Three greatest Pinoy fighters

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2014 - 12:00am

There’s a must-read, one-off boxing magazine that just hit the stores and I was lucky to pick up a copy of the 164-page publication – The Annual 2015 by London’s Boxing News – at a bookstore in the Hong Kong International Airport coming home from Macau the other day.

Boxing News is the world’s oldest fight publication and has been around since 1909. The late boxing historian Harry Mullan was its editor from 1977 to 1996 then Claude Abrams took his turn up to 2009 when Tris Dixon assumed the position. On a personal note, I’ve been honored to write articles for the London weekly magazine.

The Annual 2015’s theme is Icons and the legends of the sport are featured in a country-to-country analysis. For the Philippines, three fighters were named in a four-page sub-section with 12 pictures. They were Manny Pacquiao – the only fighter ever to capture eight world titles in different divisions, Flash Elorde and Pancho Villa. Elorde and Villa are now enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. No doubt, Pacquiao is headed for induction. Another Filipino, promoter/matchmaker/manager Lope (Papa) Sarreal Sr., is in the Hall of Fame.

Here’s how Boxing News profiled Pacquiao: “The incredible Filipino southpaw has won titles from flyweight all the way to lightmiddleweight and is one of the greatest fighters of the modern era. So popular in his home country that crime stops as everyone comes together to watch him. In May 2010, Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives in the 15th Congress of the Philippines.” Boxing News could’ve also mentioned that Pacquiao is the oldest player ever to be picked in the PBA draft and when he’s not busy in Congress or boxing, serves as playing coach of the Kia Sorento professional basketball team.

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Boxing News said Pacquiao’s best win ever was over Oscar de la Hoya in 2008. The Annual 2015 said his strengths are “punching power, hand-speed and conditioning” while his weaknesses is “(he) likes to stand and trade, spends time on the ropes.” Actually, the weaknesses are also his strengths. Pacquiao’s willingness to “stand and trade” is what makes him an exciting fighter and a crowd drawer. Also, when he “spends time on the ropes,” it’s to invite his opponent to come forward and engage, a tactic he employed to lure Miguel Cotto into a slugfest in 2009.

Here’s the profile on Elorde: “Southpaw Elorde nicknamed ‘Flash’ is one of the top boxers to come out of Asia. Made 10 successful defenses at superfeatherweight and was a national hero in the Philippines. The Elorde Sports Center in Parañaque City was dedicated to him in 1983, two years before his death aged 49.” Boxing News said his best win was a 10-round decision over notoriously dirty world featherweight champion Sandy Saddler in 1955. Noting his strengths, Boxing News said Elorde was an “aggressive cute southpaw. As for his weaknesses, it noted that the Flash “suffered from cuts and came on too long.” Elorde’s record was 88-27-2, with 33 KOs. He reigned as world junior lightweight champion from 1960 to 1967.

On Villa, Boxing News said “he was named after the famous Mexican bandit.” Actually, it’s half correct. The flyweight dynamo was born Francisco Guilledo and his manager was Paquito Villa. So his ring name or nom de guerre Pancho Villa was in honor of his manager and to make it more glamorous, Pancho was added in reference to the Mexican guerrilla.

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Boxing News continued, “Villa is arguably the greatest Asian boxer that has ever lived, had a relentless attacking style which endeared him to American fans and will arguably be most remembered for ending Brit Jimmy Wilde’s career…he died tragically young aged just 23.” Villa succumbed to Ludwig’s Angina, a throat-choking disease arising from infected gums.

Villa’s record was 73-5-4, with 22 KOs and 23 no-decisions from 1919 to 1925. Boxing News pointed out that his biggest victory was his seventh round knockout over Wilde to wrest the world flyweight crown in New York in 1923. The Annual 2015 said Villa was “tireless (with) knockout power in both hands” but noted as his weakness, he “could be outmaneuvered.” What was remarkable was Villa logged 82 fights in seven years as a pro. Today, Pacquiao has compiled 64 fights in a 19-year career that started in 1995.

In citing icons from other countries, Boxing News singled out Khaosai Galaxy and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam for Thailand, five-time world amateur female champion Mary Kom for India and Masahiko (Fighting) Harada for Japan. No fighter was named for South Korea or Indonesia. The Philippines is clearly in a class of its own in terms of Asian boxing.

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