World junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas wants to be recognized as one of the best in a division ruled by the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
To do this, he will have to make a statement when he returns to the ring against his mandatory challenger Jonathan Javier Rodriguez at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).
"I understand they don't know me yet. But I give best in every fight so they will get to recognize me," said Ancajas in the final presser heading to the 12-round IBF junior bantamweight title bout.
Ancajas (32-1-2, 22) was able to make thorough preparations for the Rodriguez fight since it took more than a year for the bout to materialize.
It was initially scheduled to take place in November 2019, but was postponed due to Rodriguez’s failure to obtain a US visa. It was reset for April 2020 but was postponed again due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I promise them a good fight, I'm ready for whatever Rodriguez brings into the fight," said Ancajas.
"He knows a lot of people will be watching. He definitely wants to make a great statement, a great fight," said MP Promotions chief Sean Gibbons.
"He wants to move forward and have his name in the mix with those guys."
Ancajas' coach Joven Jimenez said it is easier getting the dream fight against Estrada and Gonzalez now that they are under Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions.
All they have to do now is to impress.
"Kailangang ipakita ngayon ni Jerwin ang gilas niya. Kailangang si Jerwin ang magdictate ng pace sa first round pa lang," he said.
Rodriguez (22-1, 16 KOs) is known to be a classic Mexican fighter who loves a good brawl. But Team Ancajas is prepared to make adjustments midway if the Mexican suddenly changes tactics.
"May mga pinagaralan kami ni Jerwin at handa siyang magadjust," said Jimenez.
For his part, the hungry Rodriguez is determined to ruin Ancajas' plans.
"We understand what his weaknesses are, his strengths are. Come Saturday I'm going to show what I've trained for," said the Mexican.
"He's a great opponent, he's got great fans, but he's not faced a rival like me... It's going to be a war, a bloody war. I'm going to put the pressure from the first round."
It will be Ancajas' ninth title defense since winning the crown from Puerto Rico's McJoe Arroyo in 2016.
Also fighting in the card headlined by by Jaron Ennis versus Sergey Lipinets is unbeaten Filipino featherweight prospect Mark Magsayo.
Magsayo (21-0 with 14 KOs) will be tangling with Houston's Pablo Cruz (21-3 with 6 KOs) in a 10-round non-title bout.
Like Ancajas, Magsayo wants to win in dominating fashion to get a world title fight.