Philippines, 29 Feb 2024
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Ancajas out to tame ?Torito?

IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas isn?t taking any chances on a decision that may not go his way and will look for a knockout from the opening bell in battling No. 15 contender Jose Alfredo (Torito) Rodriguez of Mexico in Macau tonight.

Ancajas vowed to bring back the title he wrested from Puerto Rico?s McJoe Arroyo on points in Taguig last September. The previously unbeaten Arroyo was floored once and was never a threat in the fight. Ancajas? trainer Joven Jimenez said Rodriguez is only 60 to 70 percent of Arroyo?s ability.

Two weeks before leaving for Macau last Wednesday, Ancajas was quartered in businessman Hermie Esguerra?s 27-hectare farm in Lipa, Batangas. Some years back, Jimenez and Ancajas put up a ring as the centerpiece of Esguerra?s private boxing gym in his farm. That same ring was where Ancajas sparred his last rounds of training for Rodriguez.

Esguerra will be at ringside when Ancajas defends his crown tonight. Also in the crowd will be other Ancajas supporters like Marty Elorde and Fil-Australian Todd Makelin, a former fighter who lost to Manny Pacquiao on a third round knockout in Kidapawan in 1999. Esguerra took an interest in Ancajas because Jimenez is his personal trainer. It was Jimenez who introduced Ancajas to Esguerra.

?I?m not Jerwin?s manager or agent or whatever,? said Esguerra. ?I?m just a fan and supporter. Joven comes to my house to supervise my workouts so I?ve known him for years. My role is to help and guide Joven in managing Jerwin?s career. I just don?t want Jerwin to be exploited.?

Last Sunday, Esguerra arranged for Ancajas? family to visit in Lipa. Ancajas lives in a modest one-bedroom apartment in Imus with his girlfriend Ruth and their two children Kyrie, 3 and Kyle, 1. ?Jerwin hadn?t seen his family for a while so I thought it would be nice to get them together for a day before he leaves for Macau,? said Esguerra who provided board, lodging and food for Ancajas, Jimenez, chief sparmate Drian Francisco and seven others in the boxing team at his farm.

?Jerwin is very disciplined and very focused,? said Esguerra, a well-known racehorse owner. ?We videoed his workouts so he could review where to improve. He also studied Rodriguez? style on video. He noticed that when Rodriguez comes forward, he leaves himself open so that?s when he will attack. Rodriguez is shorter than Jerwin so we brought in (London Olympian) Mark Anthony Barriga, who?s about his height, to spar for two days in Lipa. Jerwin should?ve started tapering off three weeks before the fight but it was delayed a week because of a hand injury. But he?s okay now. When he left for Macau, he weighed 119 pounds and when I checked the other day, he was down to 116 so making the 115-pound limit should be no problem.?

Esguerra supplied the uniforms of Ancajas? team for the fight from a Batangas tailor. Ancajas personally designed the red-and-blue uniforms. Esguerra said Jimenez and Francisco will work Ancajas? corner. ?Drian was supposed to fight in the undercard but it fell through so he focused on his job as chief sparmate,? he said. ?Aside from Drian, Jerwin sparred with two other fighters plus Barriga. He?s definitely going for a knockout against Rodriguez. He doesn?t want to leave it to the judges to decide the outcome.?

Rodriguez, 27, is a former interim WBA lightflyweight champion with a record of 32-4, including 19 KOs, compared to Ancajas? 25-1-1, with 16 KOs. The Mexican has won his last three outings after coming out of a nearly two-year layoff from losing four of five bouts, including a decision to Filipino Milan Melindo at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in 2013.

?I came back on a mission to win another title and that?s what I?m going to do,? said Rodriguez. ?Nothing can stop me. When I?m given the proper time to prepare, I?m one of the world?s best. That?s what I will show against Ancajas. I respect Ancajas, he?s a good fighter but there is nothing that can save his title from me. I thank him for this opportunity. It?s a dream come true but he?s going home an ex-champ. I?m going to be an unbeatable force (tonight).?

Rodriguez? manager Jose Acevedo of Free Agent Boxing Management said he?s confident of victory. ?This is the best I?ve ever seen Torito look,? he said. ?He?s very determined to win this championship.? Rodriguez? training for Ancajas was supervised by Gil Gastelum of Florida and his sparmates included former world champion Juan Carlos Payano, Stephon Young and Claudio Marrero.

MP Promotions? Mike Koncz and international matchmaker Sean Gibbons collaborated in arranging the optional defense in Macau. Gibbons came up with a list of possible challengers and Koncz chose Rodriguez because the Mexican will be a big test for Ancajas. Jimenez described Rodriguez as a typical Mexican warrior, very experienced and a boxer-puncher with good footwork and handspeed.

?Rodriguez is not as talented as Arroyo but he?s a veteran,? said Jimenez. ?Rodriguez won?t back down and we don?t expect him to surrender easily. Jerwin has to make a strong showing to get a big-money fight against (WBC superflyweight champion) Chocolatito (Roman Gonzalez).? Ancajas will be paid $40,000 for the title defense, the biggest purse in his career.

Photo: Jerwin Ancajas (L) sneaks in a right on McJoe Arroyo during their world title fight last year in Makati City.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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