Last week, for the first time in 93 years, two Filipinos boxers fought inside the squared circle with a world title on the line.
IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas fought Jonas Sultan at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California on May 27. Ancajas prevailed in a one-sided 12-round unanimous decision, with the judges scoring it 119-109, 119-109, and 117-111 in his favor. It was Ancajas’ fifth title defense, but what made it historic was that it came against a fellow Filipino.
Before the Ancajas-Sultan fight, the last time an all-Filipino world title fight took place on May 2, 1925, when Pancho Villa defended his world flyweight title against Clever Sencio in Manila. Sultan was the challenger that the International Boxing Federation (IBF) had mandated for Ancajas to face, and the champion would have had to pay a penalty to avoid facing a fellow Filipino in the ring. So the all-Filipino face-off took place.
The fight, however, was no walk in the park for Ancajas, nicknamed Pretty Boy. The bout was by no means pretty, and Ancajas did not leave the ring unscathed. But through his superior technical skills, he was able to keep the aggressive Sultan at bay and dictate the pace for most of the fight.
There was a sentiment that it could be detrimental to Philippine boxing if a Filipino boxer fought another Filipino boxer. But on the contrary, it was a showcase that Pinoy boxers can put on a show on the international stage. The Ancajas-Sultan bout wasn’t the all-out brawl that some people expected, but considering that it took 93 years for a fight like this to happen again, it’s a start.
And with Filipino boxers Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte set to fight for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) super flyweight crown later this year in another world title fight between two Filipino boxers, Philippine boxing will once again be placed on the spotlight.
When fellow Mexican boxers Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales fought each other for world titles in the early 2000s, it wasn’t perceived as something that was detrimental to Mexican boxing. Rather, it was seen as a celebration of two warriors bringing pride to their country.
It’s why world title fights between Mexican boxers are held during the Cinco De Mayo weekend, including the fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez last year. That bout was a one-sided affair, with Alvarez winning the fight via unanimous decision, with the three judges giving all 12 rounds to Canelo.
But despite the result, Mexican boxing had already won. The fight was held on a Mexican holiday in front of a sold-out crowd at the T-Mobile Arena Las Vegas. The Ancajas-Sultan and the upcoming Nietes-Palicte fight might not have the same scale and reach of the aforementioned title fights, but with more Filipino boxers making their name on the international stage, it’s only a matter of time before Philippine boxing history is made once more. InqPOP!/Immanuel Canicosa