Philippines, 29 May 2024
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Second Overtime: The tools Jerwin Ancajas needs to unify the 115-pound division

CHICAGO -- Like a jilted lover, motivated by grief and rejection, Alejandro Santiago stalked Jerwin Ancajas all over the makeshift boxing ring at the Oracle Arena in Oakland yesterday.

The 22-year old Mexican challenger surrendered nearly four inches in height and an inch in reach, but in order to strip the IBF super flyweight belt from the Filipino champion, Santiago knew that the only path to the title was to tempt fate and move northward.

Light with hesitation and heavy on aggression, Santiago waged a bloody battle anchored on impressive bursts of malicious overhand rights, hitting Jerwin with concussive blows that had enough ginger to put lesser mortals to sleep.

The Mexican blitzkrieg, which thundered relentlessly right form the opening bell, caught Ancajas by surprise and threw the pride of Panabo city off his game.

"Santiago was well-prepared. It's like he studied every move I made. When I started aggressive he countered and kept landing the overhand right," Ancajas told Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

The 26-year old Ancajas (30-1-2, 20 KOs), a six-time defending champion, was heavily favored to protect his crown against the plucky Santiago (16-2-5, 7 KOs), who turned pro at the age of 16. So it was a bit jarring to see the contest end in a split draw with the scorecards reflecting that the Mexican had a real shot an an upset.

But like a good 'ole move in which the star triumphantly roars back when pressed hard against the wall, Ancajas eventually found his rhythm and morphed back into the usual 5-foot-6 fireball. His punches were murderous and well-placed, snapping faster than Christ's resurrection.

Jerwin collected a $140,000 purse, the fattest paycheck in his nine-year career, but he earned every penny. He wasn't just touched up a bit, he was heavily applied with punches so much so that the well-defined features on his face swelled as though it fell into a pit of angry fists.

So why did a supposedly easy assignment get tricky?

For starters, Jerwin didn't establish his jab early and consistently, landing just 27 of 278. Throwing jabs unceasingly, pelting it like rain on a dirty windshield, would have blurred Santiago's vision and slowed his advance.

JERWIN could have used more uppercuts, too, I thought.

But what do I know, my last fight was a lifetime ago, a one-sided she-gave-I-took showdown that my ex-wife easily won.

So I asked the opinion of lawyer Ed Tolentino instead.

The boxing savant and fellow columnist agreed and said, "I was looking for it as well. The uppercut would have been a perfect set-up when the shorter Santiago came too close."

Although Tolentino thought Ancajas won by the slimmest of margins, he sees "room for improvement," including patience with the jab instead of looking for the money shot all the time, adding boxing to the repertoire, and avoiding the unnecessary exchanges."

That's the gospel according to the face of boxing broadcasting in the Philippines. And it's easy to concur.

Ricardo Lopez, one of only 15 champions to retire undefeated (50-0-1, 38 KOs), had a 12-year plus streak as mini flyweight champion. He defended his titles 21 times, dominating foes behind a stiff, educated jab. Lopez also had devastating power and mastered the art of self-restraint.

Edito "ALA" Villamor, himself a decorated former champ who has since become the chief trainer and coach of Cebu's famed ALA stable, believes that Lopez is the greatest little man in boxing history.

Villamor would know. He challenged and lost to the Mexican legend in March 3, 1996. Villamor looked straight into Lopez's eyes and saw that look, the cold stare of a ruthless and deliberate assassin who dealt the kind of pain that pierces through another man's soul.

If he wants to realize his dream of cleaning up the 115-pound division, Ancajas needs a sharper killer instinct, prudence, and a whole lot of composure.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.

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