Confident Milan eyes glory in Japan

Edri K. Aznar

MILAN Melindo will show up with the best version of himself tomorrow night when he faces Japanese star Akira Yaegashi in an International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight title fight at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, Japan.

“I will showcase all my abilities and skills that I have in boxing. I will not be fighting for myself but for my country. I’ll also be fighting for the crowd (to give them a good show),” Melindo said in a press conference in Japan.

The 28-year-old Melindo is currently the interim IBF titleholder, while Yaegashi is the regular champion. The winner of the fight becomes the sole belt-holder.

Melindo won the interim belt with a unanimous decision over Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin at the historic Cebu Coliseum last November. It was his third attempt after losing at flyweight to then World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Association (WBA) champion Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013 and at light flyweight to then IBF king Javier Mendoza in 2015.

A win over the 34-year-old Yaegashi, a three-division world champion, should finally silence Melindo’s doubters.

“We are not promising a knockout but I believe that this will go the distance unless there is a clear opening for a knockout,” said Melindo’s coach Edito Villamor, who will be in his corner along with his brother Edmund Villamor and Michael Domingo. “He is ready for a 12-round fight, the same as the Thai fighter.”

Yaegashi is as good as it gets. He is one of the elite names of Japanese boxing and has fought some of the cream of the crop in boxing’s smaller weight divisions, the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Edgar Sosa, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi and Eagle Kyowa.

Melindo is 35-2 with 12 knockouts, while Yaegashi is 25-5 with 13 knockouts.

Melindo was still two pounds overweight a day before the weigh-in, but he and his team are convinced he’ll make the weight.

“I will shed them off with sauna, and prayers to God will help me make weight,” said Melindo. “Nothing is impossible with God. I asked Him to help me make weight and win this fight. He never fails me.”