AFTER back-to-back pedestrian performances, Jerwin ‘Pretty Boy’ Ancajas showed up in Stockton, California, looking to run over anybody in the squared circle.
True enough, in his seventh defense of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) diadem, Ancajas hammered Japanese challenger Ryuichi Funai with the tenacity of a traffic enforcer issuing a slew of violation tickets to an erring driver. Ancajas did not honor any red light and repeatedly swiped Funai’s face with leather.
Just about every punch Ancajas threw was loaded with bad intentions, an indication of how determined he was to put on a show. It definitely helped Ancajas’ cause that the lanky Funai was accommodating. Funai’s stand-up style, with limited head movement and token offense, made him a sucker for Ancajas’ vicious left straights.
Ancajas offered a more diverse offense in the fight. As a cautious Funai kept his gloves close to his chin, Ancajas forced the challenger to lower his guard by landing some debilitating right hooks to the body. Ancajas also threw some neck-snapping right uppercuts that exposed Funai’s mug to the champ’s howitzer left straight. Ancajas’ right was prominent in the fight and was used to help his left straight find the ideal landing spot.
Funai’s best moments came in the third stanza, when he accelerated the pressure and landed some sneaky right hands. Funai was able to pin Ancajas and force him to slug. With Ancajas forced to trade, Funai found some success.
By the fourth round, however, Ancajas reestablished his offense and movement. A big left hook rocked Funai and Ancajas pummeled the Japanese along the ropes. A bruised and bloodied Funai displayed admirable toughness, but his fate seemed sealed at this juncture.
Funai tried to put some pressure anew in the fifth round, but he was a tad slow and offered minimal offense. Ancajas wisely moved clockwise to avoid the Japanese’s advances and set him up perfectly for his counter left straight. Ancajas landed some vicious body shots in this round and only Funai’s fighting heart kept him in a vertical position.
Ancajas unleashed his full arsenal in the sixth round as the plodding Funai tried to make a final stand. Ancajas landed some huge bombs and even wobbled Funai with a vicious left straight at the closing seconds of the round.
The ringside doctor, upon examining Funai’s battered and bloodied façade, instructed referee Edward Collantes to stop the fight at the start of the seventh round. Funai claimed the stoppage was harsh and that he could have continued, but the exercise of fistic euthanasia was justified.
Ancajas raised his pro ledger to 31-1, 2 draws with 21 knockouts. The win was Ancajas’ first stoppage victory since September 2018, when he stopped Israel Gonzalez. Ancajas looked ordinary in his next two fights against Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Barrios, but his performance against Funai showed that he is back in the saddle.
Ancajas’ camp had earlier hinted at a move up to the bantamweight (118 lbs.) ranks, but it appears the IBF champ is willing to stay a little bit longer in the junior bantamweight division. Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum is already penciling Ancajas’ next outing which could be a defense against unbeaten Andrew Moloney of Australia.
Nicknamed “The Monster,” Moloney totes a record of 19-0 with 12 knockouts. The 28-year-old Maloney turned pro in 2014 and has stopped a number of Filipino pugilists (Jonathan Ligas, Raymond Tabugon, and Jether Oliva, to name a few). Two months ago, Maloney knocked out Chile’s Miguel Gonzalez in eight rounds in a WBA Title Elimination match.
Moloney is due for a shot at the WBA crown held by Briton Khalid Yafai, but the latter is scheduled to defend the crown on June 1 against Norbelto Jimenez. Moloney might just take Arum’s offer to instead zero in on Ancajas’ IBF crown. Moloney, whose twin brother Jason fights at bantamweight, is ranked within the Top 10 by the IBF, WBA and WBC.
From where this writer sits, the best match for Ancajas at 115-pounds is against newly-crowned WBC counterpart Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico. Estrada, who recently dethroned Thai puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, is just as skilled as Ancajas and poses a serious threat.
Down the road, a move to the heavier bantamweight division appears inevitable for Ancajas. There are bigger names to fry in the 118-pound division, the most prominent being WBA (regular) bantamweight king Naoya Inoue of Japan. An Ancajas-Inoue fight is guaranteed to be a major attraction.
As he ponders on his next move, the good thing is that Ancajas is back in a hitting groove. This means that the future remains exciting for ‘Pretty Boy.’