This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Fernando Daniel Martinez (14-0, 8) look make his first defense, as he faces the man he beat for the title earlier this year, Filipino "Pretty Boy" Jerwin Ancajas (33-2-2, 22). The two men, who clashed in February, are having an immediate rematch which given the nature of their first bout feels wholly unnecessary, but does give Ancajas a chance to reclaim the title that he had held from September 2016 to February 2022, and recorded 9 defenses, the most anyone has defended that title in a single reign. As for Martinez the bout serves as a chance to prove he isn't a flash in the pan, and didn't just get Ancajas on a bad night, but is instead the better fighter.
Of the two men the more well known is Ancajas. The talented Filipino, one of the nicest boxers to watch, is a 30 year old who was a top Filipino amateur before turning professional in 2009, at the age of 17. He began his career in relative obscurity and was 24-1-1 when he landed a mandatory title shot at IBF world champion McJoe Arroyo. The bout was expected to see Arroyo retain his title but instead Ancajas controlled the bout to score a notable upset, at least at the time, to dethrone the much touted Arroyo. Notably since that loss Arroyo never really re-captured any form, going 1-3 in his following 4 bouts. Following that title win Ancajas would later link up with Top Rank, who did a great job in building his following in the West, but a failure to land major fights with the top fighters at 115lbs long harmed his reign, despite racking up 9 defenses. He missed out, for one reason or another, on clashes with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka, and the failure to defend his title against that top tier opposition will always haunt his legacy. After ending his deal with Top Rank Ancajas joined PBC, and hasn't quite looked the same, with matches on PBC coming against fighters who's style was incredibly troublesome for Anacjas.
In the ring Ancajas really is a pretty boy. He's a wonderfully smooth, polished boxer, with impressive hand speed, good movement, good boxing IQ and solid, though not concussive, power. He's big and strong at 115lbs, and there has long been talk of him moving up, but he can be bullied and he's never been a fan of fighters pressing him, pushing him on the back foot and putting him under intense pressure. That style has always troubled him, with Alexandro Santiago and Jonathan Rodriguez both running him incredible close, before Martinez used that same tactic to defeat him in February. That pressure, high intensity, fast tempo style is one he has shown he struggles with and unfortunately it's one he will be up against again here.
Martinez, despite entering as the champion, is still something of an unknown quantity in the eyes of many fans. He first made his name in the amateur ranks, as one of the best amateurs in South America, and competed in both the Olympics and the World Series of Boxing (WSB). In in 2017 he began his professional campaign, and quickly took the Argentinian Super Flyweight title, doing so just 9 months after his debut. After going 10-0, against very limited opposition at home, he was given a notable step up as he travelled to South Africa and beat Athenkosi Dumezweni for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title, with that win coming in 2019. Like many Super Flyweights of the era he was messed about by the WBC, and rather than choose to wait for a potential shot at the WBC merry-go-round he turned his attention to the IBF title, and landed a mandatory IBF title shot, against Ancajas in early 2022. That was his big chance, and he made the most of it, pressing and out-hustling Ancajas from the early going to take a clear decision win.
In the ring Martinez is a night mare. He's not a big puncher, or heavy handed. He is however incessant, hyper aggressive and tough as hell. He presses and barely takes a backwards step, and through pure will he breaks fighters, mentally and physically. He doesn't have the most rounded or technical skill set out there, but he's something of an unstoppable monster who just keeps coming like a human terminator. Watching him he can be wide, he can be open, and he does give opponents chances to counter, but unless his opponent hits like a mule he won't be discouraged. To beat him a fighter either needs incredible power, or the ability to out work him, and we don't think many will be able to do either. Outside of Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Bam Rodriguez we're not sure anyone in the division would be favoured over him, an that includes WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, who also struggles with the all pressure style Martinez brings to the ring.
Given the nature of the first bout, which was a comprehensive win for Martinez, it's hard to see how Ancajas will turn this around. It wasn't like he was caught with a bomb, or suffered a freak injury. Instead he was dominated, and broken down mentally and physically by a fighter who fought like a possessed monster. We imagine something of a similar bout here, with Martinez pressing the action through out, setting a tempo that Ancajas can't match, and beating the fight out of Ancajas. One difference we do expect here however, is for Ancajas not to see the final bell. Instead we expect his corner to pull him out in the later stages, call it a day at Super Flyweight and let him move up to Bantamweight for the final few years of his career. We expect this to be a very, very painful bout for the talented Filipino, who's simply up against someone with a style that he can't deal with.
