Jerwin Ancajas plans to get past Conlan, then target Inoue
Jerwin Ancajas and team arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Saturday, a week ahead of his third defense of the IBF junior bantamweight title against local favorite Jamie Conlan. Ancajas was feeling a bit tired – which is understandable, considering he’d flown 14 hours from Manila to London, stayed overnight in the English capital and then flew another 90 minutes to Belfast.
A career-high payday of $80,000, a substantial increase from the $3,750 he earned as challenger to McJoe Arroyo to win the title a year ago, should help him deal with the time change and ease his mind as he cuts the final six pounds to make the 115-pound limit.
Ancajas (27-1-1, 18 knockouts) grinded it out at Survival Camp, his halfway completed complex in his native Philippines, which includes little more than a ring and a punching bag and is near the hilly roadways of Tagaytay, where he runs to condition himself.
“For me, he’s the most difficult opponent I’ve faced,” said the 25-year-old Ancajas, a southpaw boxer-puncher ranked No. 6 in the division by THE RING, of Conlan (19-0, 11 KOs). “First of all, they own the crowd so you have to adjust. He’s got style and is a good brawler. He’s very difficult to fight because he’s strong, so it’s gonna be a good fight.”
Conlan has told RingTV that he hopes to match his own body-punching ability against that of Ancajas, and Ancajas tells RingTV that he plans to make a fight out of it to impress the crowd.
The team is anticipating a highly partisan environment at SSE Arena, where fans will be on hand to also watch former two-division champ Carl Frampton against Horacio Garcia, plus two-time Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes and the WBO bantamweight title defense by Zolani Tete against Siboniso Gonya on the Frank Warren-promoted card.
(READ: Expectant dad Jamie Conlan has much to fight for ahead of first title shot)
Both of Ancajas’ first two title defenses were abroad – Macau and Australia – but this is the first time he’ll be facing a fighter in his own hometown.
“Jerwin is very brave. No matter where the fight is, what anyone is shouting, our team is ready for that,” said trainer/manager Joven Jimenez. “Even the referee, he cannot help. We are preparing for that because the referee will help, the judges will help, the weigh-in scale will help, but we’re prepared for that.”
Jimenez says he’s had “initial talks” with the recently rebranded ESPN 5 to televise the Conlan fight live in the Philippines, and hopes to have good news on the discussions by Monday.
The plan, should Ancajas emerge from the fight victorious, is to target a unification fight with WBO titleholder and fast rising star Naoya Inoue for 2018. The unbeaten Japanese fighter has supplanted Roman Gonzalez as the highest-regarded fighter at 115 pounds and crossed over to the United States in September to make his HBO debut with a sixth-round stoppage of Antonio Nieves.
Jimenez says he has heard Inoue mention Ancajas as someone he wants to face, and says MP Promotions matchmaker Sean Gibbons is working on making that fight for next year. Having Inoue as a notch on his belt would be Ancajas’ opening to campaign in the the U.S.
“Jerwin is a more complete fighter than Inoue,” said Jimenez. “Jerwin can throw 1-2 combinations and can throw 3 or more combinations, and has perfect footwork.”
Gibbons isn’t limiting his scope solely to Inoue, he says.
“If Jerwin is successful on November 18 in Belfast, Northern Ireland versus Jamie Conlan…we have huge plans to come to the United States as Jerwin’s promoter Manny Pacquiao did years ago,” said Gibbons.
“That means anyone at 115, not just Inoue. But a win over the Monster would set Jerwin on the fast track for sure.
“We know with Manny Pacman pushing and promoting Jerwin’s career, Jerwin will be the next superstar from the Philippines.”
He’s fighting for more than purses and belts, Ancajas says. He has made it his goal to be included one day in the same breath as his promoter, Manny Pacquiao, and other great fighters from the Philippines. A win next Saturday would bolster his case as one of the best today in the sport, but he knows he has much work remaining to get where he wants to be.
“I told myself I want to be included in that category. It’s hard for me to say, because it’s the people who say that a boxer is good,” said Ancajas. “For me, I told myself to be better and train better so I can be like those fighters.”