Philippines, 28 Nov 2022
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Bleacher Talk: Milan is It, Jonas Stuns, Jason Bombs Out

Like a box-office hit of a movie, Pinoy Pride 42 generated post-fight chatter and talk from social media to conversations among boxing aficionados who all went home fully satisfied and content with what they saw. And for those who didn?t get a chance to watch the fight, a sigh of regret for not going to the Waterfront Hotel and settling for the delayed telecast on TV (there?s nothing like the real thing, is there). The fight card provided just about everything a card should have: wins by those expected to win, an upset and even a ?hometown? decision that didn?t go unnoticed by the crowd.

The main event was as advertised. Milan Melindo and Hekkie Budler gave the fans what they promised: an entertaining, close and slambang fight. Melindo retained his IBF light flyweight world championship via split decision (117-110, 115-112 and 113-115) in a fight that featured tons of action, blood and a key knockdown. It was so close that we had it dead even after ten rounds (with the help of The Freeman assistant sports editor Lemuel Maglinte). Melindo won the first rounds while Budler came on strong in the next five rounds. Melindo landed the cleaner blows in most of the exchanges and when he slowed down a bit, Budler scored through volume jab-straight combinationa, but none of which could make Milan groggy, thus some rounds going the South African?s way. Entering the championship rounds 11 and 12, it was clear that the winner would be the one who wanted it most. Cut in both eyes, Milan rose like a wounded tiger, dug deep and showed us what he was made of as he took the last two rounds. His last round knockdown of Budler sealed the deal. If this were a basketball game, the game was tied with 30 seconds left, and Milan drilled a clutch triple from downtown to ice the win. That?s the kind of swing the knockdown gave Milan. It not only sent Budler to the canvass. In a close fight, it proved who landed the more telling blows and who deserved to win. We were surprised that one judge saw Budler win, but that?s boxing. I scored it 115-112. It?s time for Milan to rest, recover and head back to the gym when he?s ready.

The pleasant surprise of the night was Jonas Sultan?s unanimous decision win over two-division world champion Johnriel Casimero. We had predicted that Casimero?s power and experience would give him the edge, but I was wrong (and didn?t mind to be proven wrong at all). What happened? While his last two fights ended by knock-out, we were also expecting him to go brawling like a KO puncher. On the other hand, Sultan came out as a thinking boxer who mapped out a game plan and executed this. While he engaged Casimero in a middle-of-the ring brawl, he did this ?smartly.? The smart ring tactic he did was to cut the distance between himself and Casimero so as not to give the former world champion the space he needed to land his right hand bombs. Sultan didn?t mind working up close and personal, landing short stinging shots that scored points even if these weren?t the kind of bombs that put Sonny Boy Jaro and Makazole Tete to sleep in his last two fights. Casimero did land his right, but these were few and rare when Sultan gave him the space for this. It was a simple case of a boxer outboxing a puncher. The scores were 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 for Sultan (we had scored it 115-113).

The bad news of the night (yes, promoters also have their own share of bad news; you can?t win ?em all, can you?) was hands-down Jason Pagara who was very lucky to come out with a split draw against Kenyan Jason Onyango who took the fight on short notice. Onyango gave Pagara all kinds of trouble, dominated the second half of the fight, but couldn?t knock him down (or out). Pagara?s saving miracle were the two knockdowns he scored and that gave him two 10-8 rounds. Without these, Pagara would?ve easily lost the fight. Scores were 114-114, 114-113 for Onyango and 115-113 for Pagara for a split draw. The crowd jeered when the decision was announced and cheered for the Kenyan when he and his trainer were about to leave the ring. I had it 94-94 but could?ve given the fight to the Kenyan if I could only reverse a score of just one round. Did you notice anything about the official scores that were announced? Both boxers scored over 100 points in a ten round bout. The last I remember, you can only score a maximum of 100 points in a ten round bout. But that?s another story. The bigger story here is the huge question mark over Pagara?s chances to become a world-beater. I?m afraid and sorry to say he?s a shadow of his old self.

You win some, you win some more, and you lose some. What a night of boxing it was indeed. The bar was reset and here?s looking forward to resetting this in Pinoy Pride 43.

Maayong adlaw!

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Rico Navarro.

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