Bloodied Melindo retains title over Budler with heroic effort

Ryan Songalia

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Bloodied Melindo retains title over Budler with heroic effort
Milan Melindo scores a twelfth round knockdown and holds onto his IBF junior flyweight title by split decision

CEBU CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – With blood streaming from cuts over both eyes, Milan Melindo proved not only was he a worthy champion, but he had as big a heart as anyone in boxing today.

Melindo rescued his IBF junior flyweight title with a strong eleventh round and a knockdown of Hekkie Budler in round 12 to retain the title by split decision on Saturday, September 16 at Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu City, Philippines. One judge had it 115-113 for Budler while the other two had it 117-110 and 115-112 for Melindo.

Melindo (37-2, 13 knockouts) of Cagayan de Oro City started out strong, landing the cleaner punches in the early rounds with his superior balance and combination punching. But Budler (31-3, 10 KOs) of Johannesburg, South Africa began finding his rhythm in the fourth, getting in and out with his jab and straight rights before Melindo came back with a strong fifth.

The fight turned in the sixth round as a cut on his Melindo’s left eye began to stream blood into his eye, and a second cut over his other eye in the tenth left Melindo functionally blind. The second was ruled as the result of a punch, according to Melindo’s trainer Edito Villamor.

“I think I’m gonna finish him but Budler has a strength to continue the fight,” said Melindo of the knockdown in round 12. “I planned to box him, I planned to make him go forward so that I can counterpunch him. He thinks that I can’t see because I have two cuts and the blood is running in my eyes so he thinks I cannot see his punches.”

Melindo could see his opponent’s gloves and little else, he said, and said he was lucky to make contact thanks to volume punching.

“I see a little bit only because the blood is running in my eyes. Then the color is yellow,” said Melindo, 29, adding that the blood burned when it ran in his eyes.

Promoter Michael Aldeguer of ALA Promotions says Melindo’s next fight will be a mandatory title defense, though he’s unsure who the challenger will be.

Melindo, who knocked out Akira Yaegashi in one round this past May to win the title, had struggled at the weigh-in Friday, coming in at 109.25 pounds on his first attempt before weighing in at 108 after some time in the sauna.

The South African contingent didn’t take the result so well, with Budler’s promoter Rodney Berman calling it a “blatant robbery,” calling the refereeing “pathetic” and the judging “a disgrace” on Twitter, adding “ibf can keep their titles.” 

(READ: Sultan outfights Casimero, becomes top contender for IBF champ Ancajas)

The co-main event saw Jason Pagara (41-2-1, 25 KOs), fighting for the first time since November of 2016, struggle to a split draw against late replacement James Onyango (23-11-2, 19 KOs) of Kenya. Pagara scored knockdowns in rounds two and 5 but was unable to handle the pressure from Onyango, who opened up a cut on the hometown fighter and battered him around the ring in the late rounds as exhaustion set in.

The scores were 94-94 on one card, while one had it 94-93 for Onyango, scoring a 10-8 round in the eighth without a knockdown, and the other had it 95-93 for Pagara.

The crowd booed the decision and cheered for Onyango afterwards, chanting “Kenya! Kenya” as he exited the ring.

Pagara is said to have reported to camp well overweight, and Aldeguer says he’ll sit down with him and ask where his head is at after this performance.

Pagara had been rated number one by the WBO at 140 pounds but was dropped to number 3 due to inactivity. –

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