SCREEN CAPTUREFilipino boxers Jerwin Ancajas, left, and Jonas Sultan stare down each other at the weigh-in over the weekend
at the Filipino Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
IT''S BEEN almost a century since the last time two Filipino fighters fought for a title. IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas will defend his title against Jonas Sultan will fight for the title Saturday (May 26) in Fresno, Calif.
Their fight in Fresno State University's Save Mart Center will be the first world title bout between two Filipino fighters in 93 years (when Pancho Villa defended the world flyweight title against Clever Sencio on May 2, 1925 in Manila).
Ancajas, 29-1-1 (20), is promoted by international boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. Many are predicting that the polite and humble Ancajas may just be the fighter to step up and take over as the biggest star in Philippine boxing as Pacquiao enters the downside of his history-making career.
Ancalas is on the cusp of becoming a major star. His promoters hope the Fresno fight will give him the exposure to make that step to international fight fans
It will be Sultan's first fight in the U.S. Sultan (14-3) is ranked No. 1 by the International Boxing Federation and is coming off his biggest victory, a knockout of John Riel Casimero on Sept. 16 in Cebu, Philippines.
Before this fight was scheduled, neither fighter had ever been to Fresno. Choosing the place of the fight was no accident.
They probably didn't know of the city's existence. Organizers hope to attract some of California's estimated 3.5 million Filipinos, the bulk who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. Fresno sits strategically in the middle, almost equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, each about a three-hour drive away.
Al Perez, a Fresno-area promoter for the event recognizes that Filipinos are big boxing fans. "They mirror the Mexican/American community in terms of their love for boxing. And, of course, having a world champion like Manny Pacquiao ups the profile with the Filipino pride that Manny has brought to the sport."
Perez told ESPN that he traveled with his adviser, Titus Verzosa, a lifetime member of the Filipino American Association of Fresno & Vicinity, on a grassroots tour to spread word about the fight at grocery stores, restaurants and in the nearby farming community of Delano, which has a sizable Filipino/American population.
With the popularity of the sport among Filipinos and Filipino/Americans, it is a wonder that aren't more fights featuring Filipino fighters. Promoters like to use the racial angle -- Filipinos vs. Latinos, Latinos vs. African/Americans, African/Americans vs. white -- to garner more fans.
Fresno doesn't have the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, nor the history and traditon of Madison Square Garden, but the fighters are happy to be fighting in the U.S.
"This is an historical fight for every Filipino out there," said Michael Aldeguer, president and CEO of the Ala Promotions team backing Sultan. He told ESPN, "To be here in the U.S., in the boxing mecca of the world, and to showcase our fighters on the world stage, this is it. They have to be inspired to be part of history. I hope Filipinos realize that and come Saturday so they can say, 'I was there watching the first Filipino title fight in 93 years.'"