MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino boxer Jerwin Ancajas believes he proved a point with his performance against Mexico's Jonathan Javier Rodriguez over the weekend, when he made a ninth successful defense of his IBF junior bantamweight title.
Ancajas took a unanimous decision victory, with the judges scoring the bout, 115-112, 116-111, and 117-110. He engaged Rodriguez in a thrilling war, eventually knocking him down in the eighth round with a barrage of body blows.
After racking up yet another victory, Ancajas (33-1-2, 22) is now targeting more high profile targets. He has long wanted to fight the other champions in his division -- Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai -- and he feels that this bout showed that he is more than ready for them.
"Dati pa kaming tumatawag sa pangalan nila," said the 29-year-old Ancajas, who has held the IBF belt since 2016 when he defeated McJoe Arroyo.
"Ngayon, sa pinakita ko na performance, sana maano nila na kaya ko nang sumabay sa kanila," he added. "Kasi, 29 na rin po ako, parang naisip ko, ang tagal ko na rin sa boxing."
"Sabi ko, sana makakalaban ko talaga 'tong nasa katimbang ko na mga champion. Kasi ito 'yung pangarap ko na maka-unification po."
Mexico's Estrada, who holds The RING and WBA belts, is currently rated No. 7 in the world, pound for pound, by The RING Magazine. Thailand's Sor Rungvisai, meanwhile, established himself with a series of victories over Estrada and Gonzalez in 2017 and 2018.
"Chocolatito," from Nicaragua, has made a name for himself in the lower weight classes with the only three losses of his career coming against Sor Rungvisai and Estrada.
Ancajas, who is currently ranked fourth in the division by RING, believes he belongs in this upper echelon.
He sought to prove it against Rodriguez, showing his willingness to engage with the dangerous Mexican brawler particularly in the later rounds. Ancajas stood in the pocket with Rodriguez in the 10th, 11th, and 12th rounds, exchanging blows with abandon.
"Sinabayan ko na siya, sinabayan ko na siya sa laro niya," Ancajas said of the gamble that they took.
"Sumabay ako sa kalaban ko, na nakikipagsabayan ako, kasi gusto kong ipakita sa kanila na andito ako, handa ako kung ano mang laban," he explained. "Gusto kong iparating na handang-handa ako para sa kanila."
Ancajas is hopeful that he caught the attention of the division's other champions by proving that he can more than hold his own in a slugfest against Rodriguez. He acknowledged that he likely lost those rounds in the judges' scorecards, but what's important is that he proved he can be effective in that kind of fight as well.
"Gusto kong ipakita sa mga champion din ng ibang organization na, kaya ko. Kaya kong makipagsabayan sa kanila, kung ano mang laban na gusto nila," he said. "Kahit na talo ako sa tatlong round na 'yun, kahit talo ako, at least pinatunayan ko na kaya ko."
"At 'yun ang gusto kong i-improve. Kung nalugi ako sa patamaan, kung sa dikitan, gusto kong i-improve," he added.
Ancajas' coach Joven Jimenez said they hope to return to action in September.
Whether this will be a high-profile bout against one of Ancajas' dream opponents remains to be seen. For the fighter, he is leaving it all up to his coach and his promoter, Sean Gibbons of MP Promotions.
"Ako, bilang boksingero sila naman nagbibigay sa akin ng laban talaga. Ako, hanggang hamon lang ako," he said. "Pero 'yung nagbibigay ng laban, sila. Hamon lang ako pero sila talaga ang nasusunod diyan."