Prediction - TKO10 Martinez
One of the biggest disappointments of 2021 was the late cancellation of the planned Super Flyweight unification bout between IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) and Kazuto Ioka, which was supposed to take place on December 31st before the rise of Omicron lead to Japan closing it's borders and not allowing Ancajas into the country. As a result Ioka kept his New Year's Eve date, and scored and under-whelming win over Ryoji Fukunaga, whilst Ancajas looked for a new opponent to kick off 2022. That new opponent, for the Filipino, turned out to be the unbeaten, and unheralded, Fernando Daniel Martinez (13-0, 8), from Argentina. On paper the bout isn't the huge fight that Ancajas would have got had he faced Ioka, but it's also not a gimmie for the "Pretty Boy", and it could be a potential banana skin against someone who is very, very easy to over-look.
As we write this Ancajas is among the longest reigning current world champions in the sport. The talented Filipino won the IBF Super Flyweight title way back in 2016, when he upset McJoe Arroyo, and has defended it 9 times since then. Despite his lengthy reign he really has lacked defenses of note, and instead of mixing with the divisional elite, such as Roman Gonzalez and Sriskaet Sor Rungvisai, he has been busy dealing with the likes of Teiru Kinoshita, Jamie Conlan and Ryuichi Funai. In a division as packed as the Super Flyweight one over the last 6 years, his reign has been thoroughly under-whelming, and he has seemingly been happy to tick along amassing defenses without challenging himself against the top dogs. Worryingly for him however he has now been real tests by some of his lesser known challengers, with Alexandro Santiago fighting him to a very questionable draw and Jonathan Javier Rodriguez Valles giving him all he could handle last year. He was supposed to answer questions about his ability with the Ioka fight, but sadly, as we mentioned, that was cancelled due to the Japanese response to Omicron, costing what would have been an excellent match up. Interestingly there is also some questions as to whether or not he is simply out growing the division, and doing what he can to hold off a move up in weight, especially given the tricky task of winning a title in the current Bantamweight division.
Despite his frustrating reign as the IBF champion there is no denying that Ancajas is a talented boxer. He's a very tidy, smooth fighter, with lovely combinations, excellent speed, and light movement. He is a joy to watch in full flow and is one of the most eye pleasing fighters to watch. Sadly though he does seem to lack really concussive power, breaking fighters down rather than blasting them out, and pressure can be a major problem for him. Despite being incredibly talented, he does seem to struggle when fighters applying intelligent pressure, use their jab and come forward. Trying to out box Ancajas is not something we advise, but trying to bully him, get in his space, and prevent him from getting settled does seem to have had success, especially if a fighter can use a busy jab to apply their pressure, as Santiago did particularly well.
Aged 30 Fernando Daniel Martinez, also known as "Pumita", is relatively unknown but that's more down to a lack of fights on major shows rather than a lack of ability. He was a good amateur, competing at the 2016 Olympics among other events and also competed in the WSB, stopping Jasurbek Latipov in one of those WSB bouts and beating Vincenzo Picardi in another. Sadly as an Argentinian he hasn't had the push on major shows that he may have had had he been born in the US or the UK, and has actually had to travel for his most noteworthy professional bout, an 11th round TKO win over Athenkosi Dumezweni in South Africa for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title. Sadly that win over Dumezweni is, by far, the most notable he's scored as a professional, and almost all of his other wins have been on the Argentinian domestic scene, something he should have been able to race through given his pedigree.
In the ring Martinez is aggressive, has solid power, and likes to make a fight. He's got pretty solid defense for an aggressive fighter, uses a lot of upper body movement, and comes forward a lot with shots that are thrown with bad intentions. He's not the quickest, or sharpest but he looks tough, doesn't mind making things messy, and looks like a really physically strong guy at the weight, who brings pressure, and comes to fight and does seem to like to finish opponents off. Although clearly aggressive and talented, he has been lucky that his opponents haven't, on the whole, been able to make him pay for his rather straight forward aggression, and although he has nice upper body movement he does appear to have a rather open guard, something that a fighter like Ancajas could punish. Dumezweni had success at mid range, and made Martinez fall short quite a bit when he established ranged and that is something that Ancajas will be looking to reproduce here. Likewise Angel Nicolas Aquino also had moments against Martinez when eh created space.
