By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
With the amount of International, Intercontinental, Silver and other rather spurious fringe belts available these days the sanctioning bodies rankings can often look distorted with boxers rated on wins over handpicked opponents to claim one of these minor trinkets rather than actual ability or victories against quality fighters.
This can lead to champions being forced to make mandatory defenses which leaves fans groaning or saying who? In regards to the mandatory challenger. There will be no such feelings at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California this Saturday night as Jerwin Ancajas makes the 5th defense of his IBF super flyweight strap against mandatory contender Jonas Sultan but this goes way beyond a mandatory and is a significant historical occasion for Filipino boxing.
The clash between Ancajas and Sultan is the first all Filipino world title tussle for 93 years with the last one coming when reigning flyweight kin Pancho Villa took on Clever Sencio in Manila back in 1925. Being from the UK this statistic is quite frankly mind boggling as all British world title contests are an essential bedrock of the boxing business and it’s hard to imagine the sport being anywhere near as relevant without them.
It’s hard to fathom why all Filipino bouts are such a taboo for a section of the boxing community and as participation has fallen and coverage of the sport has decreased the attitudes of the sceptics need to change not only at the world stage but at domestic level where solid matchups are crucial if a fighter is to properly develop and move up the ladder. This is a view shared by respected writer Ryan Songalia who told me through direct message on twitter, “I hope it does change attitudes about Filipino vs. Filipino fights. “Competition breeds prosperity, and only through vetting the top prospects and contenders domestically can the Philippines ensure the best fighters going to the world stage are the best they have to offer.” “The typical refrain used by regressive thinking observers is “the Philippines only has a small amount of world class fighters and they shouldn’t fight each other.” “That is both an insult to the fighters in the Philippines and wildly inaccurate.” “There is a ton of good talent in the Philippines now who aren’t getting opportunities, and by strong domestic competition that will be demonstrated.”
2018 has actually gotten off to a great start for boxing in the Philippines with a number of upset wins including Alvin Lagumbay’s stunning second round KO of Keita Obara in Japan and an exciting crop of youngsters such as Romero Duno, Reymart Gaballo, Jhack Tepora and Mark Anthony Barriga who are leading the charge as the next generation of talent from the country. The introduction of ESPN5 has also been a timely injection of much needed extra coverage and the likes of Ancajas and Barriga have already hugely benefitted from the extra profile boost.
As for the fight itself neither man were privy to a privileged upbringing and both have had to earn their opportunities in their professional careers.
Both are the same age at 26 with Ancajas enjoying a more notable amateur career than his countrymen.
Ancajas lost a majority 10 round decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo in March 2012 but rebounded and found himself appearing on a couple of the Top Rank voyages in Macao. His big break came in September 2016 when he got home advantage against McJoe Arroyo for the IBF super flyweight crown. Ancajas grabbed the opportunity with both hands, dropping and completely outworking the Puerto Rican on the way to a unanimous decision. Unfortunately the bout received no TV coverage at all with a Rappler facebook live stream the only avenue to view the contest and a paltry purse was Ancajas financial reward but he now had a bargaining chip to play with going forward.
The champion then went on the road, fighting in Macao, Australia and Northern Ireland stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan in the process. It was after the victory over Conlan that Ancajas signed a promotional deal with Top Rank with his first bout for the US outfit coming in Texas in February as he saw off Israel Gonzalez in 10 rounds.
Sultan’s record of 14-3 9 Kos doesn’t look the most flattering but the ALA Gym fighter has been a working progress whilst learning on the job given his limited amateur career. After 2 early split decision defeats in 6 rounder’s Sultan’s first win of note came against Rene Dacquel for the national super flyweight title in July 2015 via unanimous decision. A mini set back then occurred 4 months later as on just a weeks’ notice Sultan lost a unanimous 10 round points verdict to Go Onaga in Japan
A second trip to the land of the rising sun in March 2016 proved far more fruitful as Tatsuya Ikemizu was drilled in 2 rounds. South African Makazole Tete received the same treatment on home soil in December 2016 and by now Sultan was beginning to gain some real momentum. Sultan impressively took out forma flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro in 8 rounds last May and was inching himself up the IBF rankings.
His acid test came in September 2017 when he squared off against Johnriel Casimero in a final IBF eliminator. Sultan was an underdog going in but fought a really smart fight, not allowing Casimero to set himself and it was he who took the unanimous decision to set up this historic clash with Ancajas.
There has been no animosity during the build up and any sort of friction is highly unlikely before the first bell with both men respectful of the others ability but make no mistake both are acutely aware of the added significance of a contest that goes way beyond a normal world title fight.
