Jerusalem dethrones Taniguchi, becomes PH’s first champ in 2023

IT WAS always a childhood dream of Melvin Jerusalem to become a world champion. Despite losing in his first world title attempt, failure never stopped him working his way back up and reaching his goal.

That longtime dream of the kid from Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon finally became a reality on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, after winning the World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight title with an impressive second-round stoppage of defending champion Masataka Taniguchi at the Edion Arena in Osaka, Japan.

Jerusalem landed a vicious right straight to the jaw of Taniguchi that dropped the Japanese champion hard on the canvas. Taniguchi went stiff for a few moments and then attempted to stand up but immediately came reeling back down on the floor. He stood up again but was still dazed on his feet which forced referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. to stop the bout at the 1:04 in the second round.

“I’m very happy because he really achieved his dream of becoming a world champion,” Jerusalem’s longtime trainer, Michael Domingo, told SunStar Cebu. “He’s well-conditioned and very hungry to win. He timed his punches really well.”

The 28-year-old Jerusalem won his ninth straight fight and improved to 20-2 with 12 knockouts, while Taniguchi fell to 16-4 with 11 knockouts.

Jerusalem had his first world title shot in 2017. He challenged then World Boxing Council (WBC) minimumweight king Wanheng Menayothin but came up short and lost via a close unanimous decision.

Even though he lost to Joey Canoy in his next fight that same year, Jerusalem worked hard to improve himself, clawed his way back up the world rankings and became highly-rated in all four major world sanctioning bodies.

“I really admire his attitude. He never lost hope of becoming a world champion. He never stopped working hard and never gets lazy in training,” said Domingo, who trained Jerusalem since his early days as a pro at the ALA Gym in 2014.

Jerusalem, now handled by Sanman Promotions and ZIP after the closure of the famed ALA Gym, becomes the first Filipino world champion for 2023.

The Philippines lost all of its world champions after Nonito Donaire Jr., Rene Mark Cuarto, Mark Magsayo and Johnriel Casimero lost their belts in the early half of 2022.

Jerusalem will get his much-deserved respite but vowed to train harder and become a better fighter in his first world title defense.

“This victory is for the Philippines and for my family. This also goes out to my Zip-Sanman team. Of course, I am thankful to my coach Michael Domingo who worked hard with me during training camp. I will not stop training hard after this,” said Jerusalem. (EKA)