Filipino boxers

Ancajas falls, but fellow Mindanao boxers clinch crucial wins

Lynde Salgados
Ancajas falls, but fellow Mindanao boxers clinch crucial wins

BACK-TO-BACK. Melvin Jerusalem (right) and Vincent Astrolabio pick up wins over the weekend.

Melvin Jerusalem and Vincent Astrolabio Facebook pages

Vincent Astrolabio and Melvin Jerusalem win their respective fights to compensate for the crushing loss of fellow Mindanaoan boxer Jerwin Ancajas

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Three Filipino boxers from Mindanao fought in three different places with much excitement, but leaving long-reigning IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas as the only casualty.

Ancajas yielded to machine-like punisher Fernando Martinez of Argentina at the Cosmopolitan Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, February 26 (Sunday, February 27, Manila time), in his 10th title defense.

But the unheralded Vincent Astrolabio upstaged the comebacking Guillermo Rigondeaux via unanimous decision to seize the vacant WBC international bantamweight belt at the Dubai Marina.

Former world title contender Melvin Jerusalem also won his preparatory match against veteran countryman Ramel Antaran at the Sanman Bubble VIII in General Santos City on Saturday to show that he’s now ready for another title shot.

“Still proud of Jerwin’s effort. Let’s bounce back champ to get the belt again,” Jonas Sultan, a fellow marquee fighter from Zamboanga, said of Ancajas.

“It was a very exciting bout where Jerwin had tried to give his darndest best. I believe he would regain the title one day,” sympathized female pug Nesthy Petecio, Olympics silver medalist and  Ancajas’ townmate in the Davao region.

Facing a fellow 30-year-old but a 2 1/2-inch shorter foe, the 5-foot-5 Ancajas’ effective jabs that brought him 33 wins, including 22 knockouts in 36 professional bouts, could not work to his advantage this time around.

This, as the Argentinian looked sturdy and determined to land more punches en route to pulling off a unanimous decision victory. 

“Watching the fight, I was in tears to realize that Jerwin’s reign in almost a decade had finally come to an end. Martinez is good. They really fought a good fight,” said Princess Jenniel Marcial, the retired boxer-wife of Olympic bronze winner Eumir of Zamboanga.

The stunning defeat at the hands of the still undefeated Martinez (14-0) also eventually dashed Ancajas’ planned unification tiff with Japanese WBO titlist Kazuto Ioka as their scheduled New Year’s Eve battle in Tokyo got stalled by the Omicron variant surge of the COVID-19 virus.

The General Santos City pride Astrolabio could not be denied, however, as he managed to cut the ring in overwhelming the constantly running Rigondeaux, even dropping the 41-year-old Cuban Olympian in the eighth round.

Back in Philippine soil, the 27-year-old Jerusalem of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon also carved out a unanimous decision over the more experienced Antaran in an eight-round clash for the 195-pound division.

The Sanman Promotion-backed Jerusalem tried to keep himself busy after reestablishing his status as a solid world championship challenger again.

He strung up seven straight wins after a failed attempt to snatch the WBC minimumweight diadem of Thailander Wenhang Menayothin in 2017, followed by a loss to Joey Canoy, who’s now among his sparring mates at Sanman.

Telling the press he’s now in good hands, the OPBF titleholder Jerusalem, who prevailed in a rematch with Toto Landero in July 2021 in a Cebu ring, is currently rated No. 1 in the WBO minimumweight division.

The erstwhile ALA Boxing Gym protegee Jerusalem has also been ranked the No. 2 contender in the WBC, No. 3 in the IBF, and No. 6 in the WBA. –