By Joaquin M. Henson, Philstar.com
CORPUS CHRISTI – Mexico’s brash challenger Israel Gonzalez predicted he would become the next boxing idol in the Philippines after disposing of IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas the day before they squared off at the American Bank Center here Saturday night. That was his bold declaration to Filipino fans when asked for a message.
Gonzalez, 21, vowed to bring the title back to Mexico. “I will become the first world champion from my hometown Cabo San Lucas,” he said. “I promise an exciting fight and when it’s over, we’ll celebrate in a fiesta. I will fight intelligently. I will frustrate Ancajas, move in and out and counterpunch.”
As it turned out, Gonzalez failed to deliver. Ancajas made it exciting, not the Mexican who played a waiting game, trying to bait the Filipino to brawl so he could counter. Ancajas proved to be a lot smarter than Gonzalez whose inexperience was exposed in the one-sided fight. When Gonzalez couldn’t execute his fight plan, he had no fallback. He grew frustrated, got tired and just tried to survive round after round. Reality struck Gonzalez squarely in the face when in the first round, he was dropped by a left hook to the jaw. He was never the same again.
None of the three judges gave Gonzalez a single round. Ancajas walked all over him. Referee Rafael Ramos came to Gonzalez’s rescue after he suffered a second knockdown in the 10th round. Ramos did the right thing to save Gonzalez from further punishment. He’s young, ambitious and spirited. Gonzalez will fight another day.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum was impressed by Ancajas’ showing. Curiously, Ancajas caught Arum’s eye by accident in Brisbane last July. Arum disclosed that Ancajas was pulled in to perform in the undercard of Manny Pacquao’s fight against Jeff Horn not because of his stature as IBF champion but because of the attraction of Japanese challenger Teiru Kinoshita.
“Australia had Jerwin in the undercard to attract Japanese tourists because of the Japanese challenger,” said Arum. “Jerwin stopped Konashita and I was impressed.” Arum saw a gem in Ancajas whom he recently signed to a two-year deal for six fights. He said he was blown away by Ancajas’ popularity here. “Corpus Christi is a fight town,” he said. “That’s why we did a top-caliber international show with fighters from Ghana, Australia, Mexico, the Philippines and Israel. I expected cowboys and Mexicans to get excited but I never imagined thousands of Filipinos to come out and support Jerwin.”
It was Ancajas’ fourth defense of the crown he wrested from Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo in Taguig in 2016. While Ancajas, 26, made his first appearance in the US, he’s no stranger to fighting on foreign territory. He has fought thrice in Macau and once each in Belfast, Brisbane and Tianjin. In contrast, Gonzales had never performed outside of Mexico.
The day before the fight, Ancajas scaled 114 3/4 pounds and Gonzalez, 114 at the 4:30 p.m. weigh-in. The next morning, at 7 a.m., both fighters were back on the digital scales. Under IBF championship rules, fighters shouldn’t exceed what they scaled at the weigh-in by more than 10 pounds on the morning of their bout. Ancajas went up to 123.6 pounds. When he climbed the ring Saturday night, Ancajas had to be about 130 pounds. After the morning weigh-in, Ancajas had steak and rice for breakfast. Then, at lunch, he ate chicken adobo, tinolang isda and rice.
Under WBC rules, fighters may weigh up to 10 percent over the limit 30 days before their bout and up to five percent seven days prior. The WBO and WBA check the fighters only at the weigh-in. Las Vegas weigh-ins are usually conducted early afternoon. In Brisbane, Pacquiao and Horn went to the scales mid-morning.