Jhack Tepora training through holidays for Vegas debut on Pacquiao-Broner card
Instead of relaxing with family this holiday season, Jhack Tepora will be sweating away at the Big Yellow Boxing Gym in Cebu City, Philippines. That’s because the 25-year-old featherweight is preparing for the biggest fight yet of his budding career, a 12-round featherweight bout with Hugo Ruiz on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner undercard.
Christmas Day is a sparring day for Tepora, and only after trading punches for eight rounds will he get to join his wife and son at home for festivities.
“When we get to training (there’s) no holiday because this is a very important fight to Jhack,” said brother Jerald “Jingjing” Tepora, who trains him alongside Christopher “Pingping” Tepora.
The fight, his third straight international assignment, will open up the Showtime pay-per-view on January 19, said MP Promotions matchmaker Sean Gibbons. Tepora remembers the feeling of walking out in Malaysia for his last fight against Edivaldo Ortega, right before his promoter and Philippine national icon stopped Lucas Matthysse. It was confirmation that he had made it further than most, and he got to bask in the cheers while warming up the crowd for the main event.
“It’s overwhelming,” Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17 knockouts) said. “I am happy that I am part of Pacquiao’s undercard. Many Filipino boxers wanted to be on that event but I am lucky to be chosen.”
The ninth round stoppage win taught Tepora that he had much to improve on still, he says, like his defense and jab. It also afforded him the opportunity to receive feedback from Pacquiao, who reminded him to remain diligent in training. This time he’ll get to check off another box by fighting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the city he says he had dreamed of fighting in since he first started boxing as a child.
Ruiz (38-4, 33 KOs) of Los Mochis, Mexico won’t be hard to find, having been involved in some highly entertaining wars since turning pro in 2006. Ruiz has never won a world title but held “interim” belts on two separate occasions at bantamweight and junior featherweight.
Ruiz’s biggest fights have included two battles with Julio Ceja in 2015 and 2016, with the first ending in a fifth round technical knockout after Ruiz had earlier scored a knockdown, and a first round TKO in a rematch. Later in 2016 Ruiz had Hozumi Hasegawa ready to go in the ninth round of a WBC junior featherweight title fight, but retired on his stool due to an injury.
Ruiz was inactive for nearly two years afterwards, but the 30-year-old returned in August with back-to-back victories over nondescript opposition in Mexico.
“I like to brawl with a Mexican boxer because they are so brave,” said Tepora, who expects to join Pacquiao in Las Vegas on January 10.
“He’s a good counter puncher and has a power punch,” said Jingjing Tepora of Ruiz. “That’s why I’m working with Jhack for his footwork to be fast.”
The fight will be another incremental step-up for Tepora, a former member of the Philippine national amateur team who turned pro in 2016. His trainer believes that southpaw will be ready to show he’s ready for anyone in his division soon enough.
“Jhack is a smart fighter, and has power also,” said Jingjing Tepora. “That’s why I’m not afraid of any 126 opponent. He’s always ready.”
Aside from Tepora, the other Filipino boxers slated for action in Vegas that night are welterweight Jayar Inson (18-1, 12 KOs) and Genisis Libranza (17-1, 10 KOs) in separate bouts. Other fights that have been announced include Badou Jack vs. Marcus Browne for the interim WBA light heavyweight title, and Rau’shee Warren vs. Nordine Oubaali for the vacant WBC bantamweight title.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].