On a huge day for boxing fans around the globe it could be said that fans in the Philippines got the perfect start as they got two brilliant bouts on Pinoy Pride 42, the second of which saw a local hero retain a world title, despite suffering massive cuts over both eyes.
The champion was IBF Light Flyweight kingpin Milan Melindo (37-2, 13), who narrowly defeated South African challenger Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) in a really dramatic, and engaging contest.
The fight started slow and the 4 rounds were tactically changed rounds with Melindo looking to unleash his counter punches and Budler waiting back, trying to figure out a point of attack. That saw the challenger look to jab, and look to unleash combinations on the inside, though he got punished for both. The one massive incident during those early rounds was a monstrous low blow from Melindo that sent Budler down in a heap.
In round 5 it seemed like Budler finally found something to go with as he upped the pace, and Melindo responded in kind in a round that suddenly saw the fight come alive. Through the round it seemed like Melindo was the bigger puncher, but Budler certainly seemed to land more and seemed to be the one forcing the action as it suddenly looked like we were on for a tear up.
Sadly the action completely died in round 6, arguably the worst round of the fight. Despite the action dying off the end of the round saw the drama begin as a huge headclash left Budler cut over the left eye, with the cut being a long, deep one. The cut could have stopped the fight, and in round 7, when the doctors inspected it, it did look like we were going to have an early conclusion.
Thankfully the doctor decided to let the fight go on and in round 7 Budler had a great round and it seemed things were turning his way, with the cut clearly bothering Melindo. To his credit Melindo fought back fantastically in rounds 8 and 9, as he escaped another inspection.
With the fight finely balanced Melindo suffered yet again, as the two traded blows and their heads connected again. This time it was Melindo's right eye that was left with a gash over it and a bad swelling that made it seem like he was essentially blind in the eye. The swellings drove on Budler in round 11 and although Melindo was clearly fighting with his sight impaired the Filipino had his moments, including a massive right hand late on. It wasn't enough to take Melindo the round but continued to prove he was the power puncher in there.
With the bout close, and with Melindo's face a swollen and cut mess, the final round was always going to play a major role and both fighters knew it. Budler came out hot, unfortunately was dropped in the first 30 seconds. He got back to his feet, complained about it being a trip and then they went to war, with Melindo seemingly hunting a stoppage then Budler turning the tables until they were just trading back and forth in a round that should in contention for round of the year.
When the knockdown occurred it did seem like it would play a massive role, and that proved to be the case when the cards were read, with scores of 115-113 to Budler being over-ruled by scores of 115-112 and 117-110 for Melindo.
With the win Melindo secures his first defense, but he will be out of the ring for quite some time due to the cuts he suffered, which were both nasty ones. Potentially he could be back in time for a mandatory in 2018, or perhaps see an interim champion crowned whilst he recovers.
Although the Light Flyweight lacks the respect it deserves this was the second world title fight the division has seen this week, and like the first it was a thrilling and dramatic defense, with the winner over-coming serious facial damage. Sadly though it could mean that two champions are out of action until 2018.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.