Martinez is very clearly dangerous, and his aggressive, come forward style is something that has given Ancajas trouble in the past. The pressure, the toughness and the physical strength of the Argentinian will certainly have real moments of success against Ancajas. Notably though we do feel like Martinez's slower foot work, and the he can be made to reach, will give Ancajas chances to counter. We suspect after a few rounds of good counters from the Filipino Martinez will begin to show him some respect, and when that happens we see life getting easier for the smoother, more natural boxing skills of Ancajas.
The Filipino will have to grit out some real tough moments here, but we see him doing enough to take a very, very, very hard fought decision and retain his title. This will not be easy for Ancajas, though we dare say he's facing Martinez at just the right time. Martinez probably needed and extra bout, or two, at a decent level before stepping in with someone like Ancajas. This is a huge step up for Martinez and one that we're not totally he's quite ready for.
Prediction - UD12 Ancajas
Way back in October 2019 we previewed an IBF Super Flyweight title bout between champion Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) and mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (22-1, 16), with the two men set to clash on November 2nd. That bout was then cancelled, days before taking place when Rodriguez was unable to enter the US. The bout was supposed to be on a top Rank card and instead of taking on Rodriguez we saw Ancajas defeat late replacement Miguel Gonzalez a month later.
Now, 16 months later, we are finally getting the bout on a PBC show, in Connecticut, with the bout still looming as a mandatory defense of Ancajas. Sadly the Covid19 pandemic ended up affecting both men. It kept Ancajas out of the ring for the entire of 2020, kept Rodriguez out of the ring for much of 2020 and forced this bout, which had been planned for the year, to get pushed back. Again. Despite that we are now here. We are on the verge of the fight, again, and we'll again take a look at what to expect.
More than 4 years ago we saw Jerwin Ancajas announce himself as one to watch as he dominated Teiru Kinoshita on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn under-card. The performance was a break out showing and was Ancajas' second defense of the IBF Super Flyweight title he had won the previous year. It was the type of performance that he needed on the biggest showcase of his career. Soon afterwards he was given more big opportunities, facing Jamie Conlan in Ireland and then making 4 defenses in the US as he quickly became one of the notable Super Flyweights of his era.
Blessed with good looks, fantastic hand speed, spiteful power and a good boxing brain Ancajas seemed to have it all. Except for competition. Sadly for him the Super Flyweight division was moving on around him, the likes of Naoyta Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka were all off limits to him. Rather than those divisional stars Ancajas was stuck facing the best of the rest, , like the aforementioned Kinoshita and Conlan, along with Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Santiago Barrios. The inability, or in some cases unwillingness, to face the top dogs in the division has seen his reign being a long one but one that is relatively low profile and not one that has made him into the star he should have been.
Sadly his B, and sometimes C, rate challengers haven't helped Ancajas look great. It's a shame as the 29 year old Filipino is a fantastic boxer-puncher. He's gorgeously smooth in the ring, throws wonderful combinations, has an excellent understanding of the ring, and combines skills, speed and power wonderfully. He is also a big kid at the weight and a southpaw, making him a nightmare.
Aged 25 Rodriguez is an up and comer who is looking to announce himself on to the world stage after fighting his entire career, so far, on the Mexican national scene. In fact this is only really the third time he has taken on a fighter of some note. Thankfully though his career has picked up in recent years, and his first 21 bouts were pretty much bouts where he learned on the job without making much fuss. In more recent bouts however he has beaten former world title contenders Felipe Orucuta and Julian Yedras, and established himself a lot more in 2 fights than he did in his previous 21.
Despite a couple of solid wins Rodriguez hasn't done all that much to really earn a world title fight, especially not given the talent in the Super Flyweight division, but the IBF will IBF and he is the IBF mandatory with only a couple of notable wins on his record. Which in fairness to the IBF is 2 more than some other recent mandatory challengers of theirs.
