KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- It will be another title defense in Fresno, California for International Boxing Federation (IBF) super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas.
Matchmaker Sean Gibbons, who co-manages Ancajas' career, made the announcement on Friday at a lunch-press conference with members of the Philippine media.
"Best exciting news Thursday that Jerwin will be returning to the US to fight September 14th on a special telecast of ESPN Boxing," Gibbons said. "It's going to be held in one of our favorite places in Fresno, California where we had a great reception last time. This time we're actually fighting in the co-feature, not the main event. We're there with the local fighter Jose Ramirez who is going to defend his title. They're looking at anywhere between 10,000 to 14,000 people."
California native Ramirez, the World Boxing Council junior welterweight champion, will defend his belt in the main event against Antonio Orozco. He was supposed to fight Danny O'Connor last weekend, also in Fresno, but the fight was cancelled after O'Connor was hospitalized for severe dehydration.
So Ramirez instead will face Orozco, and Ancajas has been slotted for the co-feature as he defends his IBF belt for the sixth time and second straight time in Fresno. Last May, Ancajas cruised to a unanimous decision over fellow Filipino Jonas Sultan at the Save Mart Arena.
No opponent has been named yet, but Gibbons said they will make a decision by next week after consulting with Top Rank and Bob Arum.
"Jerwin made a very nice impression with the people of Fresno, We're in a good area between Los Angeles and San Francisco. We haven't selected the opponent but we're going to find some very aggressive with his fists, not his head. The ones who come and rumble, the Mexican-type style."
Two candidates mentioned by Gibbons are Mexico's Alejandro Santiago (16-2-4) and Chile's Miguel Gonzalez (28-1). Between the two, Gibbons says he is leaning towards Santiago. "He's typical of the Mexicans. They come to rumble. I like Santiago because he's a young guy, 22 years old, hungry. We'll make a decision next week after we talk with Bob."
Assuming Ancajas wins on September 14, he could fight again in December with an eye towards big fights in 2019 against the division's best.
"The idea is to work his way through 2018," Gibbons continued. "And then he has his eyes on the big prize. The Estradas, the Rungvisais, the unified belts. I can see him close the year out, absolutely."
Gibbons was referring to Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada, the former flyweight champion who has scored wins over Brian Viloria and Milan Melindo, and Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the reigning WBC champion and arguably the division's top fighter.
After Ancajas disposed of Sultan, there was talk of him meeting WBA champion Khalid Yafai, who also fought on the same May card, in a unification bout. Gibbons said nothing came out of it.
"Bob Arum threw it out there, he talked about it. But he never really brought us any kind of proposal for it. We have no problem with Yafai, but the biggest fights for us are Estrada and Rungvisai."
The other major belt, from the World Boxing Organization, is currently vacant with Filipinos Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte facing off on August 18 in Cebu to claim it. When asked if an all-Filipino unification bout between Ancajas and the Nietes-Palicte winner was in the cards, Gibbons wasn't too excited about it.
"There's too many other people to fight," he replied. "Mix and match is always better for the fans. We inherited that mandatory (against Sultan), but I would never have put him in with another Filipino to defend his world title. But he did what he had to. Those match-ups are just not really the best for business. Again, Mexico baby. Mexico-Philippines. Manny made a living out of whipping Mexicans. Jerwin right here is going to carry on his legacy.
"It's weird that after all those years you have two Filipino world title fights. Things come in threes so I hope we're not the third. We'll leave that for someone else."
During the event, the IBF led by president Daryl Peoples presented Ancajas with a special championship ring for successfully defending his super flyweight belt five times. The presentation was originally scheduled to happen during the IBF convention in Italy in early June but Ancajas and his team were unable to secure visas in time.
On growing comparisons between Ancajas and Manny Pacquiao, who will challenge Lucas Matthysse on Sunday for the WBA regular welterweight belt at the Axiata Arena, Peoples said Ancajas should carve out his own name.
"It's a great honor to be compared to the great Manny Pacquiao. But Jerwin has had six defenses to his title. He's his own person. He's Jerwin Ancajas. I think in the next few years he's going to be held in the same regard and same esteem as Manny Pacquiao. I think his potential is limitless."
Ancajas also said it was useless to compare himself to the eight-division icon.
"No one can equal what sir Manny has achieved. I can only hope to achieve in just a bit of what he has achieved. And if it weren't for sir Manny, there would be no Jerwin Ancajas because he was my first promoter."
On Sunday's fight, Ancajas did not give a prediction but said that Pacquiao had two distinct advantages.
"Sir Manny has the advantage in speed and in power but we can't discount Matthysse because we all know he's also a strong puncher."
The Pacquiao-Matthysse card, called "Fight of Champions" will air on ESPN5 on July 15 beginning at 10 a.m.