MELVIN Jerusalem attempts to become the first world champion of the Philippines in 2023 as he challenges World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight titleholder Masataka Taniguchi on Jan. 7 at the Edion Arena in Osaka, Japan.

The Philippines was left with no world champions for the latter part of 2022 after the last remaining world champion, Mark Magsayo, lost his WBO featherweight belt with a split decision to Rey Vargas on July 9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

After a failed world title bid in 2017, the 28-year-old Jerusalem clawed his way back up and became highly-rated in all four of major world boxing sanctioning bodies.

“I’ll do everything I can in my power to win this,” Jerusalem told SunStar Cebu. “I’ve been waiting so long for this opportunity and I won’t put it to waste.”

Jerusalem challenged then World Boxing Council (WBC) minimumweight king Wanheng Menayothin, who at that time was considered as the best 105-pounder, in 2017. He put on a gallant stand, but fell short by a close unanimous decision in Phitsanulok, Thailand.

Win streak

Jerusalem is currently riding an eight-fight winning streak, which includes two wins over the late former world title challenger Toto Lander.

The 28-year-old Taniguchi won the WBO minimumweight strap in 2021 after dethroning then defending champion Wilfredo Mende via an 11th round technical knockout. He successfully defended his belt with an 11th round stoppage of compatriot Kai Ishizawa last year.

“He has very good timing and also has power in his fists but I think I can beat him. I won’t take any chances though. If I can get near him I’ll target his body because I believe that’s his weak spot,” said Jerusalem. “I think I have a huge chance of winning if I can time my punches right.”

Jerusalem tipped the scales two pounds below the minimumweight limit at 103 pounds, while Taniguchi weighed in at exactly 105 pounds.

Jerusalem is 19-2 with 11 knockouts, while Taniguchi is 16-3 with 11 knockouts.