One notable thing about Rodriguez, and why he may be dangerous for Ancajas, is the relative lack of footage of him. From the footage that is available Rodriguez looks strong, tough, and aggressive. Like many Mexican fighters he comes to fight and he comes with a lot of desire and hunger. Sadly though he is rather methodical, a big slow, and a little bit clumsy. He looks like he could be hit, a lot, and may be stepping up too much from the competition he has faced so far. He's the sort of fight who should make for some fan friendly fights, but he looks like he would struggle with any of the top guys in the division. Including Ancajas.
The pressure and aggression of Rodriguez could make this fun and interesting, and if he can take sustained punishment whilst continuing to come forward he could be an absolute nightmare for Ancajas. We have seen Ancajas struggle on the inside, when fighters have got close to him, and if Rodriguez can get close and rough him up the Mexican might have a real chance. Especially give the fact Ancajas has been out of the ring since December 2019.
We suspect the speed, movement and skills for Ancajas will be the key. He'll neutralise the pressure, lure Rodriguez in, and tag him. Repeatedly. Rodriguez will not show any quit, and will be looking to make a fight of things in each of the 12 rounds, but we see Ancajas picking his spots and racking up the rounds en route to a clear decision.
Interestingly the delay for this fight may end up helping Rodriguez, but we still don't think it will be anywhere near enough to get him a victory here.
Prediction - UD12 Ancajas
On December 7th we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) defending his title against Chilean challenger Miguel Gonzalez (31-2, 8), in what will be Ancajas's 8th defense of the title. The bout is another underwhelming opponent choice for Ancajas, but a defend-able one after a bout in November fell through due to visa issues for his opponent, and this was put together on relatively short notice.
The Filipino has had one of the longest active reigns in the sport, winning the title more than 3 years ago, but it has been a very mixed reign with a lot of disappointment. He has great looked at times, and really made the most of fight against Teiru Kinoshita on a Manny Pacquiao under-card, but also looked awful at times, such as hie draw a year ago against Alejandro Santiago Barrios. More disappointing than his actual performances has been his competition, and his 7 challengers have not been the best. Sure he has had 3 mandatory challengers, but the other opponents, including Gonzalez here, have been poor limited opposition in what is a legitimately tough division. We could accept 1 or 2 easy defenses, but this is now defense number 8 and patience is wearing thin.
Whilst his competition hasn't been great Ancajas himself, is legitimately a top, top fighter in the Super Flyweight division. He's up there, in the mix, with the likes of WBA champion Kal Yafai, and equally frustrating champion, former champion Donnie Nietes and WBO champion Kazuto Ioka. We see him being behind the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but he's in the chasing pack.
Blessed with one of the most naturally eye pleasing styles in the sport Ancajas is genuine exceptional. He's a clean, sharp punching boxer, with more than enough sting on his shots to get respect at world level. He's not a banger but he sets a good, high work rate, and breaks opponents down with a constant stream of solid shots. Technically he's solid, though not elite, and is not going to be an easy man to beat.
As for Gonzalez the Chilean becomes the first world challenger from his homeland in years, but sadly it would take a huge upset for him to become a champion.
Gonzalez was once tipped as a star. He won his first 17 in a row before taking a step up and being widely out boxed by Paul Butler 2013, in London, England. A second winning run saw him move his record to 29-1, before being stopped, earlier this year, by the excellent Andrew Moloney in a WBA world title eliminator. Despite a couple of win since that loss, it's hard to defend him getting a world title fight at this point in time.
Don't get us wrong, Gonzalez is a skilled boxer. Sadlty though he lacks in the areas that a world level fighter typically needs to have. Notably he lacks power. At world level fighters will simply be able to walk though his pitty-patty shots, and land the more eye catching blows. He can't get respect of his opponents, and unlike a fighter Ivan Calderon, he isn't impossible to hit clean. Instead he's skilled, but not elite level skilled, and solid fighters, like Butler, can out box him.
We see this being a painful night for Gonzalez. He'll be there to win and represent Chile, but in reality, we suspect he'll be broken down and stopped in the second half of the fight, as Ancajas' consistency overwhelms him, and simply leaves the challenger a broken man in need of saving.
Prediction - TKO9 Ancajas
On November 2nd IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) will make his 8th defense of the title, as he takes on Mexican challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (21-1, 15). On paper this looks like an interesting bout, but given the depth and names at Super Flyweight there is certainly a feeling that this is another underwhelming challenger for the Filipino "Pretty Boy".
