Is Jerwin Ancajas the next Manny Pacquiao?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2018 - 12:00am

International Boxing Federation (IBF) superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas insists he’s not the second coming of Manny Pacquiao, despite media hype that he’s next in line as the ring icon’s heir apparent.

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum says if Ancajas could only be a “mini-half Pacquiao,” he’d be smiling all the way to the bank.  For sure, there will never be another Pacquiao.  It’s unimaginable that someone else could win world titles in eight different divisions, a feat that Pacquiao managed from conquering the 112-pound flyweight class in 1998 to claiming the 154-pound superwelterweight crown in 2010.   

Ancajas holds his IBF title belt while Gonzalez raises a fist

Ancajas, 26, refuses to be compared to his benefactor and inspiration out of respect for Pacquiao.  But the similarities are evident.  Arum says they’re both humble and mild-mannered.  They’re also both heavy-handed southpaws who started their careers weighing less than 110 pounds and won their US debuts in world championship fights.  Arum predicts Ancajas will be a fan favorite all over the world just like Pacquiao.

Last Saturday, Ancajas made his first appearance in a US ring, flooring Mexican challenger Israel Gonzalez thrice en route to scoring a 10th-round stoppage in Corpus Christi, Texas.  It was his fourth defense of the 115-pound title he took from Puerto Rico’s previously unbeaten McJoe Arroyo in 2016. 

In his last three outings, Ancajas hasn’t lost a single round.  In Brisbane last July, he battered Japan’s Teiru Konashita to register a seventh-round disposal and in Belfast last November, he halted previously undefeated home-towner Jamie Conlan in the sixth.  That kind of domination is rare in world championship boxing today, regardless of weight class.

Joven Jimenez (center) with two-time Asian Games boxer Delfin Boholst and 2012 London Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga who both assisted inAncajas’ training

Ancajas turned pro in 2009 with American businessman Ken Smith as his manager. Smith then lived in Digos, Davao del Sur, where Ancajas used to train. After four wins, Ancajas’ amateur coach Dodong Disabille decided to bring him to Manila. Smith had gone back to the US and Disabille contacted Joven Jimenez, a former Philippine Navy boxing coach, to take him over.

“I didn’t know Jerwin so my first reaction was I wasn’t interested,” says Jimenez. “But Dodong insisted. He told me Jerwin had a lot of potential because he was unbeatable in Davao.”  

Jimenez eventually agreed to take in Ancajas at his Top Contender gym in Muntinlupa. “I had about 12 boxers at the time, including Froilan Saludar, Adonis Cabalquinto and Anthony Marcial,” he says. “But they couldn’t get along. One by one, they left my gym until only Jerwin remained.”

Ancajas, a native of Panabo, Davao del Norte, fought wherever the road took him —to Tanza, Imus, Lipa, Taguig, Kawit, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Lucena, Tianjin and Haikou, China.

For a while, Cebu-based promoter Sammy Gello-ani arranged fights for Ancajas. Then, Pacquiao took notice. Nonoy Neri, one of Pacquiao’s trusted trainers, worked with Ancajas for seven fights, including two in Macau, and he won them all.

Jimenez settled Ancajas, his wife Ruth and their two children Kyrie, 5, and Kyle, 2, to live in a rented apartment in Imus, Cavite.  His sons are named after NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Kyle Korver. 

Ancajas with 1990 Asian Games gold medal- ist Bobby Jalnaiz and former WBC lightfly- weight champion Rodel Mayol, both living in Los Angeles

Ancajas, one of three children, was only three when his parents separated.  He recently bought a home in Panabo for his father, now debilitated from a spinal injury after suffering a motorcycle accident.  Ancajas plans to buy a home for his mother, too.

For a while, Ancajas trained in a makeshift ring in a Tanay property owned by one of Jimenez’s boxing students, Mark Soong.  Ancajas later moved to barangay Ramirez, Magallanes, Cavite, where, with his boxing earnings, he combined resources with Jimenez to build a home and gym in the backyard.  Ancajas calls it the Survival Camp because it’s a bare-bones facility with an improvised ring and equipment patched up from surplus material. Jimenez says he’s recently received inquiries from foreign fighters interested in joining the Survival Camp so the plan is to construct a 10-bed dorm to accommodate visitors.

Ancajas is no spendthrift and takes care of his purses.  When he fought for the IBF crown, his prize was only $3,700 and he still had to pay a sanction fee of $1,000.  He was paid $40,000 for his first defense, $60,000 for his second, $80,000 for his third and $95,000 for his fourth.  Ancajas will likely breach the six-figure mark in his fifth defense, slated in June somewhere in the US against No. 1 contender and countryman Jonas Sultan.

In Corpus Christi, Ancajas was the toast of the town.  The Filipino community came out in droves to honor him.  At St. Pius X church, Fr. Al Abainza of Albay celebrated Holy Mass for a Filipino congregation on the eve of the fight and prayed for the Lord to give Ancajas strength and to protect him from injury.  Ancajas hung out with Filipino families in the city during a meet-and-greet at the Rockit’s Whiskey Bar and Saloon.  During his one-week stay in Corpus Christi, Ancajas won the hearts of the local media and was featured twice in the broadsheet Caller Times, once as the subject of a cover story in a pullout.

Arum says Ancajas is blessed with the “Manny pedigree” and Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels is convinced he’ll go far with the backing of the “Pacquiao connection.”  Former WBO welterweight champion and ESPN TV analyst Tim Bradley says the future is wide open for Ancajas if he stays focused and continues to be dedicated to his sport.   Jimenez says Ancajas is the most disciplined fighter he’s ever coached.  Ancajas may not admit it, but being called the next Pacquiao is opening doors for the latest Filipino boxing sensation.

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