Jerwin Ancajas ready for the global stage on Pacquiao-Horn card

By Ryan Songalia

BRISBANE, Australia – As dozens of fans in Manny Pacquiao t-shirts filled the Sofitel lobby, and over 100 more filled the chapel downstairs to get a glimpse of Pacquiao in pastor mode, Jerwin Ancajas is 30 floors up shadowboxing in a plastic suit and sweater, working off the last few pounds of water weight.

Ancajas, the IBF junior bantamweight titleholder, walks the streets in anonymity, despite his boxing credentials. His title-winning effort against McJoe Arroyo last year in Metro Manila wasn’t televised in his native Philippines, nor was his first defense in against Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Macau, China.

This time, he’ll be seen not only in his home country but also by millions around the world when he fights Japan’s Teiru Kinoshita in the co-featured bout supporting the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn WBO welterweight title fight this Sunday (Saturday U.S. time) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.

The fight will be shown on ESPN in primetime in the United States, and on GMA in the Philippines. The event’s promoter Dean Lonergan of Duco Events says the fight card will be shown in a total of 150 countries, and Top Rank’s Bob Arum anticipates the event will be seen by 5 to 10 million in the United States alone.

“We are very excited because of the many people who will be watching the fight on TV,” said Ancajas (26-1-1, 17 knockouts), of Panabo City, Philippines. “That is why we want to show a good fight. The fight has to be impressive.”

It’s been a long road to Brisbane for Ancajas, a 25-year-old southpaw boxer-puncher known for his constant right jab and dedication to body punching. For the Arroyo fight, Ancajas made just $3,750 – 15% of the IBF minimum purse bid of $25,000 – to fight in a mostly empty gym.

He used that purse to buy his aging father a place to live, his thank you for the years he toiled on a banana plantation to support the family.

Up until his first defense, Ancajas had been living in an unfurnished apartment on a complex owned by his trainer/manager Joven Jimenez. After the Rodriguez fight, he was able to buy a home in Panabo City, and, with his career-high payday of $60,000, he’ll buy a second home where he trains in the Philippine province of Cavite.

And he’s hoping a big win will lead to bigger opportunities, like a unification bout against whomever emerges from the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai- Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez rematch on September 9, and the subsequent mandatory, with the WBC title.

Fighting in Brisbane has afforded Ancajas the opportunity to showcase his talents in front of top promoters Arum and Lonergan, and allowed him to mingle with top prospects like Michael Conlan, the 2016 Irish Olympian who will make his third pro outing on the same card.

“(Ancajas) came up and said he wanted to take a photo with me. I was like, ‘I wanna take a photo with you,’” said Conlan.

“He is very kind…and not snobbish,” says Ancajas, who adds they did Conlan’s trademark “birds-up” finger pose for the cameras.

Kinoshita (25-1-1, 8 KOs), a light-hitting but experienced southpaw from Kobe, Japan, figures to be a challenging puzzle to solve. His lone defeat came in 2014, when he lost a decision to the under-appreciated Zolani Tete, also for the vacant IBF junior bantamweight belt.

Kinoshita says he’s seen Ancajas fight before, describing him as “very tough and powerful,” before listing “heart and fighting spirit” for why he believes he can beat THE RING’s No. 8-rated 115-pounder Ancajas.

Ancajas has also seen a bit of Kinoshita and isn’t letting his guard down, despite his mandatory challenger’s lack of knockouts.

“We saw his fights on YouTube; he is good (at going the) distance,” Ancajas said of Kinoshita. “That is why even if they say that he is weak, we will still not take him for granted.”

To put both fighters more at odds, they’re pulling for different fighters in the main event. Ancajas, who is promoted by Pacquiao, says, “I don’t think Horn will be able to keep up with the strength of Sir Manny…because I saw his training and it seems nothing has changed with Sir Manny.”

Kinoshita, who first started boxing after watching his countryman Masamori Tokuyama, also a light-hitting but skillful boxer, unseat Korean In-Joo Cho to win the WBC junior bantamweight title in 2000, is rooting for Horn to pull off the upset.

“Pacquiao has so much experience, is a great fighter. It’s hard to bet against him. Because I’m from Kobe, and Kobe and Brisbane are sister cities, I’m really pulling for Jeff Horn in this fight,” said Kinoshita.

After training four months for this fight, and waiting much longer for the spotlight, Ancajas isn’t going to leave the stage without a fight.

“Hopefully after this fight, if I win, I hope more opportunities will come,” said Ancajas.

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING magazine. He can be reached at ryan.songalia@rappler.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.

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Source:: The Ring – Boxing