Just over 2 years ago Ancajas looked like he was set to be a star when he dominated Teiru Kinoshita on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn under-card, but has rarely shown the same qualities and excitement as he did that night, and instead of being a star his reign has been hugely frustrating and lacking in terms of quality. Whilst he has made 3 mandatory defenses, including the win over Kinoshita, he hasn't made the most of his voluntary opportunities and has lost a lot of the moment it seemed he once had.
In the ring the champion is a wonderfully smooth boxer-puncher. He has brilliant technical ability, sharp punching, great movement, and whilst he's not a puncher he hits clean accurate shots that take a toll on opponents. There's not many fighters who match up to Ancajas in terms of being a joy to watch with his speed and crispness. Sadly though his competition has been the issue and wins against the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Jamie Conlan, Israel Gonzalez and a draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios, in voluntary defenses have done little for his reputation. Whilst mandatories against Kinoshita, Jonas Sultan and Ryuichi Funai have been very nice stylistic matches, he hasn't managed to build his standing on those wins.
On paper the 24 year old Rodriguez is a really good challenger. He is coming into his prime, has suffered just a single loss, recently beat the well regarded Felipe Orucuta and is heavy handed. Below the paper however we see a man who was beaten by a relative novice just 20 months ago, holds only a single win of note and hasn't really got a name reputation. In a division where there is a lot of contenders looking for a shot, he has done little to deserve one. He has done less to get his shot than the likes of Donnie Nietes, Andrew Moloney, Francisco Rodriguez Jr or Carlos Cuadras, or a rematch with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. It's hard to defend Rodriguez, despite his nice looking record.
Despite Rodriguez having little of what quality on his record there are things to like about how he fights. He looks strong and tough, he's aggressive and he comes forward with power in his shots. Sadly there's more to dislike about how he fights, he looks slow and clunky, a bit methodical, he drops his hands and he looks like he's there to be hit. He trudges forward, fails to really cut the ring off and although he can clearly punch he does leave himself open when he lets his shots go.
Watching Rodriguez what we appear to have is another show-case type opponent for Ancajas who should have a field day with the Mexican. From what we've seen of the challenger the interesting thing will not be the competitiveness, or rather uncompetitiveness, of the fight but more a question of just how much punishment Rodriguez is happy to take. He looks like he will be way out of his depth.
Prediction - TKO8 Ancajas
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.
The Super Flyweight division is red hot right now with so many notable names, fantastic fighters and potentially brilliant match ups. The recent edition of “Superfly” may have been under-whelming but the division is red hot and the recent wins for both Kazuto Ioka and Roman Gonzalez have opened up the division even further. Sadly however there are several fighters who are competing with no intention of fighting on the “Superfly” cards. One of those is IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20), who is signed up with Top Rank and being kept as a divisional side attraction by Bob Arum, who has kept him fighting on ESPN and kept him away from the top names at 115lbs.
This coming Friday Ancajas returned to the ring, to make his 6th defense of the title, and takes on a real divisional no-name in the form of Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7). A 22 year old Mexican without a win of note and draws in his 3 most notable bouts. Not only is he a pretty unknown challenger but he is one without any experience over 12 rounds and has done next to nothing to deserve a title fight, at this moment in time.
The 26 year old champion might not be competing with the best in the division but he is one of the divisions top fighters, which is why his reign is so disappointing. He won the title back in September 2016, defeating the then unbeaten McJoe Arroyo, and has showed his silky skills whilst stopping the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan. Most recently he scored a decision win over mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan but failed to take the opportunity to shine, in the first All-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years.
Whilst his reign has been somewhat forgettable Ancajas has gone from a relative unknown outside of the Filipino domestic scene to someone who is regarded a top Super Flyweight and has been fighting on major TV over the few few fights. His win over Teiru Kinoshita put him on the map for many and since then his profile has grown well, which has doubled the frustration of fans. He's is one of the most aesthetically pleasing fighters in the sport, with very sharp shots, wonderful movement and electric combinations, but it often looks like he's facing opponents several levels blow himself. Those skills feel like they deserve to be tested against the very best in the division, guys like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and even Kal Yafai, another of the divisional outliers.
