Filipino boxers

Ancajas focuses on New Year’s Eve crown unification with Ioka in Japan

Roy Luarca

JAPAN CLASH. Jerwin Ancajas will fight in Japan for the first time.

Alvin S. Go/Rappler

Filipino Jerwin Ancajas will try to defend his IBF super flyweight belt for the 10th time against Japanese Kazuto Ioka

When Jerwin Ancajas first heard Kazuto Ioka mentioned him as a target opponent, he felt glad and flattered.

Ancajas knows sharing the ring with Japan’s lone four-division world champion in a super flyweight unification would further embellish his résumé and lead to more career-defining fights.

And now that their title duel is virtually sealed for New Year’s Eve in Tokyo, Ancajas can’t help but feel excited.

He hasn’t fought in Japan and would like to put on a show in his 10th defense of the International Boxing Federation 115-pound belt.

Ancajas has dangled his belt five times in the United States and one each in Australia, Macau, Northern Ireland, and Mexico, so he’s used to fighting in hostile territory.

“I’ve been training since September, but will start to level it up this month because Ioka is tough,” said Ancajas, who’s been holed up in Los Angeles with trainer Joven Jimenez, while MP (Manny Pacquiao) Promotions president Sean Gibbons searches for the most suitable foe.

With the division’s big guns like World Boxing Council champion Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, and Sriraket Sor Rungvisai unavailable, Gibbons reached out to the Ioka camp, after which negotiations started.

Ioka called out Ancajas a day before beating Francisco Rodriguez by unanimous decision on September 1.

“There are much more to achieve. My goal is to unify the belts,” Ioka told Ring TV then. “The plan is to win this fight (Rodriguez), then hope for unification with the IBF champion (Ancajas). “

According to Jimenez, he has qualms about fighting in Japan, but Ancajas is willing to tangle with anybody anywhere so he relented.

While waiting for his next fight, Ancajas trained under Jimenez at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood and served as Jonas Sultan’s main sparring partner when the Zamboangueño stunned erstwhile unbeaten Carlos Caraballo in their battle for the World Boxing Organization intercontinental bantamweight title at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 30.

The 29-year-old Ancajas holds a 33-1-2 card with 22 knockouts, while Ioka, 32, totes a 27-2, 15 knockouts slate. –