BANKING on the popular assumption that Melvin ‘Gringo’ Jerusalem’s punches packed more wallop, not a few conjured images of Philippine pro boxing welcoming the year of the rooster with a golden egg, specifically a newly-minted World Boxing Council (WBC) crown.
Jerusalem did come within spitting distance but when the smoke of battle cleared, defending WBC minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin retained the title with a unanimous nod after 12 rounds. Make no mistake, the decision, while unanimous, was very close: 115-113, 114-113 and 114-113 all in favor of the Thai.
Referee Celestino Ruiz slapped Jerusalem with a one-point deduction for throwing a low blow in the eighth round; without the deduction the fight would have ended in a majority draw with two scorecards dead-even at 114-114. A knockdown or two by Jerusalem would have totally changed the complexion of the fight.
Jerusalem entered the fight with an unbeaten record of 11-0 with seven knockouts, but his resume paled in comparison to Menayothin’s record of 44-0 with 17 knockouts. Menayothin won the WBC title in November 2014 and was making his sixth defense of the 105-pound diadem. In stark contrast, Jerusalem had gone the full 10-round distance only once in his young career and was fighting in a six-rounder just two months ago.
Before Menayothin, Jerusalem’s biggest test had come against countryman and former world champion Florante ‘Little Pacquiao’ Condes in February 2016 and Jerusalem looked sloppy in eking out an eight-round majority decision. This writer has covered some of Jerusalem’s fights for the popular television boxing show Pinoy Pride and at his best, the kid packs explosive power. The fight with the hard-hitting but shopworn Condes was supposed to be his coming out party but Jerusalem failed to get an offensive rhythm.
Jerusalem’s handlers rolled the dice hoping for the best and bracing for the worst. To his credit, Jerusalem stood his ground in the first four rounds of the fight. When Menayothin started to pull away in the middle rounds, Jerusalem launched a furious rally at the tailend in the hope of scoring a knockout. The clever boxer that Menayothin is, the Thai was able to dodge Jerusalem’s offensive thrusts.
The 22-year-old Jerusalem absorbed his first pro defeat, but the loss figures to be an aberration. Jerusalem clearly lacked the required seasoning going into the fight but he arguably soaked in all the lessons while comparing fistic notes with Menayothin. Jerusalem still has time on his side and should return to the ring a better fighter.
Melvin may have come up short in his trip to Jerusalem, but the future remains in front of him.