Santiago picked up boxing as a teenager and early in his career he rolled off an 8 fight unbeaten run against fellow novice Mexicans. His first step up in class saw him face the then 5-0-1 Hector Gabriel Flores, and lose a clear 6 round decision. His second loss would come just a couple of fights later, and since then he has gone on a role of sorts, running up an 11 fight unbeaten run. Sadly though that run has seen him score 8 wins over limited foes in Mexico and fight to 3 draws against somewhat notable names, all on the road. By it's self that sounds like he's been unfortunate but those draws have come against Antonio Nieves, who was toyed with by Naoya Inoue, and Jose Martinez, who's most notable victory has come against the under-sized and well past his best Juan Palacios.
Footage of Santiago shows him to be a pretty quick and crafty fighter. He uses half steps on the way out to create space to get his jab off and does move surprisingly well. Sadly on the front foot he does look like he carries very little power and doesn't really sit on his shots. Also he looks worryingly under-sized as well as under-powered. We'll be honest and say he probably should have had a win over Martinez, who he made look slow, sloppy and crude, but that shouldn't be enough to get him a world title fight at this level. He looks better than we'd expect, but no where near good enough to face off with the likes of Ancajas.
We're expecting to see Ancajas take the fight to Santiago, using his superior size, speed and skills to chip away at the Mexican and score a late stoppage. Santiago is stepping up massively and he's shown nothing to suggest he can hold his own at this level against someone as sharp and as accurate as Ancajas. Sadly Ancasjas has a reputation for dragging out his bouts, not putting his foot toe gad until his man has been broken mentally. That means we're expecting this to go in the later rounds before Ancajas ups the pace and looks to finish the show, rather than look to make a statement as early as he can.
The Super Flyweight division has gone from being one of the most over-looked divisions, only really enjoyed by the hardcore fight fans to being a division that is getting massive attention thanks to the growing “Superfly” series of cards, and the fact that right now we have top fighters in the division from around the globe. This weekend we get the chance to see some of the divisions best fighters in action in Fresno California, with WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14) defending his title against David Carmona (21-5-5, 9) and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1, 20) defending his title against Jonas Sultan (14-3, 9).
Of those two bouts it's the second one that particularly interests us as it will be the first all-Filipino world title bout in over 90 years, though the winners of the two bouts are expected to be on a collision towards unification later in the year.
Ancajas was one of the sports hidden gems until recently. The "Pretty boy" debuted back in 2009, as a 17 year old and went 13-0-1 before losing a razor thin decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo in early 2012. Since the Ancajas has gone 16-0 (15) and proven to be one of the best Super Flyweights on the planet. He's a joy to watch some wonderful boxing skills, fantastic sharpness, and a rare fluidity to everything he does. Not only is he a joy but he's an offensively minded combination punching southpaw, which makes him incredibly awkward to fight against.
The impressive 16 fight run of Ancajas has seen him move from relative unknown to being seen as one of the new faces of Filipino boxing. It began withg some pretty low key wins, but in 2016 he scored a major win over McJoe Arroyo to claim the IBF title. Since then his profile has mushroomed with 4 world title defenses, stopping Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macao, Teiru Kinoshita in Australia, Jamie Conlan in Northern Ireland and Israel Gonzalez in the US. Not only is he stopping his foes but he's looking sensational doing it, dropping his opponents and beating them up before stopping them.
Despite scoring a lot of stoppages recently Ancajas isn't actually a big puncher. He's someone who stops people through his sheer consistency. He lands a lot of shots, he finds holes in opponents defenses and uses his speed to befuddle good fighters, who are made to look really poor. His power won't effect someone like Juan Francisco Estrada or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on a 1-punch basis, but those shots do damage over the course of a fight, and against even the very elite in the division Ancajas has a genuine shot.
Sultan, like Ancajas in may ways, was totally unknown not too long ago. He started his career in 2013, and was 4-2 (2) after 6 bouts but has since gone 10-1 (7) and made himself one of the divisions key contenders, and the IBF mandatory title challenger. In in his recent wins are victories over some really good fighters, such as Jerson Mancio, Brian Lobetania, Rene Dacquel, Tatsuay Ikemizu, Makazole Tete, Sonny Boy Jaro and John Riel Casimero. In those wins he has shown he can box, punch and take a shot when he needs to.
Although he has looked really good at times, there is still a lot for Sultan to prove and his win over Casimero left as many questions as answers, and was a very messy fight. He certainly a lot going for him here, and his only recent loss was much closer than the cards suggested. He has shown power and speed, and at 26 is coming into his physical prime.
