Montiel keeps belt with TKO

Fernando Montiel knew it would be tough to put away Luis Melendez and keep his WBO super flyweight championship belt. But it turned out to be a lot harder than Montiel had imagined.

In a physical contest that took its toll on both fighters, Montiel scored a TKO win over Melendez in the 12th round Thursday at the Hard Rock Hotel. He was all over Melendez to the point that referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight with 62 seconds to go.

“I expected a tough fight,” said Montiel (35-2-1), who headlined the Top Rank card. “I’d seen him before. But he was tougher than I expected. He was in great condition and gave it everything he had. But I knew I was the better fighter.”

The judges agreed. Montiel was ahead on all three scorecards when it was stopped as Duane Ford and Dave Moretti had Montiel ahead 107-100 and Doug Tucker had Montiel winning 107-101. Melendez dropped to 25-3-1.

Even though he was ahead with the judges, Montiel came out for the 12th round as though he needed a knockout. He rocked Melendez with a left to the head and then dropped him with a left hook to the body. Melendez got up to beat the count, but he was in no shape to continue.

The fight appeared to be over in the sixth when Montiel sent Melendez to the canvas with a big right hand, with Melendez getting up just before the bell to end the round.

“I knew he’d get up,” Montiel said.

Thanks to the reprieve, Melendez regrouped, and 40 seconds into the seventh round, he dropped Montiel with a quick left to the jaw.

“I was OK,” Montiel said of the seventh-round knockdown. “He surprised me, but he didn’t hurt me.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ or (702) 387-2913.

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