By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Jerwin Ancajas successfully defended his IBF junior bantamweight title in Stockton, California for the seventh time against Japanese challenger Ryuichi Funai. Ancajas did what was expected. He was a 7-1 betting favorite going into the fight. The Filipino southpaw also needed to bounce back after a lackluster draw against Mexican Alejandro Santiago Barrios last September.
Ancajas in his pre-fight TV interview said that he trained in seclusion in a camp of the Philippine Marines to escape from all the distractions that hounded him in his recent title defenses. This was quite fitting considering that he won his title in 2016 in a fight held inside a Marine and Naval base in Taguig City, Metro Manila against Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo. Ancajas also formally enlisted in the Philippine Navy reserves last year.
The 27 year old Ancajas rocked Funai in the fourth round. The hail of heavy hooks was enough to cause concern for the ring doctor who checked on Funai at the end of the round. To Funai’s credit he stayed on his feet but the punishment was too much and at the start of the seventh round, the ring doctor recommended to the referee, Edward Collantes of the U.S., that the Japanese has had enough.
This was the 33 year old Funai’s US debut and first world title attempt. He drops to 31-8,22KO’s while Ancajas moves up to 31-1-2,21KO’s.
This performance would have been good enough for Filipino fight fans two decades ago. But Filipinos got spoiled by the unprecedented success of Manny Pacquiao. Now, they demand more from their champions.
With this victory, the question now is will Ancajas get a fight against the other champions or big names in the division?
Another Filipino, Donnie Nietes, who gave up his WBO junior bantamweight crown a few months ago, is also seeking a big money fight with any of the division’s elite.
The Superfly fight cards started in 2017 in California and it brought out the likes of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (Wisaksil Wangek) of Thailand, Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua, Naoya Inoue of Japan and Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico.
Nietes, even when he fought in the second Superfly card in 2018, seemed to have missed his chance to face any of aforementioned three fighters. Inoue would move up to bantamweight. Gonzalez lost to Sor Rungvisai twice and lost his luster in the process. Nietes had to endure a controversial draw against countryman Aston Palicte when they fought for the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title in Superfly 3.
Ancajas travelled to Thailand in October of last year hoping for a showdown against Sor Rungvisai. But with Estrada getting a revenge unanimous decision win over the Sor Rungvisai last month, the Mexican is now the top dog in the 115 lb division.
Last New Year’s Eve in Macao, Nietes faced his most accomplished opponent in the person of Japanese Kazuto Ioka. Both were veteran three division champions. It was a tight back and forth contest but Nietes’ smarts and ability to make in-fight adjustments got him the split decision victory and the WBO junior bantamweight crown.
This win enabled Nietes to join Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as the only three Filipino champions to win four or more division titles. Nietes has fought at the world championship level since 2007. He holds the record for being the longest reigning Filipino world champion. Nietes broke the seven year record of the great Flash Elorde when he was a WBO light flyweight champion, his second division belt. For the record, Elorde reigned in only one division, junior lightweight, and was an undisputed champion.
Nietes gave up his WBO title in search of a bigger, career-defining fight. This June, Ioka and Palicte will be fighting for that belt in Chiba City, Japan.
Nietes (42-1-5,23KO’s) will turn 37 this May 13. He has yet to make an announcement as to who he will fight next. In casual conversations, Filipino boxing pundits are wondering if giving up the WBO belt was actually the right move. Now, that he has no belt to offer, the other champs who want unification are not calling him out.
Moving up to bantamweight is a future option for Ancajas but maybe not for Nietes, who would be too small for 118lbs. Time is also not on the side of Nietes. But even if he retires at this point in time, Nietes will be remembered as one of the best boxers produced by the Philippines.
Aside from WBC champ Estrada and ex-champ Sor Rungvisai, the other belt-holder option at 115lbs is Khalid Yafai of the U.K., who has the WBA title. The winner of Ioka-Palicte will be added to this fan-friendly mix.
Photo- Jerwin Ancajas (Left) and Donnie Nietes
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