On the day he set foot in Osaka early last week, Melvin Jerusalem’s promoter came calling.
Just before their plane took off from Mactan Cebu International, JC Mananquil made the assurance that he would ring me so I can speak with the then-challenger even for a minute.
Around lunch time, Mananquil came calling and after the customary greetings, he handed the phone to Jerusalem.
The Bukidnon-born fighter sounded shy.
But you could sense he wasn’t traveling to Japan to serve as cannon fodder for Masataka Taniguchi.
In fact, Jerusalem insisted he didn’t feel any pressure at all and he was looking forward to his clash with the defending champion.
Though he didn’t make any prediction, Jerusalem oozed with optimism.
He was very much unlike some of the guys I covered abroad.
While he didn’t talk trash, Jerusalem’s words were from a man who had trust and confidence in himself and on his team.
So, when Jerusalem climbed the ring at the EDION Arena, he had one thing in mind.
Michael Domingo, who trains the new ring hero, swears knocking out Taniguchi was not foremost on their game plan.
“What we planned was for Melvin to dictate the tempo and win every round convincingly so that even if the fight goes the distance, we would still emerge the winner,” Domingo said.
But Jerusalem put matters into his own hands and closed out the show after throwing a tricky left jab followed by a right straight that connected squarely on Taniguchi’s jaw.
Stunned by the knockdown, Jerusalem walked to the neutral corner, away from where Puerto Rican referee Roberto Ramirez was doing the count.
Taniguchi looked like somebody who had drunk a fatal concoction of single malt whiskey, beer and sake as he attempted to stand up straight and persuade the third man that he was ready to resume fighting.
But his legs betrayed him as Taniguchi fell once again — without getting punched — forcing Ramirez to issue a mercy halt to the proceedings.
Then all hell broke loose as Jerusalem’s cornermen began going up the ring to celebrate 2023’s first sensational ending.
First to go up was the maniacal Mananquil, who embraced the fighter so tight it was a miracle Jerusalem’s back didn’t break.
Then came Domingo, who plotted Taniguchi’s downfall as the two perfected boxing’s most basic combination during the buildup.
Jerusalem admits the knockout win almost floored him.
But it was the boxing world that felt the biggest jolt.
Jerusalem’s devastating win was truly extra-special.