Over the last few years the Super Flyweight division has been a must watch one. It's provided some amazing fights, such as the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai bouts against Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada and the compelling bouts between Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte, and Nietes against Kazuto Ioka. Whilst it has delivered some brilliant bouts two champions have been criticised for lacklustre competition and match ups. One of those is WBA champion Kal Yafai and the other IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20), from the Philippines.
Ancajas, who won his title back in September 2016, has scored 6 defenses of his title, fighting in 3 continents, but his last few defenses have failed to excite fans, some of whom have accused him of ducking real challenges, and avoiding the likes of Naoya Inoue. This weekend we'll see the Filipino seek his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22), from Japan. For Funai this will be his first world title bout, whilst Ancajas will be facing his second Japanese challenger, following a 2017 win over Teiru Kinoshita, himself a mandatory challenger to Ancajas' throne.
When Ancajas first won his title, ripping it from the hands of McJoe Arroyo, he was a real unknown. The bout had an incredibly low purse and no TV backing at all. He quickly became one to watch and his performance against Kinoshita, on the under-card of Manny Pacquiao's bout with Jeff Horn, really did impress with Ancajas looking like an exciting, talented, smooth boxer puncher. The start of his reign did show some excitement and he did look like he had the tools to be a star, but a dull win over Israel Gonzalez and a stinking fight with Jonas Sultan took shine off his reign and a draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios showed real flaws with his boxing, and it seemed like the short Barrios deserved the win.
At his best Ancajas is a gorgeous boxer to watch. Everything he does seems smooth, he gets in and out with ease and looks really easy on the eye. Despite the fact his nickname isn't based on his style, he does live up to the "Pretty Boy" moniker when boxing, and mixes smart defenses with good, clean punching. Sadly though it's been a while since we saw him at his best, and in recent bouts it's seemed like something is missing, potentially an issues caused by a struggle to make weight or by over-looking opponents. If he gets back to his best he should have no issues here, and he really is a top Super Flyweight, but another less than great performance could see him being dethroned.
Whilst Ancajas is well known, the came can't be said for Funai, who has never fought outside of Japan and has rarely even fought outside of Korakuen Hall, where he has fought 34 of his 38 bouts. Despite that he is well regarded in Japan and has mixed with some very good company, losing to the likes of Shinsuke Yamanaka, Rolly Lunas and Sho Ishida, who between them make up 3 of Funai's 4 losses in the last 11 years. Having started his career 6-3 it's impressive to note that he has since gone 25-4 (19), whilst becoming a very solid fighter at Super Flyweight, which suits him more than Bantamweight where he fought much of his early career.
Although not a huge name Funai is a solid puncher, with his straight right hand being a very potent punch on the Japanese domestic scene, helping him stop 6 of his last 7 including Victor Emanuel Olivo, Warlito Parrenas and Shota Kawaguchi. Whilst his right hand is vicious it should be noted that he's not a busy fighter in the ring, he's not particularly quick and, especially against Olivo back in November, he's rather stationary on his feet. He's a smart counter puncher, but is certainly taking a huge step up in class here.
Ancajas was caught repeatedly by Barrios last time out, and whilst Barrios is certainly a trickier fighter than Funai that bout will have left Funai feeling confident. If Funai can land his right hand clean he certainly has the power to hurt Ancajas. That is a big if however. We're expecting to see a sharper Ancajas than we saw last time out, and if he stays switched on, uses his footwork well and tags the slower, clumsier Funai, on a regular basis, this should end up being a pretty clear win for the Filipino, but there is always a risk of him eating a big, Funai, right hand.
Prediction TKO10 Ancajas.
World Title Previews
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