The super flyweight or junior bantamweight division was first conceptualized in the late 1970s by the World Boxing Council (WBC). The division has a weight limit of 115 pounds, sandwiched between the flyweight (112 lbs.) and bantamweight (118 lbs.) weight classes.
On February 1, 1980, the WBC sanctioned the first world super flyweight title match between Venezuelan Rafael Orono and South Korean Seung Hoon Lee. Orono won by split decision to become the inaugural super flyweight champ of boxing. Orono made three successful defenses of the title before he was knocked out and dethroned by Korean Chul Ho Kim in January 1981.
On September 12, 1981, the World Boxing Association (WBA) followed in the footsteps of the WBC and sanctioned its first fight for the super flyweight title. Gustavo Ballas of Argentina became the WBA’s first super flyweight king after he stopped Korean Sak Chul Bae in eight rounds.
In December 1983, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) crowned its first super flyweight champion in Joo Do Chun, who stopped Ken Kasugai in five rounds for the crown. The World Boxing Organization (WBO) was the last to join the super fly bandwagon, crowning its first champion in April 1989 in the person of Puerto Rican Jose Ruiz.
Chun is on record for being the first super flyweight champion to defend against a Filipino. In March 1984, Chun posted his second successful defense of the IBF super flyweight title with a devastating demolition of Davao City native Diego De Villa. De Villa, who had lost his last two bouts going in, was fed to Chun and predictably stopped in one round.
The super flyweight division has produced some legendary names in the punch-for-pay business. Khaosai Galaxy of Thailand is recognized as the greatest 115-pound champion in history, having posted a division-record 19 title defenses of the WBA crown. Japan’s Jiro Watanabe is another legendary name, ruling as super flyweight champion from 1982 to 1986. Watanabe initially won the WBA title in April 1982 but was stripped of the crown when he attempted to unify the title by taking on WBC counterpart Payao Poontarat in July 1984. Watanabe lost the WBA crown but continued his reign as WBC champion after he defeated Poontarat by decision. He remained champion until 1986, when he was dethroned by Gilberto Roman. Watanabe is recognized as one of Japan’s greatest champions.
For the record, there are only three Filipinos who have been crowned world super flyweight champion: Gerry Penalosa, Marvin Sonsona and the latest, Jerwin ‘Pretty Boy’ Ancajas.
In February 1987, Penalosa became the first Filipino super flyweight champion when he outpointed Hiroshi Kawashima for the WBC title. Penalosa held the title belt until August 1998 when he dropped a disputed decision to In Joo Cho. Penalosa made two more attempts to regain the crown but lost both fights on points to then champion Masamori Tokuyama.
Eleven years after Penalosa’s reign, another Filipino, slugger Marvin Sonsona, bagged the WBO’s version of the super flyweight crown with an impressive decision over Jose Lopez in September 2009. Sonsona struggled to meet the weight and was stripped of the crown in November 2009 when he showed up overweight for his first title defense against Alejandro Hernandez.
In August 2009, just two months before Sonsona was stripped of his crown, Nonito Donaire Jr. defeated Rafael Concepcion for the WBA super flyweight title. Donaire, however, won only the interim and not the regular championship. Thus, Donaire’s name does not appear in the list of legitimate champions in the weight class.
Panabo City, Davao del Norte pride Ancajas entered the record books recently by becoming the third Filipino super flyweight champion. Ancajas won the IBF’s version of the crown with an impressive unanimous decision win over Puerto Rican McJoe Arroyo in Taguig City. The 24-year-old Ancajas dominated the fight with an excellent display of boxing and ring generalship. He knocked down Arroyo in the eighth round with a body shot and wobbled him on several occasions.
The Philippines only has a handful of champions in the super flyweight class, but if Ancajas continues to improve following the win over Arroyo, his reign figures to be an interesting one.
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