Filipino Champ Ancajas and “Zurdo” Defend World Titles Saturday on ESPN

When IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas stepped out of the terminal at LAX he was surprised by what he saw.

“The streets and buildings seem bigger and cleaner,” said Ancajas the Filipino champion making his first visit to the United States of America.

Ancajas and his group headed immediately toward the gym where his mentor Manny Pacquiao had made his fame: the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Ca. It was his primary goal when landing in the U.S. As soon as he stepped foot in the gym a longtime goal had been fulfilled.

“My dream has come true,” said Ancajas as he looked around the gym on Vine Street.

Ancajas (28-1-1, 19 KOs) won’t be spending much time training at the Hollywood gym; he has a date to face Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez (21-1, 8 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 3, at Bank of America Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. ESPN will televise.

It’s his first taste of America and he knows there’s a difference between fighting in Asia and fighting across the Pacific Ocean. He’s also deep in the middle of one of the most talented weight divisions in the sport that includes fellow champions such as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue and others.

“Manny told me the fighters are better and there are more quality fighters over here,” said Ancajas who is making the fourth defense of his world title.

Pacquiao signed the powerful southpaw Ancajas and Top Rank is now co-promoting the Filipino champion. Though a super flyweight tournament is taking place in Los Angeles later this month, the head brass wants their new signee to acclimate to the new surroundings.

“We’re not in a hurry,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum. “We have the best matchmakers in the world to make sure he’s ready to face the best.”

On Saturday, the fighter known as “Pretty Boy” Ancajas gets his first taste of fighting in America.

Zurdo

WBO super middleweight world titlist Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (36-0, 24 KOs) clashes with Ghana’s undefeated Habib Ahmed (25-0-1, 17 KOs) in the co-main event in Corpus Christi.

You never know what to expect from a fighter from Ghana. But one thing is certain Ahmed will be at a distinct height disadvantage against Ramirez who stands six inches taller.

In Ramirez’s last title defense he met Jesse Hart in a battle of undefeated super middleweights. Despite knocking down the Philadelphia fighter early it took the full 12 rounds to win by unanimous decision in a fight closer than the scores indicated. Despite the close struggle against Hart, the long-armed Ramirez continues to show that he can take a punch and give a punch.

Ramirez, 26, makes a third world title defense since beating Arthur Abraham in April 2016.

Hart

Speaking of Hart (22-1, 18 KOs), the son of Philadelphia boxing legend Eugene “Cyclone” Hart faces Thomas Awimbono (25-7-1) in a 10 round super middleweight fight to get back on track. Awimbono fights out of Ghana.

Hart could have given up after getting dropped in the second round against Ramirez but rallied furiously. After 12 rounds it was evident that the Philadelphia fighter had no intentions of quitting in the ring.

Now Hart looks to regroup and reload against Awimbono.

Benavidez

Making his return to the ring after nearly two years will be Jose Benavidez the older brother of current WBC super middleweight world titlist David Benavidez.

Benavidez (25-0, 16 KOs) faces Matthew Strode (24-5) in an eight round welterweight bout. The Phoenix native Benavidez hasn’t fought since 2016 when he suffered a gunshot wound while walking his dog. Can the 25-year-old recapture the momentum?

It’s unclear if Benavidez’s fight will be included in the televised portion for ESPN. The Top Rank card should begin at 10 p.m. ET.

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