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It was unexpected – Melindo

Milan Melindo, the country’s 40th world boxing champion, thought it would take him all 12 rounds – and not less than a round – to dethrone Akira Yaegashi in their International Boxing Federation (IBF) light-flyweight title fight held over the weekend in Tokyo.

“Unexpected,” said Melindo after flooring Yaegashi thrice en route to a first-round knockout win in front of a shocked crowd of 6,500 at the Ariake Coliseum.

Making his third shot at a world title after heartbreaking defeats in 2013 and 2015, Melindo became the toast of Philippine boxing with his sensational win on hostile ground.

“I was ready to go 12 rounds with him and I was surprised that it ended early,” said the 29-year-old Melindo, who fights out of Tony Aldeguer’s ALA Boxing Club of Cebu.

Edito Villamor, one of three trainers in Melindo’s corner, said the gameplan was to put the pressure on the 34-year-old Yaegashi from the opening bell.

“We told Milan to keep it close and go to the body and that’s exactly what he did,” said Villamor, who was joined by brother Edmond and Michael Domingo in calling the shots.

Halfway through the first round, Melindo caught Yaegashi, making the third defense of the IBF 108-lb crown, with a left hook to the side of the head and he immediately sank to the floor.

Sensing blood, Melindo pressed the attack and sent Yaegashi down for the second time with the same left.

The third knockdown was courtesy of a right to the jaw and as Yaegashi struggled to get up, referee Eddie Hernandez of the US, wisely called a halt to the contest.

As Melindo’s corner celebrated, Yaegashi remained on the floor and attended to by his handlers, one of them trying to massage the back of the fallen fighter’s neck.

Melindo’s easy win was the third time a Filipino fighter won a world title in the first round after junior-welter Roberto Cruz against Battling Torres of Mexico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1963 and bantam Luisito Espinosa versus Khaokor Galaxy of Thailand in Bangkok in 1989.