Highway to Hell
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2019 - 12:00am

STOCKTON – When IBF superflweight champion Jerwin Ancajas makes his way from the dressing room to the ring to defend his crown against Japanese challenger Ryuichi Funai at the Stockton Arena this morning (Manila time), he’ll be marching to the tune of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell.”

The lyrics of the song capture what Ancajas intends to do in the seventh defense of his crown. “No stop signs, speed limit; nobody’s gonna slow me down; like a wheel, gonna spin it; nobody’s gonna mess me round.” It’s fair warning to Funai. Ancajas is out to bring Funai to the highway to hell.

Ancajas, 27, will be paid $175,000 for the fight, the biggest purse in his career. And the prize will continue to rise with each win. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has told international matchmaker Sean Gibbons he plans to pit Ancajas against Australia’s Jason Moloney next, assuming Funai goes down.

Newly-crowned WBC superflyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico is in Ancajas’ sights for a unification. Last week, Estrada himself was reportedly in touch with Ancajas and they wished each other well. A showdown may happen down the road. Gibbons said he doesn’t think Estrada is immediately available. Estrada may stake his crown in an optional defense in Mexico before entertaining talks of a possible duel with Ancajas.

Gibbons said he’s not thinking of Estrada at the moment. Neither is he thinking of Moloney. His only focus is Funai. “If Jerwin can’t beat Funai and can’t beat Moloney, why even think of fighting Estrada,” said Gibbons. The priority is to get rid of Funai and if Arum sets up a fight against Moloney, perhaps the winner could move on to face Estrada.

At the weigh-in last Friday (yesterday, Manila time), World Boxing Hall of Famer Alvaro (Yaqui) Lopez was introduced to a warm applause. Lopez, 67, was born in Mexico and is a long-time Stockton resident. He began and ended his pro career in Stockton. Of his 76 fights, 25 were staged here.

Lopez never won a world title but figured in several historic bouts, including the Ring Magazine’s 1980 Fight of the Year where he lost to WBC lightheavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad on a 14th round stoppage in New Jersey. According to Lopez, he faced at least nine world champions, including Michael Spinks, Carlos de Leon, Victor Galindez and John Conteh. He saw action in Australia, Denmark, Italy and cities all over the US, never failing to put on an exciting show. He retired in 1984 with a record of 61-15, including 39 KOs. Lopez owns and operates his own gym called Fat City Boxing in town.

Lopez was called on stage before the weigh-in started and shook hands with Arum who said, “you look like you’re in shape, go to the gym for two weeks and I’ll get you a fight in Las Vegas.” Lopez, trim and lean, said it was an honor for Stockton to host a big Top Rank event. The city hasn’t hosted a world title fight since Cornelius Boza Edwards beat Bazooka Limon for the WBC superfeatherweight title in 1981.

“I’ll always remember Yaqui’s fight against Muhammad,” said Gibbons. “It went back and forth. At first, it looked like Yaqui was on the way out, then it looked like Muhammad was going down until finally, Yaqui was stopped in the 14th round. What a fight that was.”

Lopez said from what he knows, former Filipino pro Fel Clemente used to live in Stockton but has moved to Alaska. Clemente, now 66, was from General Santos City and lost to Danny (Little Red) Lopez on a disputed fourth round disqualification in a bid for the WBC featherweight title in Italy in 1978. Clemente was ahead on the three judges scorecards, 30-28, 29-28, 29-28 when referee Gujelmo Ajor stopped it at 2:15 of the fourth. Lopez, a known bleeder, was cut over both eyes and ruled unfit to continue. Instead of calling it a technical draw or a no-contest, Ajor declared Lopez the winner by disqualification, a decision that was booed by the audience. From 1977 to 1979, Clemente had nine fights in Stockton. He retired in 1980.  Among the world champions he fought were Salvador Sanchez, Juan Laporte, Rocky Lockridge and Bobby Chacon.

Another former Filipino pro Rudy Barro lived in Stockton and died a few years ago. He had 15 fights in Stockton and battled several world champions, including Tommy Hearns, Alfonso Frazer and Rocky Mattioli. Barro saw action in 24 fights in Italy, over 30 in Australia, more than 20 in the US, including 15 in Stockton and in New Caledonia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Mexico, Thailand, Japan, England and Canada.

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