Elorde’s legacy intact
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2015 - 12:00am

While current WBO lightflyweight champion Donnie Nietes now holds the Philippine record for the longest uninterrupted reign of seven years and five months (and counting) as world titlist, it must be noted that the period extends through two weight divisions.

Nietes, 32, won the WBO minimumweight crown via a decision over Pornsawan Porpramook of Thailand on Sept. 30, 2007, made four successful title defenses, including three in Mexico, then wrested the WBO 108-pound diadem from Mexico’s Ramon Garcia on Oct. 8, 2011. Nietes chalked up those three defenses in Mexico on points and you know how difficult it is for a foreigner to win a decision over a Mexican hometowner. The verdicts were over Erik Ramirez who suffered four knockdowns, Manuel Vargas (split) and Mario Rodriguez.

Nietes has notched five successful title defenses of the WBO lightflyweight throne since 2011, including a ninth round demolition of former WBO minimumweight king Moises Fuentes last May. Fuentes, whose manager is Mexican ring legend Marco Antonio Barrera, had previously battled Nietes to a majority draw. On March 23, Nietes makes the sixth defense of his WBO title against Mexico’s Luis Ceja who is eight years younger. Ceja has a 26-5-3 record, with 21 KOs, including five in the first round. A strong starter, Ceja has compiled 15 of his 21 KOs inside three frames. Nietes’ record is 34-1-4, with 20 KOs.

The late Flash Elorde used to own the record of the longest uninterrupted reign as world champion. The legendary Bogo bootblack ruled the junior lightweight division for seven years and three months from March 16, 1960 when he halted Harold Gomes in the seventh round at the Araneta Coliseum to June 15, 1967 when D’ Flash was dethroned by Yoshiaki Numata on points in Tokyo.

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But Elorde’s streak was within one weight division. For Elorde to hold his weight down to 130 or less and remain the undisputed world champion for over seven years had to be a feat. It’s rare in the modern era for a fighter to campaign in the same weight division and rule as world champion for long. In boxing history, the fighters with the longest uninterrupted reigns were heavyweight Joe Louis at 13 years and three months (1937-49), supermiddleweight Joe Calzaghe at 10 years and 11 months (1997-2008) and middleweight Bernard Hopkins at 10 years and three months (1995-2005).

Twice, Elorde attempted to move up in weight and annex the lightweight crown and twice, he was thwarted by Puerto Rico’s Carlos Ortiz, both via 14th round stoppages, in Manila in 1964 and in New York City in 1966. During Elorde’s reign as world junior lightweight champion, he lost the Oriental lightweight crown to Japan’s Teruo Kosaka on a split decision in April 1962. He regained the Oriental title in a rematch four months later. In 1964, Elorde and Kosaka met again, this time with the world junior lightweight crown at stake, in Tokyo. Elorde was behind in two of the three judges’ scorecards when he decked Kosaka in the 12th round, prompting Filipino referee Jose Padilla to stop the fight. Japanese fans in the stadium thought Padilla acted too hastily and pelted the ring with debris, mostly seat cushions. Under the prevailing rules, the referee was one of three judges and Padilla had it 53-50 for Elorde at the time of the stoppage. The other judges saw it the other way, Anthony Petronella 51-49 and Seiji Ebine 53-51. In 1965, Elorde and Kosaka faced off once more with the Filipino leaving no doubt as to the outcome in flooring the Japanese five times en route to a 15th round knockout.

Elorde eventually lost his world title to another Japanese, Numata. In that fight, Filipino referee-judge Alex Villacampa had it 69-all but judge Hal Drake saw it 71-66 and judge Takeo Ugo 72-66, both for Numata who won by a majority decision. Elorde scored the only knockdown in the fight, decking Numata in the third round.

Elorde campaigned from 1951 to 1971. He retired after losing to Hiroyuki Murakami in Tokyo with a record of 89-27-2, with 33 KOs. Elorde died at 49 in 1985. His claim as the Filipino with the longest uninterrupted reign as world champion in a single division remains undisputed.

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As for Manny Pacquiao, he holds the Philippine record for the longest overall reign as world champion of eight years and three months and counting. He also holds the universal record for capturing world titles in eight different divisions, something Floyd Mayweather could never accomplish. Pacquiao, 36, is now on his second reign as WBO welterweight champion, regaining the throne from Timothy Bradley last April. He won his first world title at flyweight in 1998.

Pacquiao turned pro in 1995 at 16. Elorde was also 16 when he made his pro debut in 1951. Nietes was 20 when he turned pro in 1982. Pacquiao is now on his 20th year as a professional fighter and has logged 64 fights compared to Elorde’s 118. Nietes has figured in 39 bouts so far in 12 years as a pro.

The remarkable thing is both Pacquiao and Nietes are still active, highly competitive and capable of establishing new records. But Elorde’s legacy remains intact as the Filipino fighter with the longest uninterrupted reign as world champion in one weight division.

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