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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson

‘Gringo’ ripe, ready for shot at world title

By Joaquin Henson
09 Jan 2017

MANILA, Philippines – Melvin (Gringo) Jerusalem will seek inspiration from eight Filipinos who won world titles in Thailand as he ventures to Phitsanulok in the north central district to face defending WBC minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin in a 12-round bout on Jan. 25.

It’s a huge test for the 22-year-old Jerusalem who’s never fought overseas and even in Manila. But while ALA Boxing CEO Tony Aldeguer yesterday admitted a win is a long shot, he’s not discounting the possibility of an upset over the more experienced Thai.

Jerusalem, the WBC No. 9 contender, turned pro in 2014 and has compiled an 11-0 record, with 7 KOs. Wanheng, 31, made his pro debut in 2007 and has logged a mark of 44-0, with 17 KOs. The Thai will make the sixth defense of the 105-pound throne. Two of his previous challengers were Filipinos Jeffrey Galero and Jerry Tomogdan both of whom lost on points. Wanheng has so far victimized 18 Filipinos, including former world champion Florante Condes, Jonathan Refugio and Crison Omayao who are common opponents with Jerusalem.

“Skill-wise, Gringo is at par with the world’s best,” said Aldeguer whose son Michael manages Jerusalem. “He knows how to win. This is an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. It took Donnie (Nietes) several years to get a world title shot. Now, Gringo has a chance to win a world title in only his 12th pro fight. The lineup of fighters in the minimumweight division isn’t too tough. Wanheng’s last defense was against Saul Juarez who lost to Milan (Melindo) in 2014. From 105 to 112 pounds, the divisions are dominated by Asians. Mexicans aren’t too interested in the lower weight classes because the purses aren’t too attractive. Gringo is a determined individual. He’s strong for his division. What will be tested is his mental toughness because he’s never fought a foreigner and this will be his first world title fight and first fight abroad.”

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What should lift Jerusalem’s confidence is the record of eight Filipinos who’ve won world titles in Thailand. The precedents are a boost to his morale. In 1970, Erbito Salavarria knocked out Chartchai Chionoi in the second round to claim the WBC flyweight crown. In 1989, Luisito Espinosa flattened Khaokor Galaxy in one round for the WBA bantamweight plum. In 1992, Manny Melchor scored a split 12-round decision over Fahlan Sakkreerin for the IBF minimumweight title. In 1994, Ronnie Magramo halted Wanwin Chareoen in the second round for the vacant WBF minimumweight diadem. In 1998, Manny Pacquiao poleaxed Chatchai Sasakul in the eighth round to wrest the WBC flyweight crown. In 2000, Malcolm Tunacao stopped Medgeon Singsurat in the seventh round for the WBC flyweight belt. It was only Tunacao’s 11th pro fight. In 2012, Sonny Boy Jaro stopped Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in the sixth round for the WBC flyweight title. And only last July, Marlon Tapales took out Panyu Uthok in the 11th round for the WBO bantamweight tiara.

“Gringo’s amateur background is an advantage,” said Aldeguer. “Look at Japan’s Kosei Tanaka who had over 50 amateur fights. When he turned pro, Tanaka was ready. He won his first world title in his fifth fight and last Dec. 31, won his second world title with a knockout over Moises Fuentes. Gringo was a silver medalist as an amateur and that’s an indication of his background. He’s quick and confident of himself. Donnie has sparred with him and thinks he has good potential. He’s an in-and-out fighter who’s hard to hit.”
Dean's Corner ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

ALA Boxing trainer Edito Villamor said it’s a 50-50 fight. “We’re not impressed with Wanheng’s knockout power,” said Villamor who’ll work Jerusalem’s corner with Michael Domingo in Thailand. “Of course, Wanheng is more experienced but his body isn’t the same as it was before with a lot of wear and tear from 44 fights. We know it’s hard to win in Thailand so the goal is for Melvin to win every round, to dominate Wanheng so the judges won’t find it hard to decide the winner. Maybe, in the later rounds, we’ll go for a knockout.”

Villamor described Jerusalem as a stylist. “Melvin is a counterpuncher, not a brawler,” he said. “He’s awkward which is an advantage because you don’t know where his punches will come from. He’s ready to fight. He didn’t take a break for Christmas or New Year because we knew he would fight in January but we were surprised to find out later it would be for the world title.”

Villamor said Jerusalem’s durability is unquestioned. “He fought Condes who’s called Little Pacquiao last February and took his hardest shots,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a harder hitter than Condes in the minimumweight division. Last November, he fought Fabio Marfa, a veteran, and won easily even if Marfa weighed 115 1/2 pounds. Melvin got his WBC rating after he beat WBC International lightflyweight champion Jonathan Refugio last July. He knocked down Refugio with a right straight in the fourth round. Melvin can hit hard with the left or right.”

Jerusalem, who was given his nickname Gringo by Aldeguer because he’s fair-skinned and his hair was dyed blond when he showed up at the ALA Gym three years ago, has a killer body shot that he used in bowling over Omayao, Rodante Suacasa and Rez Padrogane. Villamor said it will be a weapon to slow down Wanheng.

“Melvin is not like any fighter because he’s awkward,” said Villamor of the Bukidnon high school graduate. “He’s flexible, he easily adjusts. Whatever happens against Wanheng, it will be a positive experience for him. We don’t have big expectations but who knows? Melvin might just do what Tunacao and Pacquiao did when they won world titles in Thailand.”

Photo: Melvin 'Gringo' Jerusalem (L) in action against former world champion Florante Condes whom he beat by majority decision on Feb. 27, 2015.

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