FRESNO, Calif. -- Though Jerwin Ancajas and Jonas Sultan have no common opponents on their records, there's at least one fighter who has traded punches with both men.
Jimmy Paypa, a tough underdog with a sneaky right hook, has trained for years alongside Sultan at the ALA Gym in Cebu City, Philippines, and was at one time his sparring partner when he was a junior featherweight. Years before that, when he trained across town at the Omega Gym, Paypa fought a 17-year-old Ancajas in Ancajas' third pro fight back in 2009 at the Cebu Coliseum.
Ancajas was 2-0 and Paypa was 1-0, and despite being outweighed by 3.5 pounds at 107.5, Ancajas emerged from the fight with a majority decision victory.
"I still remember how Jerwin beat me on that fight. I think Jerwin improved a lot since we fought, especially his speed," said Paypa, who is now a junior lightweight with a 19-4-1 (7 knockouts) record.
Though he's now too big to spar the 115 pound Sultan, Paypa was able to impart some advice on Sultan, who faces Ancajas on Saturday night (Sunday morning PH time) at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California for Ancajas' IBF junior bantamweight title.
Paypa analyzes that Ancajas (29-1-1, 20 KOs) has more speed, skill and power than Sultan (14-3, 9 KOs), but that Sultan's constant pressure and determination could be the style which makes matters tense for Ancajas.
"I just tell [Sultan] that if he wants to win this fight he must do the first move always and don't let Jerwin get in to position because Jerwin is better than him in case of proper form and style," said Paypa.
"But I also know Jonas Sultan; he is a very hardworking boxer and indestructible opponent. He always gives all his best in every fight, especially now for a world championship."
Asked to handicap the odds, Paypa sees the fight as 60/40 in favor of his stablemate, theorizing that the pressure of being the champion in his first main event in the United States will be too much to deal with.
While he's supporting his former sparring partner Sultan, Paypa does note that he likes what he's seen from him in the gym during sparring.
"I saw Jonas' sparring sessions for this fight and I can say that he is 100 percent ready for this fight because they studied a lot about Jerwin," said Paypa.
One of Sultan's gym mates who is in town is Donnie Nietes, the three-division champion who is eyeing a fourth world title at 115 pounds. Nietes said he had known that Sultan was a fighter who is better than his record for years since he'd been in the ring sparring with him. He declined to make a prediction, but cautions that Sultan is not someone to take lightly.
"Sultan has a great chance to win," said Nietes. "Jonas is a tough opponent; you cannot easily read his moves."
Nietes gave the ultimate compliment to Ancajas, who is making his fifth defense of the belt he won less than two years ago, comparing him in class to the two most successful fighters from the Philippines of the past 25 years.
"Jerwin is on the level of [Manny] Pacquaio and Nonito [Donaire Jr.]," said Nietes.