He still has a long way to go before living up to the billing as the Argentinean Vasiliy Lomachenko, but Alberto Melian won’t ever stop chasing that goal—nor play it safe in order to get there.
The two-tour Olympian from Argentina is set for his sixth scheduled 10-round fight through just eight pro bouts, as he takes on no-nonsense Oscar Negrete (18-2-2, 7KOs) this Thursday in Indio, California. The regional bantamweight title fight serves as the co-feature to Golden Boy’s Thursday Night Fight series on DAZN, although Melian sees it as the starting point to a breakout year.
“We decided on Negrete because his name came up and we want fights that are going to lead to a title fight.” Melian (6-1, 4KOs) told BoxingScene.com. “It was never going to matter who they offered as long as it’s an opponent who is supposed to test me. I’m here to collect world titles, not waste any time.”
Melian has shown as much since turning pro in December 2017. The now 30-year old bantamweight has fought at an accelerated level of competition since his debut, though perhaps a bit too ambitious as was the case during a rough patch midway through 2019. A four-fight campaign on the year opened and closed with stoppage wins, with a hard-fought victory and his lone career loss wedged in between.
Isaac Zarate entered their April 2019 clash having suffered a lopsided loss to Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6KOs)—who owns a win over Melian in the 2016 Rio Olympics and who since has become a unified 122-pound titlist. Melian managed to upend Zarate, though twice having to climb off the canvas after dropping the Mexican trialhorse earlier in the night to take a competitive but clear 10-round decision. Three months later came a surprise 10-round loss to Leonardo Baez.
“There’s no excuses for my losing that fight, other than how much experience I gained from that night,” admits Melian, turning the loss into a learning lesson. “I saw everything that I did wrong, and how I got away from what I want to accomplish in the pros.”
A quick win over Juan Kantun last November helped put the bantamweight prospect back in the win column. However, with his showdown versus Colombia’s Negrete comes the type of challenge he’s sought since leaving behind his stellar amateur career. Negrete’s lone dominant loss came on the world title stage, dropping a 12-round decision to unbeaten 122-pound titlist Rey Vargas in December 2017.
Just one win has followed, although a three-fight set with Joshus Franco could land Negrete at 3-0 just as easily as the 0-1-2 mark he registered in their competitive series.
“This is the test I want, and the type of fight I need to win big to prove I’m ready for the best at 118,” insists Melian, who faced Negrete in the amateurs nearly a decade ago. “He throws a lot of punches and likes to apply pressure. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and we are prepared to give him a taste of his own medicine.
“Once I prove myself on February 6, we can start talking about the rest of the year and chasing all the belts.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox