By Nick GiongcoCORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Jerwin Ancajas found himself a few rows away from the most interesting co-passenger on the Southwest Airlines jet that ferried him here late Sunday from Houston.
At the tail-end of the 737-600 sat Israel Gonzalez, the Mexican challenger who will attempt to dethrone him when they face off Saturday night in their International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-flyweight title duel at the American Bank Center.
The two exchanged meaningful glances as they began lining up for the final boarding sequence as if to size each other up.
Ancajas, who is making his US debut, took a look at Gonzalez from head to foot and swore the tenth-rated IBF contender is a bit taller, probably 5-6 ½.
Ancajas (28-1 with 19 KOs), a shade under 5-6, then turned away and tinkered with his smartphone before finding his seat.
Gonzalez (21-1 with eight KOs) was sandwiched by his two handlers during the 45-minute trip and he and Ancajas got to see each other once again at the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina where their respective teams are billeted.
After the brief encounter at the lobby, Ancajas and members of his team signed a few documents that will facilitate the release of their Texas licenses.
Ancajas was joined in the journey that began in Los Angeles by lead trainer and manager Joven Jimenez and stablemate Mark Anthony Barriga.
To help them with camp work during the seven-night and eight-day stay here, Ancajas and Jimenez decided to bring along former world champion Rodel Mayol and 1990 Asian Games gold medalist Roberto Jalnaiz.
But Mayol and Jalnaiz won’t work the corner but will work behind the scenes with the LA-based Mayol tasked to oversee the hand-wrapping of Gonzalez during fight night and Jalnaiz tapped to handle camp matters.
Only Jimenez and Barriga and Fil-Australian Todd Makelim, a former Manny Pacquiao foe, will be allowed to work the corner.
Ancajas knows he has to make heads turn in his first fight on US soil to convince Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum that he did not err in signing him to a three-fight deal.
“What I want to do on fight night is to show everyone that they (Top Rank) didn’t commit a mistake in getting me,” said Ancajas.
“I believe that I still have a lot to show,” he added.