Before the comparisons arrive, Jerwin Ancajas just wanted to see where Manny Pacquiao trained
Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club is already something of a shrine considering the greatness Manny Pacquiao achieved while studying under his mentor Freddie Roach inside its walls.
Judging by the expression of Jerwin Ancajas, the International Boxing Federation super-flyweight champion and Pacquiao countryman, the place has taken on a reputation as hallowed ground in the Philippines.
Ancajas (28-1-1, 19 knockouts), who’ll defend his belt for the fourth time when he meets Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez (21-1, eight KOs) Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas, urged his handlers to grant him a detour to visit Roach and Wild Card last week.
“I’m so happy and glad to have seen this. My dream has come true now,” Ancajas said. “For me, sir, this is a blessing. I’ve always heard people talking about how famous Wild Card was, and I told myself, ‘Someday, I’ll get there.’ ”
Pacquiao’s magnificent rise to become boxing’s only seven-division champion began just after the turn of the century, when he walked up the gym’s steps to find Roach, creating a union that ranks alongside the bonds between Muhammad Ali and Angelo Dundee, and Joe Frazier and Eddie Futch.
“I showed [Ancajas] around where Manny got his start and I told him I call this ‘the gym Manny built,’ ” Roach said. “He’s so excited. Real nice kid.”
Ancajas knew there’d be American media at his visit, so he made a strong effort to learn English on the flight to LAX, needing only an interpreter for the reporter to respond the best he could in English.
That stroke of kindness reminds of Pacquiao, but Ancajas isn’t about to embrace any hype that he’s the next Pacquiao.
“It’s a pleasure to be compared to Manny because Sir Manny is at the highest level, but, sir, all I can tell you is I’m doing my best, training as hard as I can, to achieve just a little bit of what he’s done,” Ancajas said.
Although he’s fighting at 118 pounds, Ancajas said he’s capable of gravitating toward the junior-welterweight limit (140 pounds) by the end of his career. Known for his strength, he walks around when not training at 140.
He’s in a division that has received a massive boost of exposure thanks to HBO’s coverage. The network will air a “SuperFly 2” card Feb. 24 at the Forum that will include World Boxing Council champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, challenger and flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada and another bout featuring former champion Carlos Cuadras.
Ancajas said, “I’m happy to be in there with them, but what I do next depends on my manager and promoter.”
Manager Sean Gibbons said the focus for now is to “build Jerwin’s brand” while he stands as the first Filipino fighter since Pacquiao to have his bouts aired live back in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, Ancajas has built what’s known as “the Survival Camp,” a training facility with intense demands.
“You should come over there. You’d get down to about 175,” Gibbons told a reporter weighing 220 pounds. “The ‘SuperFly’ thing is nice, but he’s going to be bigger in the Philippines, and then whoever’s left, we’ll be happy to fight.”
The hesitance for Ancajas’ promoter Bob Arum to deal with HBO executive Peter Nelson after leaving the network for ESPN is foremost at play, too.
“The only guy who doesn’t know whether to walk or run, and doesn’t know what he’s doing, is Nelson, because Nelson looks at everything as competition with the ‘great’ HBO, which is not the case,” Arum said.
“[SuperFly] is not what I want to do with Jerwin. I want to build him up on ESPN and then move him to major fights. I first want to see what I’ve got. I’m not anxious to join their series right now. There’ll be plenty of time for that.”
That sounds like ducking, too.
“If you’re a real promoter, you’ve got to take your time and build the fighter,” Arum said. “Of course it can be perceived as ducking, but I tell the perceivers … ‘why do I care what you think?’ I have a job to do and I’m not going to do it just because some people say, ‘Let’s see how that comes out.”
Arum was impressed with Ancajas when he saw him fight on the undercard of Pacquiao’s disputed loss in Australia to Jeff Horn in July, and signed him to a co-promotional deal. Ancajas is thrilled about it, considering Arum’s link to Pacquiao and his own interest in things American.
His sons are named Kyrie and Kyle for NBA players Kyrie Irving and Kyle Korver.
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