller, younger Victor “Spock” Mendez, so named because of his resemblance to the well-known “Star Trek” character first made popular by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960’s. This was Villanueva’s first fight since July 18, when he lost a 10-round technical decision to Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo in a battle for the IBF world super flyweight title. In what was a recurring theme for the Filipinos in the card, Villanueva got cut over the right eye, causing the fight to be stopped. Arroyo retained the title because he was ahead on the scorecards. It was Villanueva’s first defeat after 27 wins and 14 KOs. 

Though Mendez had very rarely gone beyond three rounds, he had already fought five times this year, while Villanueva had been inactive since the loss. Though technically the superior fighter, Villanueva couldn’t summon the power to fell the Mexican, who stayed with him throughout. “King” Arthur got a break in the middle rounds when he kept out of Spock’s elongated reach and charged in to attack. But he could not put the tough challenger away, and this fight went the distance. After a few uncertain minutes it was announced that Villanueva had won the title via a split decision. The fight was closer than anyone had anticipated.

Perhaps the most revealing fight of the evening featured Milan Melindo (32 wins with 12 knockouts, two defeats). This was El Medico’s first appearance in the ring since a contested and controversial loss to Mexico’s Javier Mendoza for the IBF world flyweight title on May 30. Melindo had a cut opened over his right eye by an alleged headbutt. Mendoza similarly sustained a cut over his left eye in a clash of heads, causing the fight to be stopped. The Mexican kept his belt via technical decision because he was leading on the scorecards at that point in the fight. Though it was only Melindo’s second loss, it was particularly grating. Milan won his first 29 fights before taking on Juan Francisco Estrada for the WBO and WBA flyweight titles, and lost by decision.

For Pinoy Pride 34, Melindo was supposed to go for the vacant WBO international junior flyweight belt, but his original opponent, Carlos “Divino” Fontes (21 wins with 17 knockouts, three losses) contracted dengue the week before the fight. Into the vacuum stepped 19-year old Victor Olivo, who owned a promising 9-0 record with four knockouts. On one hand, there was no information on Olivo’s conditioning. On the other, each fighter was going into the fight blind. Olivo had to go down in weight before going to Cebu, having last fought at 121 pounds, nine pounds over the flyweight limit. Fans didn’t know what to expect, but also recalled that Nonito Donaire Jr. himself was a replacement fighter when he knocked out Vic Darchinyan and became a world champion. Plus, Olivo at 19 was much younger and also taller than the 5’2” Filipino. The 10 rounds would reveal many things about each fighter.

The fight itself was a long grind with Melindo earning an early advantage due to his experience. The pair kept trying to counterpunch each other, filling the fight with a pace that left some spectators at the Hoops Dome antsy. Olivo kept active, and took whatever Melindo could dish out. In the middle rounds, Melindo struggled trying to dictate the fight, as the Mexican was consistently mobile. It appeared that each time Melindo would be on the verge of pinning down Olivo, the youngster either escaped or countered beautifully. Not known for his punching power, the diminutive Melindo kept the pressure on, then Olivo would not fold. At the end of the fight, Melindo escaped with a split decision, soiling his opponent’s record. A great fight with an anticlimactic ending, at least in the eyes of local fans. Some were already imagining a rematch, wherein both boxers would be prepared specifically for one another.

Another comeback story was AJ Banal. The once explosive “Bazooka” has suffered from two challenges in his relatively young career: overtraining and an immaturity to get over tough losses. As a teenager in 2008, Banal had reached his fighting weight very early, and ran out of gas against Rafael Concepcion in a tussle for the WBA interim super flyweight championship. In a steaming hot New Cebu City Coliseum, Banal had been leading throughout the first eight rounds until he simply ran out of gas and got knocked out in the 10th round against the consistent Concepcion. It took Banal a long time to recover from that disappointment, which was, when you think about it, only his first defeat. In October of 2012, Bazooka fought for the WBO bantamweight title, again leading until he was also knocked out in nine rounds by Porsingwan Sor Singyu. Banal was the only Filipino to lose in the first-ever boxing event held at the Mall of Asia Arena.


vuukle comment












  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with