By Marcus Bellinger-
The super flyweight division is red hot right now and it was the turn of IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajas to take to the ring as he squared off against Jamie Conlan in Belfast this past Saturday. This was the champion’s third defence of the year having already triumphed on the road in Macao and Australia on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title loss to Jeff Horn.
After a fairly quiet opening stanza the challenger went down to what seemed like a delayed reaction but wasn’t abundantly clear. For some reason the challenger was attempting to box which only made things easier and more comfortable for Ancajas and a bad cut suffered by Conlan only added to the Belfast man’s problems. A relentless assault to the body proved too much for Conlan who was finally put out of his Mersey in round 6 and the Filipino had impressed yet again on away soil.
So where to next for the 25-year-old? Well, in a weight class that is full of top talent lack of big fights and credible opposition certainly isn’t an issue. Given that TV dates apart from those from the ABSCBN output deal with the ALA Gym are a real luxury, a home defence seems a nonstarter unless promoter Manny Pacquiao somehow manages to put together a final fair well encounter in front of his people. Also because of the poor infrastructure within boxing in the Philippines Ancajas will need to make sure his passport is valid as bouts on the road have become the norm for the vast majority of Pinoy pugilists.
At the top of most people’s lists would be a showdown with WBO boss Naoya Inoue who defends his crown against Yoan Boyeaux in Yokohama on the penultimate day of 2017. The Japanese KO artist has expressed a strong desire to partake in the Superfly 2 card which has been set for 24 February in LA. With HBO televising the bill and now involved at 115 lbs there could be bigger financial rewards on the table and hopefully the camps of Inoue and Ancajas can strike a deal and give us what would be a fascinating contest. The fight was reportedly close to being made for 30 December before Ancajas took the option of facing Conlan.
Another possible unification could come against WBA champion Kal Yafai who has looked solid if not spectacular so far. Both the UK and the US are feasible destinations with Eddie Hearn’s deals with HBO and Sky Sports providing the necessary finance to bring about this unification clash. Nicaraguan Roman Gonzalez has so far hinted at continuing his career and Mexican Carlos Cuadras and Brian Viloria are also other possible alternatives. Japanese warrior Akira Yaegashi has stated he would like to win a 4th world title in as many weight divisions and at some point an all too rare all Pinoy matchup with Jonas Sultan will need to be navigated in a mandatory defence.
Finally Hong Kong’s Rex Tso continues to flourish in and out the ring and is on the lookout for a world title tilt. A genuine draw at home Tso is one of the most fan friendly fighters in the sport and is always value for money.
Over the past week or so the Super Flyweight division has come to the attention of fans world wide. In the UK fans saw a much touted and previously unbeaten fighter come up short against a world class but unheralded African world champion whilst fans watching a stream from Macau got the chance to see an all-action war courtesy of TopRankTV. Despite these two memorable event over this past weekend many still suggest the division is a weak one. The reality however, is that the division is one of the toughest and most packed out there.
The Japanese Renegade-
Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) The oldest of the Kameda brothers is the current #2 WBA ranked fighter in the division and is the mandatory challenger to Kohei Kono with the WBA demanding the two men negotiate or face purse bids in a few weeks time. Kameda's resume is highly impressive with title reigns at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight though he wants a Super Flyweight title to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion. Sadly he is a divisive figure, similar to Adrien Broner, with many in Japan turning on him. Among those who have gotten sick of him and his brothers are the JBC who have banned him from fighting in Japan, though he has since made a very powerful ally in the form of Al Haymon who is likely to help make Kameda a big name in the US.
The tricky African champion-
Zolani Tete (20-3, 17) The first of two non-Asian that we're going to mention here is IBF champion Tete who impressed last week when he derailed the hopes of the previously unbeaten Paul Butler in the UK. Tete won the title last year, when he out pointed Teiru Kinoshita, and his fight with Butler was his first defence. Tall, rangy and with an educated southpaw jab Tete is a nightmare to fight and made both Butler and Kinoshita look clueless in their bouts with him. His biggest worry as a Super Flyweight will be out growing the division, a possibility given his frame, but for as long as he can made 115lbs he's going to be an avoided opponent. Most worryingly for his future opponents, he seems happier fighting on the road than he does at home.
The Mexican champion-
Carlos Cuadras (31-0-1, 25) The remaining champion in the division is WBC champion Teiken managed Mexican boxer-puncher Cuadras who won his title last year when he over-came Srisaket Sor Rungvisai via a technical decision. The talented Cuadras is a fighter who can box or brawl, electing to do what suits him best for each fight. Unfortunately for Cuadras recent bouts have been marred with headclashes though it's hard not to be excited when we see Cuadras in the ring. Thankfully we won't need to wait long to see him back in the ring with Cuadras set to fight Luis Concepcion on April 4th in what looks likely to be an absolutely enthralling contest.
Images courtesy of:
Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi's facebook
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features