Jerusalem dreams to become unified champ at 105

AFTER achieving his longtime dream of becoming a world champion, newly crowned World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight titleholder Melvin Jerusalem sets his sights on a new goal, which is to unify all the world championship belts at 105.

Thai Panya Pradabsri is currently the World Boxing Council (WBC) minimumweight champion, Mexican Daniel Valladares holds the International Boxing Federation (IBF) minimumweight strap and another Thai, Thammanoon Niyomtrong is the World Boxing Association (WBA) titleholder.

Out of the three other world champions, Jerusalem wants to start with the 32-year-old Niyomtrong.

“I want to fight for the WBA first. He’s tough but we’ll do our best. He’s also a bit old. I’ll just test myself against him,” Jerusalem said in yesterday’s press conference at the Caja Kitchen of the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Niyomtrong is still set to defend his belt against unbeaten Dominican Erick Rosa on March 1 in Thailand. Pradabsri, on the other hand, is waiting for the winner of the world title eliminator between No. 2-ranked Mexican Luis Castillo and No. 1-rated South African Ayanda Ndulani, while Valladares will most likely face hard-hitting Japanese Ginjiro Shigeoka after their world championship fight last Jan. 6 in Japan ended in a no contest.

A unification fight against either of the three champions may have to wait a little bit longer.

“The champions at this time have mandatories,” said Sanman Promotions head JC Manangquil, Jerusalem’s promoter. “We’ll have him defend his belt twice first.”

One of the next possible fights for Jerusalem is a mandatory fight against the winner of the WBO minimumweight title eliminator between No. 2-ranked Puerto Rican Oscar Collazo and No. 3-rated Mexican Yudel Reyes. Another option would be a voluntary title defense against a fighter in the WBO rankings.

“We have a lot of offers for Melvin. But we’re thinking which is next and announce it,” said Marivic Matsuura, who along with his husband Nobuyuki Matsuura manage Jerusalem under ZIP Boxing. “There’s an offer but we still need the approval of the WBO.”

Marivic hinted that Jerusalem could return to Japan to defend his title there. Some of the possible Japanese opponents, which are currently ranked by the WBO are Yudai Shigeoka, Ginjiro Shigeoka and Tsubasa Kuora.

The 28-year-old Jerusalem won the WBO belt after dethroning Masataka Taniguchi by a second round technical knockout on Jan. 6 at the Edion Arena in Osaka, Japan. He delivered a perfect right straight to the jaw of Taniguchi that dropped him to the canvas.

“I was surprised by it (the second-round knockout). We have sacrificed for so long. I didn’t expect it to end in the second round,” said Jerusalem. “I was rocked in the first round but I didn’t show it to him that I was hurt.”

Jerusalem, along with fellow former ALA Boys Jeo Santisima and Esneth Domingo, signed with ZIP Boxing and Sanman Promotions after the closure of ALA Boxing.

Manangquil had high hopes for his newly acquired fighters, especially Jerusalem. However, he didn’t expect that he would become a world champion this quick.

“After ALA in 2020 it was the pandemic time, ZIP and I talked about them signing. We were hoping that he would be a world champion and Melvin made it in that span. We expected it, but maybe for another two more years but the opportunity was there. We were confident before the fight because coach Mike (Domingo) and Melvin had a good training camp. We weren’t shocked. He trained for three weeks in Japan and was already acclimatized, which made it comfortable for him,” said Manangquil.

WBO vice president for Asia Pacific Leon Panoncillo personally delivered the newly minted WBO minimumweight belt and handed it to Jerusalem on Jan. 17.

Jerusalem is currently the only world champion from the Philippines, who holds a belt from one of the four world major boxing sanctioning bodies, after the country lost all of its world champions last year. (EKA)