This coming weekend we get the chance to see one of the divisions “hidden gems” taking on one of boxing's human highlight reels in what should be a very fan friendly contest for the IBF world title.
In one corner will be defending champion Jerwin Ancajas (27-1-1, 18), the least well known and famous of the reigning world champions at 115lbs, and in the other corner will be Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11), a Northern Irishman who has been in FOTY contender fights in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The once beaten Filipino has been an under-the-radar gem of Filipino boxing in recent years. In 2016 he scored what should have been a break out win over McJoe Arroyo, though Filipino TV failed to show the bout, with Ancajas winning the IBF title with a decision over the Puerto Rican. He made his first defense this past January, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in China before travelling to Australia to stop Teiru Kinoshita on the under-card of Manny Pacquiao's loss to Jeff Horn. The win over Kinoshita saw Ancajas put himself in the limelight, though sadly many fans have seemingly forgotten his performance to instead focus on decision of the Pacquiao Vs Horn bout.
Those who remember Ancajas' win over Kinoshita, or have seen his other bouts, will be familiar with Ancajas having one of the sports most eye pleasing style. He's a wonderful fluid boxer, with gorgeous combinations, movement and fluid boxing. He's not the power puncher that fellow champions Naoya Inoue and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai are, but he is a really wonderful boxer, with enough power to stop foes, and the skills to dazzle. Not only does he have skills, but he also has an aggressive mentality, and will look to shine whilst beating opponents down mentally, rather than just take decision in a dull affair.
Whilst Ancajas has been a hidden gem with talent that should have made him a star Conlan has become a must watch fighter, despite being a fundamentally limited fighter. He isn't known for his skills, or his power, but his heart, styles and heart in your mouth action fights. These have included a sensation decision win over Junior Granados in 2015, an amazing up-and-down slug fest with Anthony Nelson in 2016 and a thrilling split decision win over Yader Cardoza this past March. He has been down in all 3 of those aforementioned bouts, multiple times in some of them, but has dug deep to win in fan friendly style.
Although a must watch fighter Conlan has taken a lot of punishment, especially for a man with just 19 fights and a combined 109 rounds under his belt. His style is one where he is defensively naive, and although it hasn't cost him his unbeaten record, yet, he has been fighting well below world class. This is a monster step up from borderline top 25 fighters, like Cardoza, to world class, like Ancajas, and that sort of step up is one that is very tough to make.
We can see Conlan have some moments, his toughness and heart will get him some moments, but they will be few and far between. Instead we suspect Ancajas will be too sharp, too accurate and simply too good. The Filipino will find the holes in Conlan's defense, and will target them at will. Unlike Conlan's previous opponents Ancajas won't let the gutsy challenger off the hook, and will instead finish off his man in the mid-to-later rounds, in what will hopefully set up Ancajas for a huge fight in 2018.