Japan cancels Jerwin fight

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Japan cancels Jerwin fight
Jerwin Ancajas
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas will wait a little longer for the chance to unify the 115-pound throne as his showdown with WBO beltholder Kazuto Ioka set in Ota City on Dec. 31 was cancelled yesterday due to Japan’s lockdown on foreign visitors as a precaution against the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons said Ancajas, who’s training in Los Angeles, will remain with manager/trainer Joven Jimenez in the US through the coming holidays and defend his crown against a top 15 contender, possibly in January. “Sana pumayag si Ioka sa US ang laban,” said Jimenez. But it’s doubtful that Ioka will leave Japan anytime soon.

Gibbons said he hopes Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions will find a slot for Ancajas in a US card next month. He added that the Ioka duel will be reset for late next year. “This is devastating,” said Gibbons. “Jerwin’s been itching to unify. But things happen for a reason and now, we’ll go a different route.” Ancajas has made nine title defenses since wresting the IBF diadem from Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo in 2016 and is running out of opposition. The No. 1 and No. 2 slots are vacant in the IBF standings and three of the next eight contenders are Japanese Sho Ishida, Ryoji Fukunaga and Akio Furutani. The No. 7 contender Jade Bornea is a Filipino and in line to face No. 3 Mohammed Obbadi of Morocco in a title eliminator. The No. 4 contender Francisco Rodriguez of Mexico lost to Ioka last September and has been sparring with Ancajas at the Wild Card Gym. Rodriguez, a former IBF/WBO minimumweight champion, is an option to challenge Ancajas despite being sparmates.

Gibbons said Ancajas plans to return home after his next fight. Ancajas has been training in the US since September. He would’ve left for Japan on Dec. 11. “We can’t question (what happened),” said Gibbons. “The Lord works in mysterious ways and this coronavirus is very mysterious. Jerwin is staying focused, he’ll keep working hard.” The cancellation was announced by the Shisei Boxing Gym, promoter of the aborted unification fight, citing the closure of Japanese borders from Nov. 30 up to the end of the year.  Also cancelled was the Dec. 29 unification bout between Gennadiy Golovkin and Ryota Murata for the IBF, IBO and super WBA middleweight titles.

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