THE performance was far from being Jerwinesque, but just the same International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) champion Jerwin ‘Pretty Boy’ Ancajas got the job done by outpointing game challenger Jonas ‘Zorro’ Sultan in 12 rounds in Fresno, California.
In a fight hyped as the second all-Filipino world title showdown in 93 years, Ancajas turned in a performance that can be described, at best, as ‘routine.’ The difference in skills was apparent from the outset and Ancajas dictated the tempo with hard right jabs that kept Sultan at a safe distance. To his credit, Sultan kept attacking, hoping to find a landing spot for his right hand, but Ancajas’ deftly avoided his wild rushes with elementary defensive maneuvers.
The unanimous decision was a foregone conclusion and the angle that intrigued many is whether Ancajas took it easy on Sultan. Sultan offered as much defense as a shanty to an incoming tornado, but for some reason Ancajas’ punches lacked the usual authority. Ancajas seemed intent to just outbox, not cannibalize, Sultan.
From where this writer sits, there are a lot of factors to consider in evaluating Ancajas’ rather ordinary performance.
First, the fight with Sultan is Ancajas’ first after a whirlwind off-season that saw him receive a lot of media mileage. Ancajas’ most impressive wins came under the media radar, when he was just the ‘best-kept’ secret in local boxing. Ancajas’ fistic stock hit the roof after he signed up with Top Rank Promotions and the local media started hyping him as the 'next Manny Pacquiao.'
Whereas in the past Ancajas was solely focused on training, he had to split his time between the gym and the television appearances before the Sultan fight. It only takes a little distraction for a fighter’s focus to go astray.
Joven Jimenez, Ancajas’ trainer, confessed to detecting conditioning issues in the Sultan fight.
“Maganda naman ang performance ni Jerwin, nagawa niya yung plano namin sa laban, yung physical condition lang ni Jerwin mukhang kulang po,” Jimenez told this writer. “Wala 'yung bilis at follow-up na suntok pag nakatama siya. Siguro hindi maganda ang naging programa namin sa training niya kata pag-uusapan po namin ito.”
Second, the rugged, unpredictable style of Sultan forced Ancajas to play it safe. Sultan stepped into the ring without any intention to honor a stoplight. He repeatedly threw himself at Ancajas, occasionally with his head leading the charge. Ancajas opted to remain cautious rather than fall for Sultan’s in-fighting provocations.
“Ang laban lumabas na parang chess match,” said trainer Edito Villamor. “Naging tactical fight; may kulang si Jerwin, may kulang si Jonas. Jerwin paced himself, alam kasi ng corner nya na pagsumabay siya kay Jonas mauubusan siya sa later rounds.”
Lastly, Sultan being a fellow Filipino may have unwittingly contributed to Ancajas’ pedestrian performance.
Dig this: There was hardly any animosity going into the fight and, from a cultural standpoint, nobody wanted to risk the ire of fight fans by playing the role of ‘kontrabida.’ It was a ‘goody-goody’ fight.
Also, for the last three years, Ancajas has been beating up foreign opponents who made the mistake of belittling him. Ancajas may have found it a bit unsettling to face a fellow Filipino, in a world title fight for that matter. Pancho Villa arguably felt the same way when he faced Clever Sencio for the world flyweight title in May 1925. Villa had been ferocious against other foes but could not bring it upon himself to beat up a countryman.
It may not have been the intention of Ancajas to treat Sultan lightly; heck, he may have wanted to thoroughly beat him up like his previous challengers. However, the unique circumstances (counting the ones aforementioned) surrounding the fight somehow resulted in Ancajas putting in just enough effort to prevail.
Guys, your guess is as good as mine: Pity his next foreign adversary as Ancajas, freed from such ‘restrictions,’ is likely to blast him into smithereens.