IN professional boxing, it is the belt and not the catchy nickname that makes a champion. The latest Pinoy world titleholder Jerwin Ancajas can proudly say he has both.
From the time he started punching holes in a sandbag, Ancajas has been known as ‘Pretty Boy’ in the local boxing circles. For the record, the first notable Filipino fighter to use the nickname was Norzagaray, Bulacan native Domingo ‘Pretty Boy’ Lucas, who had four failed shots at the world title (minimumweight, flyweight).
Ancajas now stands as a proud bearer of the ‘Pretty Boy’ sobriquet after he recently hammered out a convincing 12-round unanimous decision over Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo in Taguig City to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super flyweight (115 lbs.) championship.
The southpaw Ancajas was a picture of confidence throughout the fight, keeping Arroyo at bay with a stinging right jab coupled by a sizzling left straight. Ancajas moved well in the ring and deftly sidestepped the wild rushes of Arroyo.
Making his first ring appearance after over a year of inactivity, a rusty Arroyo struggled to find any offensive rhythm. In the sixth round, a huge left from Ancajas sent Arroyo stumbling along the ropes. Ancajas also landed a short left to the body that floored Arroyo, but referee Gene Del Bianco inexplicably ruled it a slip.
In round eight, Ancajas launched a furious body assault that had Arroyo backpedaling. He then connected with a debilitating left to the breadbasket that sent Arroyo crashing to the canvas and almost out of the ring. But the Puerto Rican managed to beat the count and was saved by the bell.
A right hook by Ancajas in the ninth round again hurt Arroyo. A left to the body from Ancajas actually floored Arroyo, but referee Del Bianco again ruled it a slip.
Sensing he was behind on points, Arroyo went all out on offense in the final two rounds of the fight, but Ancajas refused to be coaxed into a slugfest and wisely stayed away from trouble. After 12 rounds, Ancajas won by scores of 118-109, 115-112 and 117-110.
With the victory, Ancajas improved his record to 25-1 with 16 knockouts. He also became the country’s first world super flyweight champion since 2009, when Marvin Sonsona was stripped of his WBO crown.
Ancajas joined Sonsona and Gerry Penalosa in the scant list of Filipino champions in the 115-pound division. Nonito Donaire Jr. won the World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight title over Rafael Concepcion in 2009, but it was only for the interim and not the regular version of the crown.
“Napakasaya ko at naabot ko na ang pangarap ko na maging world champion,” Ancajas told this writer. “Sa totoo lang, mahirap na kalaban ang isang McJoe (Arroyo). Magaling siya at malakas, mabuti na lang gumana ang plano namin every round.”
The 24-year-old Ancajas grew up in Panabo City, Davao del Norte. His indoctrination to the sport came when elder brother Jesar brought him to a nearby gym. Jesar Ancajas, who competes in the heavier lightweight (135 lbs.) division, last fought in March 2015 and totes a lackluster won-lost record of 15-27. Nonetheless, it was Jesar who inspired Jerwin to take up the sport.
“Nagsimula po ako sa boxing dahil sa kuya ko na isang boxer din,” said Jerwin. “Dinala po niya ako sa boxing gym hanggang sa ginusto ko na talagang mag-boxing din.”
Ancajas turned pro in 2009 and went undefeated (with just one draw) in his first 14 fights before losing by majority decision to countryman Mark Anthony Geraldo in March 2012. He has since been unbeaten in his last 12 fights, with the most recent win against Arroyo making him a world boxing champion.
It took a long time to happen, but ‘Pretty Boy’ Ancajas has never looked this pretty with a championship belt strapped around his waist.