Ancajas ready for bigger game
Filipino champion Jerwin Ancajas lands a left straight to Mexican challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez’s face during their IBF superflyweight title showdown Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
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Ancajas ready for bigger game

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It took IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas nine title defenses to finally gain the respect of the boxing cognoscenti but the recognition came richly deserved as the Panabo, Davao del Norte, native known as “Pretty Boy” floored tough Mexican challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez once in the eighth round then held off a late surge to score a unanimous 12-round decision at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, last Saturday night (yesterday morning, Manila time).

Ancajas, 29, strayed from his fight plan of striking from a distance to battle Rodriguez toe-to-toe in what transformed a tactical encounter into a brawl in the last six rounds. Rodriguez, 25, never took a step back in engaging Ancajas, trying to land the big punch that would propel his ascent to the throne. But Ancajas proved too slick, too smart and too strong in keeping the belt around his waist.

In the first round, Ancajas nearly toppled Rodriguez with a jarring left straight to the jaw. Ancajas said when the Mexican stayed on his feet despite almost hitting the deck, he knew it was going to be a long night. “Akala ko babagsak siya,” said Ancajas. “Bumigay yung tuhod pero kinaya niya. Doon ko nakita handa siyang makipagpalitan ng mukha. Sa eighth round, nasaktan siya sa katawan tapos sinunud-sunod ko ng suntok sa taas. Bagsak siya at tumingin sa corner, parang aayaw na. Nagulat ako noong tumayo. Bilib ako sa puso, tapang at determinasyon niya.”

Ancajas said he was well scouted by Rodriguez. “Napagaralan niya mga suntok ko,” he said. “Yung right jab ko sa ulo, salo niya sa kaliwang glove kaya nag-adjust ako mag-jab sa katawan.  Yung straight ko, kina-counter niya ng uppercut. Hindi madali yung laban. Ito na ang pinakamabigat na depensa ko. Kaya pagkatapos ng laban, lumuhod ako at siya rin, bilang respeto sa isa’t isa. Sabi ko sa kaniya, appreciated yung paghahanda niya sa akin.”

Rodriguez, however, showed little class in the post-fight interview as he accused the judges of conspiring against him and wouldn’t accept the unanimous verdict. He said the worst that could’ve happened was a loss by a split decision. Judge Tony Paolillo saw it 115-112, judge Tom Schrek 116-111 and judge Don Trella 117-110, all for the Filipino. The three judges concurred in awarding the last three rounds to Rodriguez who displayed guts in shaking off the pain from Ancajas’ relentless body attack to close out banging.

Ancajas admitted he felt the 16-month layoff in his legs but still had enough wind left in the end. When he decided to slug it out, his motivation was to prove his grit as a champion. “Ayoko nilang sabihin na patakbo-takbo lang ako,” he said. “Pinakita ko na kaya kong makipagsabayan. Grabe yung laban. Binigay namin ang lahat. Sana natuwa mga fans.”

MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons said Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) owner Al Haymon was thrilled with Ancajas’ performance. “Jerwin has found a home at PBC,” said Gibbons referring to the transfer from Top Rank. “That was a heckuva fight and honestly, I got worried in those last three rounds because Rodriguez was like a zombie out there, he wouldn’t go away. I’m proud of Jerwin. He fought to earn respect and got it. Rodriguez is one durable Mexican, he was hurt but wouldn’t stay down.” Ancajas improved his record to 33-1-2, with 22 KOs while Rodriguez’ slate dipped to 22-2, with 16 KOs.

Ancajas said he’ll fight anyone whom PBC, Gibbons and coach Joven Jimenez decide is next.  “Kahit sino lalabanan ko,” he said. But in expressing a preference, Ancajas singled out WBC franchise and super WBA champion Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico and Nicaraguan legend Roman (Chocolatito) Gonzalez. Estrada and Gonzalez, however, are lined up for a rubber match then whoever wins will battle the survivor of another duel between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Carlos Cuadra. So Ancajas has some waiting to do. WBO superflyweight titlist Kazuto Ioka is a looming option but he’ll probably face former champion Donnie Nietes in his next defense. One thing is sure, Ancajas is ready for bigger game.

On the same card, unbeaten featherweight Mark Magsayo dropped Houston’s Pablo Cruz thrice before referee Johnny Callas stepped in to stop the action in the fourth round. Magsayo, 25, has the distinction of being the only Filipino today who is rated in the top 10 by the four world governing bodies. He is ranked No. 5 by the IBF, No. 6 by the WBC, No. 7 by the WBA and No. 8 by the WBO. The win raised Magsayo’s record to 22-0, with 15 KOs.

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