Last year we saw little known Filipino Jerwin Ancajas (25-1-1, 16) score one of the most under-rated wins of the year, as he upset McJoe Arroyo and claimed the IBF Super Flyweight title. The Filipino southpaw took a huge gamble going into the bout, and took one of the smallest pay days for a world title fight in recent memories, taking home a purse of less than $4,000 but now looks to capitalise on his title and will be making his first defense this coming Sunday in Macau. In the opposite corner will be former WBA “interim” Light Flyweight champion Jose Alfredo Rodriguez (32-4, 19).
Going into his bout with Arroyo very few outside of Asian boxing circles knew who Ancajas was. As a result he was the under-dog against Arroyo, and crafty fans managed to get 2/1 on the Filipino. Against the Puerto Rican we saw Ancajas put on an excellent showing, starting slowly, figuring out Arroyo and then going on to dominate swathes of the bout whilst dropping Arroyo to claim the title, and make the then unbeaten Arroyo look incredibly poor.
Whilst there was some question marks over Arroyo's hunger for the bout, with the fighter making it clear he didn't want to fight in the Phillipines, we can't fault Ancajas who did what he had to do to make an unbeaten champion look like a very poor contender. That win for Ancajas was his 12th in a row and although there wasn't many notable wins among that run he had scored a quick win over Inthanon Sithchamuang.
In the ring Ancajas is a very exciting fighter. He's fast, heavy handed, explosive but also a capable boxer with under-rated skills and frighteningly good combinations. On paper he's the “low hanging fruit” in the packed Super Flyweight division but is a real nightmare given his southpaw stance and his explosive style, as well as the fact he's relatively tall for the weight at 5'6. He's not on the same level as Roman Gonzalez or Naoya Inoue, but he will be a very hard guy to beat.
In Rodriguez we have a fighter who started his career with a great run before his career stumbled massively, and he's now looking to re-emerge as a world class fighter. He won his first 28 bouts by the age of 22, and scored wins against fighters like Sho Nakazawa and Nethra Sasiprapa, with the win over Nethra netting him the WBA interim title. Rodriguez would lose that title in his first defense, coming up short against Alberto Rossel, and the would lose 3 of his next 4 bouts, including losses to Kazuto Ioka and Milan Melindo.
Having fallen from 28-0 (17) to 29-4 (18) Rodriguez took time away from the ring and ended up spending almost 2 years on the sidelines. Since then he has returned and scored a trio of low profile wins to get himself some career momentum. Those wins have helped the 26 year old Sinaloa based fighter a world ranking, and this coming world title fight.
Through much of his career Rodriguez has looked like a fringe world class fighter. He's not exceptional fighter but he was certainly a very capable one a few years ago. He was tough and brave and and has respectable power. He was however flawed with defensive holes and a relatively basic style. In the bout with Ioka Rodriguez proved his toughness getting up from a knockdown in the opening round but was broken down from Ioka's consistent attack in round 6. That however is his sole stoppage defeat and he does appear to have a good chin.
Despite being a decent fighter Rodriguez looks a bit “made to order” for Ancajas to look good against. The Mexican is tough enough to take a beating and basic enough for Ancajas to shine against in his first defense. Having seen how Ioka broke Rodriguez with straight shots we suspect Ancajas will do something very similar and stop the Mexican in the middle rounds, whilst looking brilliant through out the fight and opening up potential bouts with other notable names in the Super Flyweight division.
Notably this will be Ancajas's third fight in Macao, and 5th in Chinese controlled land following two bouts on he Chinese mainland.
The first world title fight to take place in Asia this year is set for January 25th and takes place all the way down at Minimumweight where the under-rated WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (44-0, 17) looks to make the 6th defense of his title. The talented Thai will be facing a fellow unbeaten as he takes on 22 year old Filipino puncher Melvin Jerusalem (11-0, 7) who is taking a huge step up in class to fight in his first world title fight, and his first fight outside of his homeland.
The champion is, in some ways, a typical Thai with a record that has been padded and is filled with less than notable names. He is however a fighter who is among the best Minimumweights on the planet, and is genuinely under-rated, due in part to the number of easy wins he has on his record. Despite the easy wins he does hold a number of notable victories over the likes of Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Jerry Tomogdan,Go Odaira and Saul Juarez.
In the ring Wanheng is a brilliant little pressure fighter. Defensively he is tight and reliable but it's his front foot pressure work that is key as he walks opponents down and breaks them up with combinations and solid body shots. He's not a puncher, as his record makes clear, but he's a talented pressure fighter who mentally and physically beats opponents until they eventually fold. That has seen him stopping 6 of his last 9 and he is 6-0 (4) in world title bouts with his stoppages typically coming in the later rounds.
At 31 Wanheng is probably at the end of his prime, especially given he's a Minimumweight, and with 346 rounds under his belt he is no spring chicken. However he's a fighter who has shown no real slow down in the ring and has looked after himself brilliantly. He may be on the slide but it's certainly not something we have seen in the ring during his fights.
Little known challenger Jerusalem has impressed on the domestic Filipino scene with some in the country viewing him as their new rising in the lowest weight class. He debuted back in July 2014, scoring a decision win over Michael Camelion, and then followed that up with 7 straight stoppages including a win over Crison Omayao. That stoppage run came to an end last year, when he took a decision win over veteran Florante Condes, and he has since taken decisions over Jonathan Refugio and Fabio Marfa.
In the ring Jerusalem looks to be a fun fighter with decent power, nice movement and clever defence on the back foot. He made Condes look like a foolish novice at times, in fact his movement saw Condes flail wildly before throwing himself to the canvas one point, but the lack of footage really does prevent us getting a great read on him, with only a few clips here and there being available. From what is available he does look promising, but there isn't a lot available.
Although Jerusalem is tipped for something big we have seen a number of similar fighters, unbeaten youngster tipped for stardom, fall short in recent years. That includes former Wanheng challenger Jeffrey Galero, who was 11-0 (5) when he challenged Wanheng but is now 14-3 (7) with his career on the rocks. He will need to be aware of just how much of a step up this really is, if he doesn't he will be eaten alive by Wanheng here.
What we're expecting is a strong start by the visitor, who will look to use his speed and movement to pick up a number of the early rounds. As the bout goes on however Wanheng will start to break him down and in the middle rounds we'll see Jerusalem slowing significantly before either limping over the line en route to a wide decision loss, or a stoppage loss as Wanheng turns the screw and uses his experience in the champiuonship rounds
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.