Of strong Mayo stock and draped in a tricolour most of the time, Sean Gibbons would be the last person you would think was rooting for Jerwin Ancajas ahead of the Filipino’s world title defence against Belfast hero Jamie Conlan tonight at the SSE Odyssey Arena.
However, the Oklahoma character is firmly with Team Ancajas for the South East Asian’s third title defence in Belfast tonight.
Gibbons has a life story that would fill ten books. A former journeyman and matchmaker, once holding Mickey Rourke to a draw during the actor’s foray into boxing, he was the driving force behind the Knucklehead stable in the U.S. Midwest.
Eventually he ended up with Top Rank, and the charismatic Irish-American struck up a relationship with Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao – who now promotes Ancajas.
Gibbons, whose official title is as an agent to Ancajas, explained to Irish-Boxing.com how “I worked with Manny Pacquiao for many years and Manny Pacquiao hired me to do his match making so that’s how I ended up with working with my lovely Filipino brothers. I’ve worked with Jerwin Ancajas and Johnriel Casimero and many other guys.”
His Irish roots run deep, and Gibbons details how “My cousin is Sean O’Grady, WBA lightweight champion of the World. All my Dad’s family come from Castlebar and Westport in Mayo, they still live on the same farm.”
“I have been over there probably 10 times, so I love Ireland. I took my mother here for her 60th birthday, her 70th birthday and I came here after my wedding for my honeymoon so you can’t get more Irish than that – and my sons name is Brendan Michael Ireland Gibbons, so I love the Irish, baby.”
“But, unfortunately, it’s a sporting event and I am with the Filipinos.”
Gibbons would bump into Conlan and his family during the Summer when Mick and Ancajas both featured on the Pacquiao-Horn undercard in Brisbane – but he was well aware of the Falls Road man beforehand.
“Absolutely, I have watched him,” he states.
“The guy was in one of the fights of the year I think with Anthony Nelson. I am in the game so I know pretty much all the fighters. I look at who’s ranked in most divisions so I am very aware of him and of course he is The Mexican Irish.”
“It’s a tough fight. A lot of people are saying ‘oh it’s easy’. There is no such thing as an easy fight. You never take things lightly. Jamie’s heart is second to none and he is a very aggressive, game fighter. I see it as a tougher fight than Jerwin’s mandatory, the Japanese guy [Teiru Kinoshita] we fought in Australia.”
Much has been made of the potential impact that a rabid Belfast crowd could make – whether it be through inspiring Conlan or intimidating Ancajas.
Gibbons doesn’t automatically go to the ‘there’s only two fighters in the ring’ cliché either, but believes that the atmosphere could benefit Ancajas if anything.
“It all comes down to the fighter,” mused Gibbons.
“You never know with your guy. I traveled with Johnriel Casimero to five different countries and it never bothered him at all so you don’t know until the fight takes place.
“In this case, I don’t think so because guys like Ancajas come from a very rough background, like from nothing. So when they are in there they are pretty focused guys.”
“I don’t think the crowd plays into it, but until the first time a guy gets in that sort of atmosphere you don’t know for sure.”
“Some guys get here and they would fall to pieces with the crowd, the people, and the atmosphere, I think Jerwin enjoys it.”
“It’s funny, the Filipino people, like Casimero, he thrived off it, he enjoyed it, he didn’t know if they were rooting for him or against him! – and some of the people here with their accents, I don’t think Jerwin knows what they are saying anyway!” he added before giving his view on the fight.
“I just think it will be a great fight because the styles are so perfect for each other.”