This is the one fight that showed Milan Melindo’s true heart as a champion.
With a bout so close and a pair of cuts blurring his vision, “El Metodico” summoned every ounce of strength in him to hack out a split-decision victory against formidable South African challenger Hekkie Budler in Cebu city on September 16.
"There is no sweeter victory for a boxer than one drenched with blood," said boxing analyst Ed Tolentino, who was part of the TV panel that covered Melindo-Budler.
"I know some boxers who would have quit. It would have been so easy for the boxer to claim that he could no longer see. We would have accepted such an explanation, but what defines a champion is his ability to push himself beyond the parameters of pain.
"Melindo could no longer see against Budler, but his desire to remain a champion remained crystal clear in his head."
Melindo said that brutal fight was evidence that staying on top takes a lot more effort than getting there.
"Napakahirap na laban na iyon kasi first title defense ko. Mas mahirap ang laban kapag depensa, dahil maraming gusto umagaw ng belt at gutom sila. Ang kalaban ko pa hindi basta basta," he told ABS-CBN News recently.
Melindo said Budler's camp knew they had to cut him so that his vision would suffer toward the end of the bout.
"Iyon ang istilo nila, ginawan nila ng paraan na masugatan ako. Ang iniisip ko noon, madepensahan ko talaga para sa bansa," Melindo said.
"Kahit pagod na, kahit dumudugo na ang magkabilang mata ko para maipanalo ang laban."
In the 12th, the champion found an opening and landed a punch that sent Budler to the canvas for a brief moment. It was enough to sway two of the judges, as Melindo claimed the win.
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