By Abner Galino
TOMORROW, either International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas would have retained his junior bantamweight world boxing belt, or his challenger Jonas Sultan would have earned his first world championship title.
Whichever way the Fresno, California fight goes, the Philippines will not lose a world championship belt — as both fighters are Filipinos — and the historical significance of the fight for Filipino boxing fans will not be diminished.
The last time that two Filipino fighters fought each other for a world title belt was 93 years ago – between the legendary boxer Francisco “Pancho Villa” Guilledo and Clever Sencio. That fight happened in Manila and was won by “Pancho Villa,” who was already then the two-year world flyweight title holder.
Ancajas and Sultan are well aware of the historical significance of their upcoming battle.
“Pareho kami nang nararamdaman ni Sultan. Masaya kami na dito gagawin ‘yung laban namin at saka world championship belt ‘yung paglalabanan namin,” Ancajas told Weekend Balita/US Asian Post and Beyond Deadlines shortly after stepping out from the plane.
Ancajas added that he was proud that he would be fighting a compatriot for the crown.
“Ipinapakita lang kung nasaan ang mga Filipino boxer sa mundo ng boksing,” Ancajas added.
But what Ancajas and Sultan are not expecting was the subsequent reception where they were both recognized for the honor and pride that they gave to the Philippines for duplicating a 93-year-old history.
Ancajas was moved to tears during the awarding ceremony at the Filipino Cultural Center last Saturday (May 19, 2018) at the Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles.
“Napaiyak po ako. Hindi ko po inasahan na ganito. Dream come true po talaga,” Ancajas said after receiving a plaque of recognition from the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA), the organization that runs the Filipino Cultural Center.
Sultan was also in disbelief after receiving the award.
“Tuwang-tuwa po ako. Lalo po akong na-inspire sa laban,” Sultan said.
Apparently, both Ancajas and Sultan are not yet used to being accorded “superstar” treatment throughout their respective careers.
The inside story
Without doubt, Ancajas and Sultan deserved the reception and the honor (including the three others who were honored, among them; longest reigning Filipino world champion Nonie Nietes) that were conferred to them.
But the event was not in the calendar. The event happened almost exactly as the way Ancajas had felt about it shortly after receiving his plaque — a sort of providential thing.
In fact, not even Top Rank, the promoter of the fight saw it coming.
Here’s how it happened:
Three days before the event, Los Angeles based photographer Jhay Otamias contacted this reporter with the help of another photographer Tony Garcia.
Otamias asked if it possible to hold a meet and greet event at the Filipino Cultural Center.
I discussed with FACLA president Fernandico Gonong about the possible event. He readily recognized the historical significance of the Ancajas-Sultan fight and as well as the need to drumbeat for the Pinoy boxers.
Otamias brought out the idea of conferring recognition to the boxers. We agreed that they deserve the honor.
Top Rank did not do anything except set up the Filipino boxers for the meet and greet at the FCC. They sent a representative and their round girls to the event but they did not spend a single cent.
(And I have yet to upload on my bewilderment over why Top Rank set the historic championship battle in Fresno. Why oh why?)
Talk about Filipino hospitality – the community, most of whom share the same sentiment with me over Top Rank’s decision to hold the fight in Fresno, fed every one of them just the same.
I wrote the invitation letters and as well as the text inscribed on the plaques of recognition.
I sought the help of my friends Rose Sarreal, photographers Pol Joaquin, Teodoro Yap, FACLA director Bernie Targa-Ganon and her husband Rey Ganon, Tony Garcia, Thelma Sugay, editor Val Abelgas and as well as my wife Odette.
To make an event happen, people need to dress up the place, prepare food, send the invitations and show up.
Because they were last-minute preparations, the plaques of recognition were picked from the shop by Odette and Tony Garcia an hour before the event.
Aside from getting the Filipino Cultural Center for free, the other expenses incurred during the event were shouldered by FACLA.
So there, talk about giving credit to where credit is due.