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Sports

World title shot for Mama

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

In December last year, unbeaten General Santos City fighter Jayson Mama flew to South Africa to challenge then IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane only to be told the match was cancelled because “the promoter has failed to meet basic requirements to enable sanction and give credibility to the event,” according to the local federation. At least, Mama was paid 10 percent of his $20,000 purse without throwing a punch but it was hardly a consolation as a crack at the world crown remained elusive.

But the other day, Mamas manager JC Manangquil announced the news of a breakthrough. IBF titlist Sunny Edwards, who dethroned Mthalane last April, will stake his belt against Mama at the Copper Box Arena in London on Sept. 11. Mama is the IBFs No. 3 contender and the highest-ranked challenger available since the No. 1 and No. 2 spots are vacant. MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons made it happen.

Edwards, 25, has a record of 16-0, with four KOs.  He shocked the oddsmakers by thrashing Mthalane who entered the ring with a streak of 16 straight wins, 13 in world championship bouts. The fight wasnt even close and one judge Bob Williams scored it a shutout, 120-108. Judge Steve Gray had it 118-111 and the third judge Ian John-Lewis saw it 115-113. Mama, 24, also boasts a record of 16-0 with five more KOs than Edwards.

Curiously, Edwardsolder brother Charlie lost in a bid for the IBF flyweight strap to Filipino JohnRiel Casimero via a 10th round stoppage at the O2 Arena in London in 2016. It wasnt the first time a Filipino won in a world title fight in the UK. In 1983, Frank Cedeno wrested the WBC flyweight crown from Charlie Magri on a sixth round knockout at Wembley Arena. In 1997, Eric Jamili stopped Mickey Cantwell in the eighth canto to claim the vacant WBO minimumweight title at the London Arena. In 2018, Nonito Donaire halted Ryan Burnett in the fourth stanza to take the super WBA bantamweight crown in Glasgow. In 2019, Casimero disposed of Zolani Tete in the third round to capture the WBO bantamweight title in Birmingham. So Mama has compatriot footsteps to follow in his quest for a world championship.

A devout Iglesia Ni Cristo member, Mama has a twin brother Jervin and theyre the youngest of 10 children. “Laki kami sa hirap,” he once said. “Dati, sina Papa at Mama tumutulong sa bukid ng kamag-anak. ‘Di amin ang lupa. Nagtrabaho sila sa palayan at nyugan. Maliit pa ako, naisipan ko na mag-boksing. Ang balak ko ay makatulong sa pamilya.” His parents are now in their 70s, both retired.

Manangquil said England will require a quarantine upon arrival. He plans to accompany Mama with trainer Ronerex Dalut. “Edwards is a very technical boxer who likes to use the ring,” he said. “Kaya ‘to ni Jayson. Hes very hungry and hell do everything to be a world champ. Switch-hitter si Edwards so Jayson is sparring southpaws and orthodox. Jayson can switch it up. He can be aggressive and can box, too. His sparmates are Froilan Saludar, Dave Apolinario and RV Deniega.” Manangquil said win or lose, Mama intends to finish his criminology studies at Holy Trinity College in General Santos City next year in a promise to his parents. No doubt, Mama dreams of graduating with a degree as a world champion.

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