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Don’t call Jerwin Ancajas the next Manny Pacquiao

Jerwin Ancajas poses in front of a large photo of Filipino idol Manny Pacquiao. Photo / Jhay Oh Otamias
27
Jan

Jerwin Ancajas has put a number of stamps on his passport since becoming a 115-pound titleholder at the end of 2016, and finally added the United States’ stamp yesterday, Friday, when he touched down in Los Angeles to complete training for his title defense next week.

The fight, his fourth defense of the IBF junior bantamweight belt against Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez, takes place February 3 at Bank of America Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. He’ll be featured live on ESPN, on Saturday night in the U.S. and Sunday morning in the Philippines, an arrangement similar to how Manny Pacquiao’s fights are shown.

It’s rare for Filipino boxers, even champions, to have their fights shown live in their home country, but it’s a sign of his rising profile in the sport. However, for the painfully shy Ancajas, the increasing frequency of fans recognizing him on the street is something he’s still adjusting to.

“At first I was really shy because I wasn’t confident with myself, like ‘who am I that they would want to have a photo taken with me?,’” said Ancajas (28-1-1, 19 knockouts), a 26-year-old now residing at his “Survival Camp” compound in Magallanes, Cavite, Philippines. “Others have told me that it is different now…I got into thinking that you become important to people when you become a champion.”

Ancajas’ shy temperament was most visibly on display when he faced Teiru Kinoshita last July in Brisbane, Australia in the Pacquiao-Jeff Horn co-featured fight as he walked out in front of nearly 50,000 fans with a bashful “aww shucks” smile on his face, looking almost embarrassed to beat up his mandatory challenger.

Ancajas poses with his IBF junior bantamweight title. Photo / Jhay Oh Otamias

It’s something he’ll have to get over as boxing fans become increasingly excited about the Panabo City native, looking to him as the next Filipino star to root for as Pacquiao’s career winds down.

It was Bob Arum, who signed Ancajas to a promotional deal last year, who fostered comparisons between Ancajas and Pacquiao, who also co-promotes him, and debuted him to American media at the Wild Card Boxing Club with photos of Pacquiao in the backdrop.

It’s a tough mantle to bear, and the internet archives are full of stories of “next Pacquiaos” who burned out or couldn’t cut it when the spotlight was on. Ancajas says the comparisons can be overwhelming.

“I am embarrassed sometimes to be compared to sir Manny because he is at a different level, I still have a lot to prove to be compared to him. Even though I have become a champion, I cannot compare myself to sir Manny,” said Ancajas, who won the title in November of 2016 with a unanimous decision over McJoe Arroyo.

“Those saying that I am the next Manny Pacquaio, they’re the ones putting pressure on me because it is hard to equal what sir Manny has achieved in boxing. Whatever else I can achieve with boxing, whatever I can reach with boxing, it will still not be the same as that of sir Manny.”

There are obvious similarities, like their stances and being born in the Philippines’ Mindanao region. Pacquiao’s thunder has mostly been delivered upstairs with the straight left while Ancajas’ best punches are his jab and body work. If there’s one attribute Ancajas says he’d like to avoid having in common, it’s Pacquiao’s proclivity to getting into all-out brawls, preferring instead to make fights easy through tactical strategy. Still, he wants fans to know he’s got a world-class ticker in his chest.

“[Pacquiao’s] heart to win, I also want to apply that to myself. I also want to become the best among boxers because I did not get into boxing just for the sake of being in boxing, I got into boxing because I wanted to be counted among the best,” said Ancajas, who is managed and trained by Joven Jimenez.

He wants to establish an identity and legacy of his own, and to do that he’ll have to seek out the best challenges available. That becomes a lot easier by campaigning in America.

“I also want to have the same desire as sir Manny to face all those who are good, that is also what I want.”

This next step for Ancajas is one that Pacquiao can relate to, having come ashore in 2001 for his star-making upset win over Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. Pacquiao gave him one bit of advice which shouldn’t be too hard to follow.

“His advice is for me to always be humble, and I carry that with me always. Also, inside the ring, always be tough. When he says we are Pinoy, it means we’re tough but still, always be humble no matter what I have reached, always be humble,” said Ancajas.

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