Fists will fly in Fresno: Jerwin Ancajas to make fifth defense of IBF 115-pound title
IBF junior bantamweight titleholder Jerwin “Pretty Boy” Ancajas steps through the ropes on May 26 to face mandatory challenger and Filipino compatriot Jonas Sultan, at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, California (ESPN+, 9:30 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Ancajas, 29-1-1 (20), is promoted by eight-division world champion and global boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. And many are predicting that the polite and humble Ancajas may just be the man to step up and take over as the biggest star in Philippine boxing as Pacquiao enters the twilight of a storied career.
Ancajas has emerged as one of the top names in the hot 115-pound division, winning his belt in September 2016 from McJoe Arroyo. He has since posted successful defenses against Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita, Jamie Conlan and Israel Gonzalez.
The win over Gonzalez last February saw Ancajas make his United States and ESPN debut.
Sultan, 14-3 (9), is getting his shot at the brass ring off wins over veterans Sonny Boy Jaro and John Riel Casimero in 2017. Sultan comes into the fight having won five straight bouts overall and looking to make it six, with an upset win over the popular champion.
MP Promotions matchmaker and Ancajas adviser Sean Gibbons knows that winning the belt is one thing but hanging onto it is another. Every fight will be tough for Ancajas but Gibbons feels his fighter is up for the challenge. And like his legendary promoter Pacquiao, Ancajas loves the feeling of fighting for the people of his beloved country.
Ancajas, very much like “Pac-Man,” grew up in abject poverty but used boxing as a way to make it out of a rough life. After connecting with Philippine fight manager/trainer Joven Jimenez, and improving in every fight, Ancajas eventually worked his way to his first world title shot in his 27th fight as a pro, and he made the most of it.
Ancajas won a unanimous decision over Arroyo to capture his first world title and has now made four title defenses.
His relationship with Jimenez, who also promotes him through Joven Sports, has proven a successful one. It has also substantiated the loyalty and trust Ancajas shows in Jimenez, as he spurned other opportunities. By the same token, Jimenez is also fast becoming a significant figure in Philippines boxing.
While many North American and European fighters need the plush confines of a modern training facility, their rustic and hard-as-nails environment is just fine for Ancajas and Jimenez.
Their new gym, branded the Survival Training Gym, with a ring located outside under the trees, recently upgraded the ring’s floor from dirt to cement. This gym might seem unserviceable to some but, to Jimenez and Ancajas, it is home sweet home and serves as the training headquarters for one of boxing’s nicest guys and fastest rising young stars.
This will be Ancajas’ second fight in the U.S., where they hope to spread his brand among fans of boxing’s little big men.
UCNLive.com caught up with Gibbons, who himself had just touched down from the Philippines earlier that day, to get his thoughts on where he sees Ancajas currently among the crop of junior bantamweight champions.
“This young man can be a real franchise in Philippine boxing; he’s that good, gaining a lot of traction right now,” said an animated Gibbons. “He’s really catching on over there. ESPN 5 TV is getting behind him and there are sponsorships. This guy is ready to explode in popularity.”
And while he knows Ancajas’ brand in his homeland is getting bigger all the time, Gibbons is also working on breaking him to a larger market in the United States.
“If he can come up with a couple of real strong performances over here, starting with one on the 26th in Fresno, then I think, in a few more fights, he is really going to catch on with the large market here”, said Gibbons. “He has an exciting style; he’s an exciting fighter. He can bang and brawl but he also thinks in there and is patient when he has to be.”
With a few good showcase wins and the proper exposure, for Ancajas, Gibbons, who works with fighters on all continents, knows there might just be a major star waiting in the wings to carry the Philippine boxing torch, long held by boxing icon Pacquiao.
“This guy is right on the cusp of being a major star in the Phillipines and breaking over here in North America as well. It is very hard not to root for this guy because he is the nicest, most humble, family man you will ever meet. He doesn’t say a lot; he is shy by nature,” said Gibbons, “but he is a very intelligent man. And he is as exciting and explosive in the ring as he is reserved out of it and his trainer and manager Joven is a pleasure to work with. He is such a gentleman. But I’m telling you: Keep an eye on Ancajas. He is a talented, exciting fighter on the verge of some big fights and really breaking out.”