Monday, October 02, 2023  |



Is a Jerwin Ancajas-Khalid Yafai unification fight brewing?

Junior bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas flexes with his IBF belt on his right, and adviser Sean Gibbons on his left. Photo by Jhay Oh Otamias
Fighters Network

The junior bantamweight division is heating up, and not just on “SuperFly” cards.

The May 26 card promoted by Top Rank may host not one but two 115-pound title fights as WBA beltholder Khalid Yafai is close to finalizing his third defense for the card against David Carmona, which would support the IBF title fight between incumbent Jerwin Ancajas (29-1-1, 20 knockouts) and mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan (14-3, 9 KOs).

If both make it through victorious, Ancajas’ promoter Bob Arum tells Tempo that they could end up facing off in a unification fight in late-August or the fall.

Yafai’s promoter Eddie Hearn tells THE RING that Yafai is still finalizing terms to appear on the May 26 card, which will be televised on ESPN from Selland Arena in Fresno, California, and that he’d like to see Yafai in a unification fight afterward.

“After that fight, he has to have a unification. So Ancajas is there; (WBO titleholder and THE RING Magazine champion Srisaket) Sor Rungvisai is there, all those guys. So there’s a good chance he’ll be on that card, and there’s also a good chance that Ancajas could be after.”



Yafai (23-0, 14 KOs) of Birmingham, United Kingdom, won his title in December of 2016 with a unanimous decision over Luis Concepcion and retained it with decisions over Suguru Muranaka and Sho Ishida last year. He tells THE RING that he’s focused first on his U.S. debut but remains open to unification after that’s out of the way.

“My main focus right now is winning on May 26 but, God willing, all goes well, I’ll most definitely be interested in the winner of Ancajas-Sultan,” said Yafai.

Carmona (21-5-5, 9 KOs), of Mexico City, showed his durability in going the distance with Naoya Inoue and Carlos Cuadras but has lost three of his last four fights.

“I’m very excited to be making my American pro debut,” said Yafai. “I’m ready and prepared for a tough fight but I am ready to put on a brilliant show for the fans.”

Yafai is rated the No. 3 contender at 115 pounds by THE RING while Ancajas is No. 4.

Sean Gibbons, the matchmaker who has been the architect for his title reign, says, while Ancajas is available to fight anyone in the division, he’s not a fan of Yafai’s hit-and-move style.

“The guy runs around like he stole something from someone, like a title belt,” said Gibbons, adding that Yafai is “horrible to watch fight.”

Ancajas, 26, of Panabo City, Philippines, is making the fifth defense of his title against Sultan, a compatriot who earned the right to face him when he defeated Johnriel Casimero in an elimination fight last September. The fight will be the first world title fight between Filipino boxers since 1925, when Pancho Villa retained his flyweight championship against Clever Sencio.

Asked about Yafai earlier this year, Ancajas said Yafai would be an “exciting” test because of his experience as an Olympian representing the United Kingdom in the 2008 Olympics, where he lost a decision in the flyweight round-of-16 to the Cuban entrant.

“Khalid Yafai is an Olympian, so it is exciting. It is exciting if you’re up against someone good,” said Yafai.




Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].




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