The WBO strawweight title changed hands in dramatic fashion, as Jerusalem dethroned reigning titlist Masakata Taniguchi with a second-round knockout. Taniguchi was dropped hard by a straight right hand in round two, and wobbly on his feet in a failed bid to beat the count as he was deemed unfit to continue at 1:04 of the second round in their Abema TV-aired title fight Friday at EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan.
Taniguchi entered with a reputation as a slow starter but could not have asked for a better opening round. Jerusalem was calm in the pocked but struggled to get out of the way of crisp left hands launched by Taniguchi who connected with conviction both to the body and upstairs.
The pace slowed just a touch in the early part of round two as Taniguchi measured up his visiting challenger. Jerusalem—who was fighting outside the Philippines for just the second time in his career—was prepared for the left hand that Taniguchi sought to throw and land, beating the 28-year-old Tokyo-based southpaw to the draw as he slammed home a right hand.
Taniguchi was sent straight to the canvas, falling on his back. He attempted to beat the count but could never find his legs as he twice staggered during the mandatory eight count, forcing referee Robert Ramirez Jr. to end the contest.
The win by Jerusalem (20-2, 11KOs) saw the first title change of 2023. It also helped dull the pain of what was a miserable 2022 for the Philippines, who ended the year without a single reigning titleholder following defeats suffered by five Filipino titleholders on the year.
Jerusalem’s previous lone road trip ended in a January 2017 points loss to then-unbeaten WBC strawweight titlist Wanheng ‘TBE’ Menayothin in Phitsanulok, Thailand. A ten-round points loss to countryman Joey Canoy marked the only other defeat for Jerusalem, who has since won ten in a row—none bigger than Friday’s victory.
On the other side, Taniguchi fell to 16-4 (11KOs) with a stunning defeat. He won the WBO title in an eleventh-round knockout of Puerto Rico’s Wilfredo ‘Bimbito’ Mendez in December 2021, having made just one successful defense. It came in an eleventh-round knockout of countryman Kai Ishizawa last April 22 in his lone fight of the year.
A ruling by the WBO will determine whether Jerusalem can enjoy a voluntary title defense or if a mandatory challenger will be assigned to the newly crowned champ.
There were whispers of an all-Boricua title eliminator between Mendez and Oscar Collazo, who are currently number one and number three in the WBO strawweight rankings. Collazo is also the mandatory challenger to the WBA 105-pound title and could opt to wait out the Thammanoon Niyomtrong-Erick Rosa title consolidation fight, leaving Mendez to potentially next challenge Jerusalem for his old title.
Regardless, it remains mission accomplished for Jerusalem who provided the Philippines with the opportunity to claim an active world title following his upset win on the road.
BY JAKE DONOVAN