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Sports

Ben picks best Pinoy boxers ever

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

It was a difficult choice for former two-time WBA superfeatherweight champion Ben Villaflor when asked to name the best Filipino boxer ever. He couldnt decide between the late Flash Elorde and Manny Pacquiao. In the end, Villaflor said picking one over the other was impossible because they saw action in different eras, under different circumstances. But they were the greatest of all time.

Elorde was a sophisticated and scientific fighter,” said Villaflor of DFlash who reigned as world junior lightweight champion for seven years. “Pacquiao was amazing but you cant compare the two. Pacquiao was an energizer, threw so many punches that his opponents just had to cover up because of his aggressiveness. Elorde and Pacquiao were the best Filipino fighters ever.”

Villaflor won the WBA crown at 19 in 1972, lost it to Japans Kuniaki Shibata on a unanimous decision the next year and regained the throne via a first round knockout in a rematch seven months later. “When I lost the title, it was hard,” he recalled. “I had so many friends as world champion but when I lost, they were gone, only my true friends stuck around. In the rematch, Shibata was dropped in the first round. I told myself I hope he stays down. The referee counted to 10 and the fight was over. Shibata tried to get up but fell down again so he must have really been hurt.”

Villaflor said his toughest opponent was Filipino Ernie Cruz whom he outpointed in 1970. Cruz is in the record books as having floored legends Lionel Rose and Ruben Olivares although he lost to both former world champions. Villaflor said he was never decked in his career but slipped in the Cruz fight with the referee ruling a knockdown. Cruz saw action from 1963 to 1985. Villaflor made his debut in 1966 and retired in 1976 at 23.

After his retirement from the ring, Villaflor settled in Hawaii and worked as a Toyota car salesman. In 1979, he was appointed Sergeant at Arms in the Hawaii Senate Legislature by Senator Richard Wong and is the longest-serving civil servant in that position. “Ive had to escort some of my friends out of the Senate halls when the Senate President hit the gavel and ordered them out,” he said. “Former Hawaii Governors Neil Abercrombie and Ben Cayetano were my friends and I remember escorting them out during a budget session.”

Villaflor, who was recently in Manila for a visit after a 30-year absence, said he watches out for Filipino fighters in Hawaii. “Rogelio Tulunghari ended his career in Hawaii and Im the godfather of one of his children,” he said. “I think Lulu Villaverde moved from Hawaii to the Mainland. Andy Ganigan was a good friend and I got him a job in my office. I was sad when Andy died. When Rolando Navarrete fought in Hawaii, I advised him not to do the things he used to do in the Philippines because hell get jailed. Its unfortunate what happened to him but he was a great fighter. I laugh when I think I was born too soon. When I fought, only the heavyweights were making millions in Las Vegas. Boxing is a lonely life, you have to have heart. You have to sacrifice yourself, train hard and know you can do it.”

BEN VILLAFLOR

WBA

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