When Jade Bornea arrived in America in July of 2021, he made a vow that he wouldn’t return home to the Philippines until he won a world title. It was an extreme measure to take, considering that he has a wife, plus an eight year old daughter and a three year old son at home in General Santos City. FaceTime calls are his only link to family as he continues to train and wait for the time when he can return as a champion.
The 28-year-old Bornea will get his chance to punch his ticket home – and become one of his division’s elites – when he faces IBF junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Martinez this Saturday at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minn. The 12-round bout will be part of the Showtime Championship Boxing card headlined by Carlos Adames vs. Julian Williams.
“Since I was a child this has been one of my dreams. Now that I am in the U.S. and have been given a chance for the title, I will not pass up the opportunity,” said Bornea (18-0, 12 knockouts). “I have sacrificed much and am focused on my goal.”
Bornea has gotten good work accomplished since coming stateside nearly two years ago, including a third round knockout of Mohammed Obbadi in January of 2022 to become the mandatory challenger. His last fight was in August of 2022, when he stopped Ivan Meneses in seven rounds in Mexico. Fighting Martinez (15-0, 8 KOs) will take a new level of focus and effort.
The 31-year-old from Buenos Aires, Argentina is coming off of back-to-back wins over Bornea’s compatriot Jerwin Ancajas last year to win the title. In both fights, he displayed otherworldly aggression to break through against the more experienced and technically seasoned fighter to win comfortable decisions.
Ancajas, who returns to the ring on the undercard against Wilner Soto, has been in camp with Bornea to prepare for this fight. Bornea says the advice he has received about fighting Martinez has been his secret weapon to prepare for this challenge.
“He said to take care of my head and not to be cornered,” said Bornea.
Since January, Bornea has been based in Las Vegas for camp, training under head coach Ernel Fontanilla. Fontanilla, who had himself boxed professionally between 2002 and 2019, says Ancajas has been an invaluable help to prepare for Martinez. He says Bornea has been motivated by seeking revenge for his friend, as well as his desire to become champion.
“Every fight is not easy. We know Martinez is a pressure fighter, he can throw a lot of punches but I believe Bornea is a very good fighter and stronger than Martinez,” said Fontanilla.
“Jade is a complete boxer. He can move, he has power and is a smart fighter.”
Though this is Bornea’s first world title opportunity, it isn’t his first time in the ring with a world champion.
The highlight of a 125-fight amateur career was winning the 2013 ASBC Asian Confederation Junior Boxing Championships, during which he defeated future world champions Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Kosei Tanaka in the span of a few days. One of five children growing up in Arakan, Cotabato del Norte, Philippines, Bornea was first introduced to boxing by his grandfather at the age of ten. His twin brother Jake Bornea (14-5-1, 7 KOs) is also a pro fighter whose opponents include Andrew Selby and Takuma Inoue.
Jade Bornea turned pro in 2014, and soon after signed with Jim Claude Manangquil of Sanman Boxing and MP Promotions. Manangquil believes this opportunity is coming at the right time.
“I feel that styles make fights. Jade has something for Martinez,” said Manangquil, who also promotes the country’s lone current world champion, IBF/WBA junior featherweight champ Marlon Tapales, with the Sean Gibbons-led MP Promotions.
“I’m very confident that Jade will be world champion.”
So too is Bornea. After all the time he has dedicated to achieving his dream, he doesn’t intend to return home empty-handed.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].
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