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Ancajas in defining moment

CORPUS CHRISTI. When IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas steps onto the ring to face Mexican challenger Israel Gonzalez at the 10,000-seat American Bank Center in this Texas city Saturday night (Sunday morning, Manila), he’ll be introduced to a potential market of at least 100 million eyeballs on the world-wide ESPN network.

Las Vegas matchmaker Sean Gibbons said it’s Ancajas’ defining moment as a fighter. “Top Rank believes Jerwin is a franchise and the focus is longevity,” said Gibbons. “That’s what makes Bob Arum a genius. ESPN covers a wide range of viewers, including casual fans who’ll be able to watch Jerwin on live TV. It’s a substantial upgrade even on Philippine TV. Jerwin’s last fight against (Jamie) Conlan in Belfast was shown on Philippine TV 30 days after the fact. Now, Jerwin’s fight against Gonzalez will be aired live on ESPN5 and that tells you something about this kid’s marketability.”

Gibbons said Ancajas isn’t lined up to face any of the superflyweight champions hooked up to HBO. “Down the road, he’ll fight guys like (WBC titlist) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras but it doesn’t make sense at the moment,” he said. “HBO’s deal is to match the best against the best with the loser going home and basically starting over. With Jerwin, we’re in for the long haul. HBO has a viewership of 20 million eyeballs and you’re lucky to zero in on 30 percent for boxing.”

While Gibbons said Ancajas should win handily, he isn’t underestimating Gonzalez. “He’s damn game,” said Gibbons. “I watched his fight against (former WBO lightflyweight champion) Ramon Garcia in Cabo San Lucas (Mexico) in 2016. Garcia was floored twice. Jerwin is his first fight in the US. This guy’s coming to fight. I don’t think he has the skills that Jerwin has and I think Jerwin will win this inside 10 rounds but you never know about boxing. If you don’t bring your A-game to the fight for some reason and the other guy who’s not as good is well-prepared, anything can happen. We’ve set the table for Jerwin. Now, it’s his turn to perform.”

Gibbons, who’s been involved in the fight game for 33 years and is a former prizefighter himself, carries around a bag with two lucky toy dolls, trinkets, miniature boxing gloves and mini-flags of the Philippines, Mexico and Israel. The toy rolls are a yellow rubber chicken and Cowboy Woody, the cartoon character from the Disney movies “Toy Story.”

“Woody is with me wherever I go,” said Gibbons. “It’s my second Woody because the first was stolen from my car with my computer and other stuff. Tom Hanks’ brother Jim voiced Woody in the movies and I know the Hanks. Woody’s my traveling companion. When Johnriel and I were attacked by trucking union guys after he knocked out Luis Lazarte in Argentina, Woody was with me. We’ve been together for 10 to 12 years. As for the chicken, I call him Survival Camp which is what Jerwin’s training facility in Cavite is known as. He didn’t want to get eaten so he’s been a buddy of mine, too.” Woody will be displayed on the side of Ancajas’ shorts in the fight against Gonzalez.

Photo: Jerwin Ancajas and matchmaker Sean Gibbons with boxing trunks showing Cowboy Woody.

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

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