Milan Melindo emerges victorious in enemy territory
Santino Honasan on May 22, 2017 05:30 PM
Milan Melindo celebrates with the ALA Boxing team (Photo courtesy of Edito "ALA" Villamor on Instagram: @coach_ala)
"AKIRA! AKIRA! AKIRA!"
Sunday night, Milan Melindo wasn't just battling the reigning IBF light flyweight champion. He was also taking on the thousands of Japanese fans in attendance, supporting their hometown hero Akira Yaegashi as he attempted to defend his title for the third time.
"AKIRA! AKIRA! AKIRA!"
From the opening bell, the people inside the Ariake Coliseum chanted their champion's name, non-stop.
That was until the 1:29 minute mark of the match, when Melindo sent Yaegashi crashing to the mat for a first time.
The chants turned into nervous buzzing. It was as if they knew something was going wrong.
After a well-placed left uppercut to the jaw sent Yaegashi on the mat once again moments later, the nervous buzzing grew louder. No more chants, this time around.
The Japanese fans tried egging their champion on, but with 23 seconds remaining in the first round, the Melindo detonated a crisp one-two combination on Yaegashi's mug that sent the champion down for a third time. For the last time.
When the referee finally waved the fight off, there was no more chanting. No more nervous buzzing. Just stunned silence.
The only noise that could be heard was Melindo and his corner, coach Edito "Ala" Villamor, coach Edmund Villamor, and coach Michael Domingo, screaming in celebration.
Finally, the 29-year old Cagayanon is a world champion. More impressively, he did it in enemy territory, against one of Japan's most popular champions.
And he did it with thousands firmly rooting against him.
"Pag-start ng fight, pag-entrance na-intimidate ako, ang daming fans. Ang dami niyang alalay," Melindo told ABS-CBN's Dyan Castillejo. "Ang crowd, sa kanya nag-chicheer."
Without the crowd support that he's used to, Melindo turned to a bigger audience for a little support.
"Tumingin ako sa taas, sabi ko God, tulungan mo ako."
Once the bell rang however, it seemed as if the crowd support didn't help the defending champion, as Melindo dominated Yaegashi for the stretch of the fight. The early knockout even came as a surprise to coach "Ala" Villamor.
"Hindi namin na expect na ganoon kadali, kasi si Akira is a durable world champion."
Even Melindo couldn't believe his handywork, and deferred the win to the man upstairs.
"Hindi ko lubos maisip na nagawa ko. Si God ang gumawa ng way."
As Melindo heads back home to Cebu later this week, the ALA Boxing Promotions standout will once again hear people cheering, but this time, it'll be for him, as he brings home his first world championship.