UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – Two Mexican underdogs Sean Gibbons advises have pulled off huge upsets in recent months.
Mauricio Lara traveled to London and stopped previously undefeated, former IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington in the ninth round February 13. A month later, unknown late replacement Angel Fierro capitalized on the biggest opportunity of his career by knocking out former WBA super featherweight champ Alberto Machado in the sixth round March 18 in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Those two upsets have made Gibbons, also president of Manny Pacquiao Promotions, especially nervous about Jerwin Ancajas’ title defense Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. Ancajas also will face an unknown Mexican opponent, Jonathan Rodriguez, the mandatory challenger for Ancajas’ IBF junior bantamweight championship.
The Philippines’ Ancajas, who is promoted by Pacquiao’s company, is consistently listed as a 10-1 favorite over Rodriguez (22-1, 16 KOs). Gibbons told BoxingScene.com that he is more concerned about this fight for Ancajas, though, than any of his previous nine 115-pound championship bouts.
“This guy reminds me a lot of those guys,” Gibbons said in reference to Lara and Fierro. “They’re so calm and cool. And this is their destiny. This is what they’re trained for. So, I’m definitely more nervous about this fight than I was when Ancajas won the world title against McJoe Arroyo. Out of all of his fights, this fight scares me the most.”
The 25-year-old Rodriguez is 6-0 against southpaws, but he hasn’t faced anyone as proven as Ancajas. Rodriguez has won six straight fights since losing a 10-round split decision to countryman Jose Garcia (then 5-1-1) in March 2018 in Monterrey, Mexico.
The 29-year-old Ancajas has drawn criticism for his own level of opposition since he became a world champion in September 2016. He is 8-0-1 in world title fights and anticipates “a war” with Rodriguez.
“People look at Jonathan Javier Rodriguez as an easy fight,” Gibbons said. “They don’t know the man one fight ago put Felipe Orucuta in a coma [in June 2019]. The fights in Mexico, if you don’t know how to read a record like I know how to read a record, it’s very nondescript. But the gym work they get, the training they get, the hunger, the desire – [Rodriguez] is 25 years old, he has a couple kids and this is his life. And this fight has been scheduled [and postponed] for over a year and a half now.
“Jonathan is a man on a mission. I’ve never seen a young man so calm and confident. It scares the sh!t out of me. So, all you people out there that think this is just some gimme, some pass, hell no! And Mexicans come with the biggest heart in the game. I think this fight is gonna steal the show.”
Ancajas-Rodriguez is the first of three fights Showtime will televise Saturday night, starting at 9 p.m. ET.
In the 12-round co-feature, a WBA welterweight elimination match, Lithuania’s Eimantas Stanionis (12-0, 9 KOs) will oppose Puerto Rican veteran Thomas Dulorme (25-4-1, 16 KOs). In the main event, also a 12-round welterweight bout, Philadelphia’s Jaron Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs, 1 NC) will encounter Kazakhstan’s Sergey Lipinets (16-1-1, 12 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.