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Milan Melindo (l.) and Carlos Tamara.

 

ryan.songalia.2

Special to the Filipino Reporter

Carlos Tamara's head trainer Butch Sanchez is quick to offer a nice word about Milan Melindo, the upstart flyweight contender whom Tamara will face on Nov. 27 at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu City, Philippines.

"The kid is not bad," says Sanchez. "He can fight."

Sanchez concedes that Melindo - unbeaten at 22-0 (7 KO) - is quick, technically gifted and "no pushover." He speaks of friends in the Philippines who have told him about the class of Melindo, and how they feel this clash will be the best matchup to take place in the country of 2010.

That's as far as the praise goes, however. Sanchez feels that Tamara is on another level from Melindo and that the gap in experience will be too much to bridge.

"Let's say you have a ladder and the ladder has ten steps," Sanchez begins. "We feel that Melindo is at step five and all of a sudden they're jumping him up to step ten. There was no in between. Melindo hasn't fought anybody on Tamara's level.

"Look at Melindo's record, he ain't fight nobody. Now look at Tamara. He's fought Giovanni Segura, Brian Viloria, Omar Narvaez. Tamara's fought them all."

If the 22-year-old Melindo is being put in too tough too soon, it wouldn't be the first time his promoter ALA Promotions has been criticized for such practices (Ciso Morales and Rey Bautista jump to mind).

Still Melindo is undaunted by the task of facing the vastly more experienced former IBF light flyweight champion Tamara (21-5, 15 KO) from North Bergen, N.J. by way of Sincelejo, Colombia.

"He's a former champion but I'm not scared of anyone," says Melindo. "I just trained hard so no worries."

Despite having not faced opponents that American boxing fans might be familiar with, trainer Edito "Ala" Villamor is quick to argue that Melindo has been in with quality opposition in his five year professional career.

"Milan fought Carlos Melo, former IBF [minimumweight] world champion Muhammad Rachman, Jin-Man Jeon who fought former world champion Takefumi Sakata. That's a big factor for Milan that he has fought world caliber boxers.

“And we know Tamara is an aggressive fighter, strong and tough, and shows a big heart. We will try our best on this coming fight."

"I always think when I fight inside the ring to get experience," Melindo says. "Win or lose, the important thing is to gain knowledge in boxing."

Melindo has been a fighter since he could comprehend the concept of fighting.

"I started fighting amateur when I'm six years old. My father bought me my first pair of gloves.”

Melindo had a hardscrabble existence early on in Cagayan de Oro City, the capital city of the Filipino province Misamis Oriental. His mother did not want him to continue with the sport his father pushed him towards.

"She said to stop boxing, but I liked to box. So I continued training in boxing."

Melindo estimates that he competed in an unfathomable 500 amateur fights before turning pro at age 17.

Tamara too had an extensive amateur background, competing in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. But his crowning achievement came in the Philippines earlier this year when he came from behind to knock out Brian Viloria in the 12th round to win the 108 pound title.

Yet just as intoxicating as glory can be, so too can it be fleeting.

Tamara's reign as champion lasted just four months when he was upset by heavy underdog Luis Lazarte, who, like Melindo, is much shorter than the 5’5” Tamara.

"We had a bad night even though we thought we won," Sanchez says. "That's the past. He has to learn not only to win the title but to stay with it."

Instead of returning home to Colombia after the Lazarte fight, Tamara remained in New Jersey and resumed training. He says he wants to return home after a win, not a loss.

For this camp, Tamara received a boost of morale by another former world champion seeking redemption of his own. Former IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agebko, who will try to regain his title on Dec. 11 against former conqueror Yonnhy Perez, opened his camp in the Bronx, New York to Tamara, sparring several times with him over the course of three weeks.

"It's amazing what those Africans do," Sanchez says. "Agbeko is a volume puncher, he keeps coming forward, punching and punching. We were sparring eight and ten rounds with him. Those guys box 14 rounds, I've never seen anything like that.

"He was so impressed by Tamara, he was just wondering who the hell beat (him)."

Outside of his gym mates, Melindo has had no big name sparring partners for this camp. The one thing he does have is his undying self belief that he was born to be a world champion. Despite being five years his opponent's junior, Melindo believes he has a few tricks he can show Tamara.

"I think I'm wiser than him," Melindo says. "I will teach him how to fight, and to become world caliber."

While we’re wondering if Melindo is ready for Tamara, Melindo is wondering if Tamara is ready for him.

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Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to GMANews.TV. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ryansongalia.