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Sonny Boy Jaro, who scored the biggest upset in years when he beat Pongsaklek Wonjongkam for THE RING flyweight title four months ago, wants to keep his Cinderella story going with his first defense against Japan's Toshiyuki Igarashi on Monday.
An old boxing axiom says that keeping a world title is more difficult than winning one. For Sonny Boy Jaro, who became THE RING flyweight champion and took the WBC title four months ago with a sixth-round knockout over Thai legend Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, this truism takes on new significance as he approaches his first title defense on Monday.
Jaro (34-10-5, 24 knockouts), of Silay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines, is slated to make his first ring appearance since the Wonjongkam fight against Toshiyuki Igarashi (15-1-1, 10 KOs), THE RING’s No. 9-rated flyweight, in the challenger's backyard of Winghat, Japan.
Prior to Jaro's last fight, where he was a huge underdog to a veteran champ at the end of his hall-of-fame-worthy career, Jaro made up his mind that he would retire and become a tricycle driver (a tricycle is a motorcycle fitted with a sidecar that operates like a taxi) if he was unsuccessful. Jaro is imposing the same pressure on himself in this fight as well, vowing to walk away if he doesn't leave Japan with the belt.
"I am more pressured now because I am the champion," Jaro, an 11-year-pro who has made a living fighting in the hometowns of his opponents, tells THE RING. "My motivation now is different; I'm motivated because I'm telling myself this is my last fight.
"I'm very confident of my power," continued Jaro. "When I hit him, he will be buying a sleeping tablet and going to sleep."
Igarashi, 28, was not Jaro's choice for a first defense, rather he was a WBC mandatory inherited from the win over Wonjongkam. Igarashi, a southpaw pure boxer who earned the title opportunity with a win over Mexico's Wilbert Uicab in his last fight in November, has modest power and relies heavily on his jab. Igarashi has won eight straight since losing to Tomonobu Shimizu in 2008.
Aljoe Jaro, who manages and co-trains Jaro alongside George Sol, believes Igarashi will be tougher than their last foe but is confident that the clock isn't ready to strike midnight on their Cinderella story.
"I saw Igarashi sparring, he's nice, but in my opinion he can't take the punch of Sonny Boy," said Jaro, who also managed Florante Condes to the IBF minimumweight title a few years back. "If not, that's a problem because Sonny Boy is very hungry.
"We have a plan A, plan B and plan C to hit Igarashi. Igarashi is not too quick, I think Ingarashi when he feels the power of Sonny Boy, he will run all day."
It's commentary on the era of boxing that we are living in that during the WBC rules meeting, Igarashi dared Jaro to take a urine test on the spot to prove that he wasn't using performance enhancers. Sonny Boy Jaro, who has a muscular build cultivated from years carrying luggage from the ports of Silay City as a child, scoffed but said afterwards that he would submit to any drug screening test afterwards.
Jaro, who made just $8,000 USD to fight Wonjongkam in March, declined to reveal his purse figure for this fight but Aljoe Jaro tells veteran sports reporter Joaquin Henson that Sonny Boy's "life will be better after this fight".
If Sonny Boy Jaro doubters continue to exist, it's because he has shown to be inconsistent over the years. Admittedly having taken fights on short notice just for the purse money, Jaro is just one year removed from a stretch where he lost three out of four fights, including a first round knockout to former WBA light flyweight titleholder Giovani Segura and a second round KO to Oscar Ibarra.
Jaro's team was able to negotiate neutral officials, which include two American judges and one from Korea, plus a Mexican referee. Their plan is to make them all immaterial.
"We have a big chance," said Aljoe Jaro. "Even the judges are all neutral, I don't care about that because we don't want to go to the 12 rounds."
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.
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