Although going through a rich vein of form this is a big step up for Sultan. Wins over former world champions like Jaro and Casimero are impressive but Jaro was old and Casimero was a naturally smaller man. His wins over Tete and Dacquel are brilliant wins, but they are both a long way off being as good as Ancajas. In fact the champion has more to his arsenal than Tete and Dacquel combined and that will be a major issue for Sultan here.
We think this opportunity has come a little too early for Sultan. We're not sure he will ever be as good as Ancajas, but he probably needed to face another prime contender before getting a world title fight to really be prepared for a fight at that level. We suspect that Ancajas' smoothness in the ring, his speed and movement and ring IQ will be too much for the challenger. Sultan will certainly have some moments, but we suspect he'll be worn down and either stopped late or lose a wide and clear decision.
Last year we saw a number of lesser known fighters increase their profile with a number of impressive performances. One of those was Filipino Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19), who went 3-0 (3) for the year, defending the IBF Super Flyweight title in all 3 of those bouts and scoring wins in Macao, Australia and Northern Ireland. He looks to kick off his 2018 with his 4th world title defense, as he takes on once beaten Mexican challenger Israel Gonzalez (21-1, 8).
The Super Flyweight division is, arguably, the most interesting in the sport today with a number of excellent fighters. Sadly the division has got political issues, and Ancajas signing with Top Rank in 2017 has locked him out of facing a number of top fighters and showcasing his abilities against the best. Those abilities are, however, exceptional and the Filipino is a real joy to watch.
Dubbed the “Pretty Boy” Ancajas is a photogenic fighter who is a wonderfully pure boxer. He fights from the southpaw stance, sets the pace of the fight and controls the distance with smart footwork and very accurate straight shots. On the inside he throws beautiful shots, especially to the body, and defensively he's smart and quick. His speed is one of his key strengths, with his hands and feet both being incredibly fast, and there is a wonderful smoothness to his boxing.
One of the problems is Ancajas is the fact he's not a big puncher. Despite not being a big puncher he has gone 15-0 (14) since his sole loss, a majority decision to Mark Anthony Geraldo back in March 2012. What's impressive about Ancajas is that everyone of his shots stings, and takes a toll, rather than concusses an opponent. He breaks down opponents with a steady steam of shots and they are can hurt to either the head or body.
During his 30 fight career Ancajas has scored notable wins over the likes of Inthanon Sithchamuang, McJoe Arroyo, who he beat for the title, Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan. From those only Arroyo lasted the distance.
Mexican fighter Gonzalez has been a professional for just over 3 years, and has been a very busy fighter since his November 2014 debut. Just 13 months after his debut he fought in his first title fight, claiming the interim WBC FECOMBOX Super Flyweight Title with a win over Francisco Reyes. Amazingly that was Gonzalez's 13th bout in as many months. In mid 2016 he suffered his first, and so far only, loss, as he came up short against Argi Cortes. Back to back stoppages over former world title challenger Mauricio Fuentes followed, along with a win over a very shop warn Ramon Garcia Hirales. Those wins are the most notable on Gonzalez's record, and since then he has scored 5 low key wins.
Despite being so busy there is little quality footage of Gonzalez available. What is available shows an aggressive pressure fight with a nice snappy jab and nice head movement. Sadly for him though there is a real lack of power and so little footage is available to know anything about how he copes with pressure and what he's like on the inside. The footage, which is quite old, shows a slappy fighter who really doesn't get his weight or body behind his shots and whilst he could have improved it would take a huge amount of development to prepare him for someone like Ancajas.
On Saturday, when the two men get in the ring, we're expecting a real show case from Ancajas. We're expecting the champion to set the distance and pace from the off, and beak down the challenger in 6 or so rounds. Gonzalez' toughness is unknown, but we know how good Ancajas is and how accurate he is, with Gonzalez unlikely to be able to take the fire power from Ancajas for long.
Right now there are a number of divisions which standout as being much more talent laden and exciting than others. One of those is the Cruiserweight division, where the World Boxing Super Series is helping the division really stand out. Another is the Super Flyweight division, which has gotten attention thanks to the number of top fighters, the repeatedly exciting contests the division is giving us, and the recent showcases from HBO.
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.
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.