Jerwin Ancajas gets by the very game Jonathan Rodriguez for his ninth title defense
Jerwin “Pretty Boy” Ancajas probably can’t remember his first and only pro loss. It’s been close to a decade since the IBF junior bantamweight titlist was beaten.
Ancajas, ranked No. 4 by The Ring, may not be one of the more widely recognized figures in the stacked 115-pound class, especially in comparison to the stars of the division, like world champion Juan Francisco Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez and Kazuto Ioka.
Though, he does deserve to be the conversation.
First, on Saturday on “Showtime Championship Boxing” from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., the southpaw had some bookkeeping to do, making the ninth title defense against tough mandatory challenger Jonathan Rodriguez.
It wound up being far tougher than expected.
Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 knockouts) fulfilled his lumpy obligation with a unanimous decision over Rodriguez (22-2, 16 KOs).
Countering wonderfully and going well to the body, Ancajas put together a nice, clean game plan to do enough on the scorecards of judges Tom Paolillo (115-112), Tom Schreck (116-111), Don Trella (117-110). The Ring agreed with Paolillo, scoring it 115-112.
Rodriguez did close well, winning rounds 10, 11 and 12 on each of the judges’ scorecards. But Trella had already—inconceivably—given Ancajas the first nine rounds, and Schreck gave him eight of the first nine.
It didn’t look like by Ancajas’ blotched, reddish face.
“This was the toughest defense for me,” Ancajas admitted. “This was very hard for me.”
It was an amazing, exhaustive clash. Ancajas landed 232/758 (31%) total punches, 176/447 (39%) power shots and 56/311 (18%) jabs to Rodriguez’ 273/826 (33%) total shots, 253/584 (43%) power connects and 20/242 (8%) jabs. The big difference came in Ancajas’ 131 body shots, in comparison to Rodriguez’ 44.
With 1:58 left in the fourth, Rodriguez showed he wasn’t intimidated by Ancajas, poking himself with his right hand in the belly, after the naturally right-handed Filipino slammed him with a combination to the midsection.
Rodriguez did well catching some of Ancajas’ fire. Ancajas used spacing well and the jab to the body, which opened up other areas up top for his right hook.
In the sixth, Ancajas began stepping closer into the pocket. That gave Rodriguez the chance to land a few overhand rights. That seemed to spur something in Ancajas. He got even closer, and the two waged a small war in close quarters. They both tried uppercuts, and couldn’t help but hit each other. Rodriguez thrived, luring Ancajas into his fight. He nailed with several rights and actually did enough to win the round, making it possible the fight was even after six.
Ancajas knew better in the seventh and eighth, going back to using distance and going back to his jab.
A key moment in the fight came with :41 left in the eighth. Ancajas whirled a right to the ribs, and you feel some of the air leave Rodriguez. Ancajas certainly felt it, because he increased his attack and corned the game Mexican, putting him down for the first time in his career, after a series of shots caught him in the face.
Rodriguez took a knee while referee David Fields reached a count of eight. Rodriguez started the ninth strong, though tapered off. By the 11th, Rodriguez’ steady rights were creating a telling effect on Ancajas’ swelling left eye. Rodriguez survived and outlanded Ancajas in three of the four remaining rounds.
By the final round, Rodriguez needed a knockout to win, though the underdog made a strong argument that he merits more title opportunities.
Afterward, they showed great respect for one another by kneeling the acknowledging the war they put themselves through.
“I don’t think it was a just decision, I think it might have been a split-decision, I would have accepted that a little more, but we knew coming in that the judges were against us for this fight,” Rodriguez said. “I did have to recuperate in the (eighth). There’s no excuses. He hit me with a good shot and I got knocked down. He did hurt me, but I was very motivated to keep on fighting.
“Now people know that I’m a great rival here. Anyone that wants to fight me, I will be ready to fight them. They saw today what I can do here in the ring.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.