FRESNO, California – In one of Philippine boxing's finest hours, two Filipino boxers go at each other to prove they’re among the best in the world today.
And neither of them is named Manny Pacquiao.
Jerwin Ancajas puts his International Boxing Federation super-flyweight title on the line against countryman Jonas Sultan on Saturday night (Sunday, Manila time) in a momentous 12-round fight that rarely comes in a lifetime.
Not since Pancho Villa scored a unanimous decision against compatriot Clever Sencio in Manila to retain the flyweight championship 93 years ago had there been two Filipinos fought each other in modern time where the stakes are as high as this one at the Save Mart Center.
Villa had since been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, along with the likes of Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde, Ceferino Garcia, and expectedly, the charismatic Pacquiao, arguably considered the greatest Filipino boxer of all-time.
Ancajas and Sultan could someday become Hall of Famers themselves, with the outcome of their fight among the defining moments of their respective careers.
The champion and the challenger, both 26 years of age, said they are up to the challenge.
Ancajas, fighting out of Joven Sports stable, is making the fifth defense of the crown he won at the expense of Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo in September of 2016. He won all four previous fights by way of knockout.
The pride of Panabo, Davao del Norte won’t commit ending the fight the same way, but vowed to keep his title belt at all cost.
“Yung apat na sunud-sunod naman (knockout), nagkataon lang siguro. Pero yung knockout darating lang talaga sa boxing,” said the champion, who sports a 29-1-1 record with 20 KOs.
“Kahit Pinoy ang makakalaban ko, idedepensa ko talaga yung korona ko kasi pinaghirapan koi to bago kon narating ito.”
Sultan (14-3, 9 KOs), the pride of Cebu-based ALA boxing stable, is seeing action in his first world title fight, but that doesn’t diminish his chance of pulling an upset against a highly favored fighter being primed for the big-time.
He’s been in this same situation in his last two fights against two former world champions, the latest of which came at the expense of Johnriel Casimero, a rousing victory that made him the mandatory challenger to Ancajas.
“One hundred percent akong kundisyon sa laban na ito,” stressed the native of Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte, who began training for the fight – originally scheduled last April 14 as an undercard to the Terrence Crawford-Jeff Horn welterweight title match – as early as March only for the bout to be moved on a later date.
“Ipapakita ko rin na kaya ko (maging champion). Sa ring ko na lang sasabihin yung sagot ko.”
Ancajas and Sultan never had problem making the 115-pound limit when both fighters were weighed in on Friday. The champion tipped in at 114.8 pounds, while the challenge came at 114.4 pounds.
The champion, who enjoys a two-inch advantage in height over his challenger, will have trainer Joven Jimenez, former amateur stalwart Delfin Boholst, and two-time Olympian Roberto Jalnaiz in his corner, with Todd Makelim as cutman.
In the challenger’s corner are trainer Edmund Villamor, brother Edito Villamor, and strength and conditioning coach Nick Curson. Cutman is Doc Ed Dela Vega.
Third man in the ring is American Wayne Hedgepath, while the three judges scoring the bout are Danny Sandoval, Zachary Young and Jonathan Davis.