There’s a look of boyish glee on the face of Jayson Mama as he contemplates his fight with IBF flyweight champion Sunny Edwards this weekend.
“I’m so happy,” he beams. “It’s been my dream to fight for a world championship. I can’t believe it. It’s the biggest fight of my whole career. I dream to support my family because they are so poor. To lift them out of their situation and give them a good life.”
The unbeaten Filipino has had to remain focused despite a year of frustration. In December 2020 he was originally earmarked to fight Moruti Mthalane for the same IBF title but with the bout cancelled at the last minute he stepped aside for the South African to face Edwards, agreeing to take on the winner.
The challenge now awaiting Mama could not be more stylistically contrasting, something he and his coach, Ronerex Dalut, have been preparing for as they look to cut the ring off and pressure the Brit.
“I’m expecting a tough fight. Sunny Edwards is a very smart boxer. I have big respect for my opponent. I watched his fight with Moruti Mthalane. He deserved to win the fight but Mthalane looked old. My trainer said I must work on being aggressive for this fight. Sunny is a switch hitter so I must work on my footwork.”
Mama was a natural athlete growing up, but like so many of his fellow countrymen he was inspired to take up boxing after witnessing the reaction Manny Pacquiao’s fights had on his local community. It’s a decision he feels is already bearing fruit as Mama can now access the sort of education usually reserved for Filipinos with money and influence.
“Boxing has helped me because I now can study for free at college. I study Criminology. My family don’t need to pay, I’m free because I got a scholarship because I’m a boxer. I’ve been boxing for 9 years. I tried a lot of sports. My first love was basketball but I’m a small guy! My second sport is rugby, then soccer and baseball. I was 15 years old when I started boxing. My mother thought it was too late to start boxing! Like a lot of Filipino people I see Manny Pacquiao on the TV. I have a dream to become a world champion and to keep inspiring a lot of people.”
Such gratitude for the noble art is especially underlined when Mama talks of his life growing up in the Philippines’ impoverished farming community. The eager grin quickly falls away as he remembers his parents’ struggle and the lengths he had to go to just to survive. Victory this weekend would be transformational for his family.
“My father is a farmer. My family is poor. My mother is a housewife and a farmer. We grew rice meal. I grew up a very independent child. When I was a kid, 7 years old, I started work as a fisherman. Then I worked on the coconut trees, then on the BBQ grill. A lot of work. God gave me a gift to become a boxer. It can change my life, my family.”