Jerusalem confident to retain title

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — WBO minimumweight champion Melvin Jerusalem intends to make an auspicious US debut when he faces challenger Oscar Collazo in the first defense of his crown at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, tonight (tomorrow morning, Manila time) and he’s confident of proving himself as more than a one-hit wonder. But it won’t be easy repulsing Collazo, a power-punching Puerto Rican southpaw whose resume is highlighted by a win on points over Filipino veteran Vic Saludar.

Collazo, 26, was an amateur fighter for seven years, claiming the 2019 Pan American Games gold medal in the process and turned pro in 2020. He has since compiled an unblemished record of 6-0, with four KOs compared to Jerusalem’s mark of 20-2, with 12 KOs. Experience is on the Bukidnon champion’s side but Collazo is fighting on friendly territory. Collazo’s last two fights were in California.

Jerusalem, 29, is seeing action in only his third fight outside of the Philippines. In 2017, he lost to Wanheng Menayothin on a unanimous 12-round decision in a foiled bid to wrest the WBC 105-pound title in Thailand. Last January, Jerusalem went to Osaka and knocked out Masataka Taniguchi in the second round to take the WBO belt. Now, he’s moving to the biggest stage of his career and Collazo is out to spoil his party.

The WBO conducted a purse bid to decide the fight promoter. Golden Boy and Miguel Cotto won the rights with an offer of $l52,000 to beat Koki Kameda Promotions’ bid of $101,000. The minimum bid set by WBO was $80,000. As champion, Jerusalem will earn 75 percent of the bid or $114,000 while Collazo, the mandatory challenger, will take home $38,000. The purse of the equivalent of P6.3 million is the largest ever for Jerusalem and it should inspire him to go for more in the future.

“Melvin’s ready,” said SanMan Promotions’ JC Manangquil. “He had a great camp and he’s 100 percent ready. Melvin trained for 11 days at Wild Card (in Los Angeles) to adjust. He can beat Collazo by KO or points.  Collazo’s a good boxer but I think Melvin is one level higher than him. Collazo has an amateur style with power.”

The danger is Collazo is aligned with Golden Boy and he’s touted as the next great Puerto Rican champion following in Cotto’s footsteps so a lot of hope is resting on his shoulders. Two weeks ago, Filipino Vincent Astrolabio fell victim to Jason Moloney in a fight staged by the Australian’s promoter Top Rank in Stockton, California. Moloney ran all night and won a majority decision. Will Collazo do a Moloney? “I hope Collazo doesn’t run but let’s see,” said Manangquil. “In case he runs, Melvin will chase him down.”

Fighting a southpaw like Collazo won’t be difficult for Jerusalem. Taniguchi was lefthanded and Jerusalem ripped his defense apart with a single punch. A right straight landed smack on the Japanese’s chin and dropped him on his back. Taniguchi struggled to rise and was on all fours trying to beat referee Roberto Ramirez Jr.’s count. He got back on his feet then slumped back on the canvas, prompting Ramirez to end it. A similarly quick ending is what Jerusalem has in mind for Collazo.


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