Big plans ahead for Milan
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — IBF lightflyweight champion Milan Melindo isn’t looking beyond WBA counterpart Ryoichi Taguchi but assuming the Cagayan de Oro fighter prevails in their unification title bout in Tokyo tonight, his manager Michael Aldeguer has big plans lined up for the man called “El Metodico.”

The options are for Melindo to stake his IBF 108-pound crown once more against South Africa’s Hekkie Budler and to battle WBC titleholder Ken Shiro in another unification duel. Last September, Melindo beat Budler via a split 12-round decision that the South African’s camp called “a robbery” in Cebu. Melindo scored a knockdown in the last round, sealing the win. If Budler took the 12th round on a 10-9 score in judge Glenn Trowbridge’s scorecard, it would’ve been a split draw.

The IBF has ordered a rematch between Melindo and Budler because of a rule infraction. Melindo’s corner Edito Villamor was allowed by referee Wes Melton to treat a cut during a medical inspection after the bell rang to start the 11th and 12th rounds. Under the rules, a cut may be treated only during the timeout in between rounds. 

Shiro, 25, faced Panama’s Gilberto Pedroza in a WBC title defense in Yokohama last night. The result wasn’t available at presstime. Before fighting Pedroza, Shiro announced he’d like to meet the Melindo-Taguchi winner to unify the IBF, WBA and WBC belts. The WBO champion is Puerto Rico’s Angel Acosta.

“If Milan wins, we had an agreement with the IBF to fight Budler, hopefully in the Philippines,” said Aldeguer. “However, we haven’t thought of that yet because Milan has a very tough unification bout against Taguchi. Fighting any world champion in his hometown is always tough but this is what Milan has dreamed of – to fight in a unification.”

Aldeguer’s father and ALA Boxing CEO Tony said Melindo is “obsessed” in unifying the world title. “Our main concern is the freezing weather in Tokyo,” he said. The Ota City General Gymnasium, where the fight will be held, is equipped with heaters so temperature shouldn’t be a problem when the bell rings.

Villamor said Taguchi’s four-inch height advantage over Melindo isn’t an issue. “Milan knows how to handle taller fighters,” he said. “He’ll do to Taguchi what he did to Fahlan.” Last year, Melindo convincingly defeated Thai Fahlan Sakreerin, Jr. who is four inches taller. “This is not a basketball game but a boxing match,” said Melindo. “My speed will nullify the physical difference without doubt.” Taguchi brushed off Melindo’s remarks and said he’ll stop the Filipino in his tracks to book a win before his hometown fans.

Melindo, 29, is one of five Filipinos listed in The Ring’s top 100 pound-for-pound yearend ratings. IBF flyweight champion Donnie Nietes is rated No. 14, Manny Pacquiao No. 28, Nonito Donaire, Jr. No. 56, Melindo No. 73 and IBF superflyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas No 81. Taguchi, 31, is rated No 82.

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