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
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