Milan Melindo must take calculated risks in order to break down Ryoichi Taguchi in their junior flyweight title unification fight on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
Giving up four inches in height and two inches in reach, Melindo, the International Boxing Federation titlist, needs to close the distance and bring the fight to the Japanese World Boxing Association champion to land his power punches.
That won’t be easy though as Taguchi intends to pepper his cut-prone face with jabs before unleashing the vaunted left hook to the body that has carried the Japanese past six title defenses.
Melindo, however, is unfazed. He’s trained long and hard and sparred with the best fighters, including IBF flyweight king Donnie Nietes and prime prospect KC Cataraja, of the ALA boxing stable, to be in optimum form for the 12-rounder set at Ota-City General Gymnasium.
Even head trainer Edito Villamor is amazed by the dedication and effort Melindo poured out in training camp in Cebu, resulting to a marked improvement in his overall fighting technique, especially in counter-punching.
According to Melindo, who built his reputation in Japan with a one-round demolition of former champion Akira Yaegashi last Sept. 16, he was driven by his goal to unify the 108-pound division’s four world-recognized crowns—IBF, WBA, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization.
Though he was still 2.6 pounds overweight when he arrived in the chilly capital city of nearly 10 million people on Tuesday, Melindo easily made weight Saturday, coming in at 107.3 pounds, even lighter than Taguchi, who tipped the scales at 107.5.
As expected, the 31-year-old Taguchi has been installed the hometown favorite over Melindo, 29, who relishes the underdog tag.
Aware of Taguchi’s stamina, Melindo has prepared to go the full route, sparring for as long as 16 rounds sometimes.
After all, the Japanese isn’t an explosive hitter (26-2-2, 12 knockouts), just like the pride of Cagayan de Oro (37-2, 13 knockouts).
But if the opportunity arises, Melindo is ready to detonate bombs, similar to those that ravaged Yaegashi, in order to give Filipinos a joyous welcome to 2018.