UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – Jerwin Ancajas got the brawl he wanted from Jonathan Rodriguez on Saturday night.
Two the scorecards didn’t reflect the highly competitive nature of their action-packed, 12-round slugfest, but Ancajas won a unanimous decision to retain his IBF junior bantamweight championship at Mohegan Sun Arena. The previously unproven Rodriguez established himself as a legitimate threat in the 115-pound division, but judges Tony Paolillo (115-112), Tom Schreck (116-111) and Don Trella (117-110) scored the fight for Ancajas.
The Philippines’ Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 KOs) dropped Rodriguez late in the eighth round, but Rodriguez regained his composure between rounds and tested Ancajas throughout the remainder of a title fight Ancajas called the toughest test of his career.
CompuBox credited Rodriguez for landing more punches overall than Ancajas (273-of-826 to 232-of-758). Rodriguez connected on more power punches (253-of-584 to 176-of-447), according to CompuBox, but Ancajas landed with more jabs (56-of-311 to 20-of-242).
Showtime televised Ancajas’ victory as the opener of a tripleheader that’ll feature welterweights Jaron Ennis and Sergey Lipinets in the main event.
Ancajas, 29, made the ninth defense of the IBF junior bantamweight championship he won from Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo in September 2016. Ancajas, who hasn’t lost in nine years, also improved to 9-0-1 in world title fights.
The 25-year-old Rodriguez (22-2, 16 KOs) lost for the first time against a southpaw in his seventh fight against a left-handed opponent. Before Saturday night, Ancajas’ mandatory challenger hadn’t lost since countryman Jose Garcia (then 5-1-1) beat him by split decision in a 10-rounder three years ago in Monterrey, Mexico.
Ancajas and Rodriguez were supposed to fight last April 11 in Las Vegas. That card was canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rodriguez’ right-left combination just before the midway mark of the 12th round was effective. With the outcome seemingly in doubt, Ancajas and Rodriguez continued to exchange vicious head shots during the final minute of a terrific fight.
Rodriguez got Ancajas’ attention with a right hand early in the 11th round. Ancajas’ left to the body stopped Rodriguez in his tracks in the middle minute of the 11th, but they saved their best for the final 20 seconds of the round, when they hammered away at each other with head and body shots.
Rodriguez started the 10th round strong and backed up Ancajas with head shots. Ancajas came back and landed hard head and body blows of his own.
After battering each other during the final minute of a tremendous 10th round, Rodriguez and Ancajas all but hugged as a sign of respect before walking back to their corners.
Ancajas knocked Rodriguez into the ropes with a straight left hand just after the halfway mark of the ninth round. Ancajas’ brutal body attack made Rodriguez retreat several times thereafter, but Rodriguez rallied toward the end of the ninth round, when he landed hard head shots to made Ancajas stop punching.
After another competitive round in the seventh, Ancajas attacked Rodriguez with straight lefts in the opening minute of the eighth round. Ancjas’ assault to Rodriguez’s body and head finally sent Rodriguez to the canvas with just under 20 seconds to go in that eighth round.
Rodriguez answered Fields’ count at eight and made it to the end of the round.
About a minute into the sixth round, Ancajas backed Rodriguez into the ropes and traded with him. They continued to exchange hard shots in the center of the ring for much of an action-packed sixth round.
Rodriguez nailed Ancajas with a left hook just before the midway mark of the fifth round. Ancajas continued to go after his opponent’s body later in the fifth.
Rodriguez drilled Ancajas with a right hand about 20 seconds into the fourth round. Rodriguez then clipped Ancajas with a left hook about 20 seconds later.
Ancajas connected with a straight left hand with just over a minute remaining in that fourth round. Rodriguez and Ancajas traded hard shots in the final 15 seconds of the fourth round.
Rodriguez continued complaining to Fields about Ancajas’ rabbit punches in the third round. After taking another one, Rodriguez unloaded a combination on Ancajas in the final minute of that round.
A borderline left by Ancajas to the side of Rodriguez’s head made Rodriguez take a step back just after the halfway point of the second round. Rodriguez complained to Fields about Ancajas hitting him behind his head with about 45 seconds to go in the second round.
That sequence seemed to wake up Rodriguez, who landed several right hands before the second round concluded.
Ancajas knocked Rodriguez off balance by landing a left hand to his jaw with just over a minute to go in the first round. Ancajas also landed a left to Rodriguez’s body later in the opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.