The comparisons to Manny Pacquiao are obvious for Jerwin Ancajas.
But becoming the next Manny Pacquiao is an almost impossible task to ask of a young fighter, even one as gifted as Ancajas. Pacquiao is one of the greatest fighters of all time and did things that many others simply can’t conceive of doing.
But as a left-hander, a Filipino and a world champion, there are many parallels to be made.
Promoter Bob Arum, whose shrewd moves helped turn Pacquiao into a global superstar, isn’t about to coin Ancajas the next Pacquiao. But Ancajas, who will defend his IBF junior bantamweight title on Saturday in Fresno against Jonas Sultan in a bout streamed on ESPN+, has what it takes to be, at worst, a mini-Manny.
Given his frame, it’s pretty obvious he’s not going to win titles across a wide swath of weight classes, like Pacquiao did. And he’s probably not going to become the most popular fighter in the world, or record an album, or be elected to political office or become a top pay-per-view seller.
But if he becomes a reliable attraction who can put butts in seats and make exciting matches, that’s more than enough for Arum. And that bit is all well within Ancajas’ capabilities. Arum, however, isn’t about to make a comparison between Ancajas and Pacquiao, even though both are southpaws, both are Filipinos and both are world championship fighters.
“Well look, there’s only one Manny Pacquiao,” Arum said. “As far as I’m concerned, any comparisons to Manny are tremendous, but I’m not going to make one myself. I would rather [the media and the fans] make that comparison. But the kid can fight. There’s no doubt about that.”
There are a lot of great fights, as promoter Tom Loeffler has shown in the last year with his “SuperFly” series, to be made at 115 pounds, and Ancajas is a central figure in that mix.
He’s a quick and powerful fighter who has accumulated 20 knockouts while going 29-1-1 and 5-0 in world title fights. He’s won 16 in a row since his only defeat, a majority decision loss to Mark Anthony Geraldo.
For Arum, it’s all about developing another potentially popular Filipino ticket seller. Arum had success promoting Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire to a Filipino-American audience, and has taken steps to introduce Ancajas to them as he’s ventured out of Asia to compete.
His first fight in the U.S. came when he stopped Israel Gonzalez in Corpus Christi, Texas, in February. Arum was stunned at the reaction to Ancajas by the local Filipino population.
“They went nuts for him,” Arum said. “Corpus Christi, of all places! They came out in good numbers and the media was totally into him and I realized for sure then that we might have something with this kid.”
The bout will be the first matching two Filipinos for a world title since 1925. Ancajas gets the significance of that, even though he’s hardly a boxing historian.
Pacquiao was generous to a fault to his countrymen, and he always made a point to say that he was fighting for the glory of the Philippines. Ancajas clearly has heeded that message.
“My goal is to entertain the crowd,” Ancajas said. “For my fans, the Filipino community here, I’m looking forward to this fight.”
If he beats Sultan, he will put himself in line for some higher-profile bouts, of which there are many at and around 115. Arum raised the possibility of one with ex-pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
“We aren’t going to look to put him in against nobodies, because that doesn’t do any of us any good,” Arum said. “We haven’t made a tremendous investment in him, so it’s not like we have a lot to lose and want to protect him. We’ll be less hesitant to put him … in these fights and see what the kid can do.”
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