FRESNO, Calif. -- Jonas Sultan has the look of a confident underdog heading into Saturday's clash against IBF Super Flyweight titleholder Jerwin Ancajas at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
Sultan (14-3, 9 knockouts) put on a show for media and fans at Wednesday's media workout at the Heartbeat Boxing Gym in the city's downtown area, flashing his hand speed and power in an attempt to literally make some noise and announce he is a serious challenger. Ancajas (29-1-1, 20 KOs) was more subdued on the mitts with trainer Joven Jimenez, doing a single round at half speed.
Sultan may not have the more aesthetically pleasing record -- or boxing style -- but he believes he has beaten the better fighters. Sultan even went as far as to suggest the fighter whom he defeated in his last fight, two-time world champion Johnriel Casimero, is a better boxer than Ancajas.
"Maybe Casimero is better than Ancajas," Sultan said with a mischievous smile. "Because Casimero is a two-time champion, and he fought a lot of world champions that are really top guys."
Sultan defeated Casimero last September by unanimous decision in Cebu City, backing Casimero up with his jab and countering his shorter opponent's lunges effectively.
Casimero, a former champion at 108 and 112 pounds, had defeated highly regarded fighters like Pedro Guevara, Amnat Ruenroeng and Charlie Edwards abroad and was heavily favored to defeat Sultan. Casimero had made no secret of his desire to fight Ancajas, calling him out at the 2017 Elorde Awards dinner in Manila while sitting across the head table from him.
Sultan's trainer Edito Villamor pointed to Sultan's wins over Casimero plus former world flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro before that to reinforce the position that Sultan has had the tougher fight schedule since Ancajas beat McJoe Arroyo to win the belt. Ancajas' biggest win was a sixth-round destruction of Jamie Conlan, a popular but hittable fighter from Belfast who was dropped four times in the fight.
"Last four fights compared to him -- Sultan beat two world champions, Ancajas nothing. He didn't beat any world champions," said Villamor.
Casimero, for his part, predicts Ancajas will defeat Sultan, saying Sultan "does not have a good punch", adding "I don't know how he beat me."
He doesn't believe their styles will mesh for a crowd-pleasing fight, either.
Villamor clarified his earlier statements saying that the team had no respect for Ancajas, meaning that, in a boxing sense, the challenger isn't supposed to be deferential and intimidated by a favored incumbent titleholder, even if he does come from the same country as himself.
Villamor insisted that there isn't a rivalry brewing between the Cebu-based ALA Gym and Cavite's Survival Camp, and that the fight was just a normal part of the boxing business playing out between two fighters who happen to be Filipinos.
"Now it's time for the Filipinos to level up in boxing," said Villamor.
Donnie Nietes, who has his own all-Filipino title fight in negotiations against Aston Palicte for the WBO 115 pound title, says the sudden proliferation of these Filipino vs. Filipino fights is indicative of the country's ascendant talent level at the moment.
"I really saw in Filipino boxers that they are really world class and world caliber fighters because they are now all on top," said Nietes.