Fists of gold: Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde
(The Freeman) - April 24, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Gifted with golden fists, Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde came out of extreme poverty to become one of the greatest boxers the Philippines has ever produced.

The youngest of 16 children, Elorde worked as a shoeshine boy, dishwasher, street vendor and construction worker before venturing into boxing.

At the age of 16, the cat-quick southpaw made his professional debut on June 16, 1951. He readily made an impact with a fourth round stoppage of Kid Gonzaga. In just his first 14 fights, he went on to snatch the Philippine and Asian bantamweight titles.

Elorde further cemented his status as a rising star when he stunned the legendary featherweight champ Sandy Saddler in a non-title bout in 1955. The following year, they had a rematch with Saddler’s featherweight belt on the line. Unfortunately, Elorde suffered a cut in his eye and eventually lost via 13th round TKO.

The fighting pride of Bogo City in northern Cebu had his first taste of worldwide glory when he dethroned Harold Gomez via seventh round knockout to emerge as the world super featherweight king on March 16, 1960. He defended his crown 10 times until June 15, 1967 when he lost by majority decision to Yoshiaki Numata of Japan. That made him the longest reigning Filipino world boxing champion (seven years and three months), a record that was broken by Donnie ‘Ahas” Nietes of the ALA Gym in 2013.

In 1983, Elorde was honored as the greatest super featherweight champion of all time at the 20th anniversary banquet of the World Boxing (WBC) in New York City. A decade later, he became the first Asian inducted into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame. He retired with a record of 88 wins (33 KOs), 27 losses and 2 draws.

At the age of 49, Elorde died of lung cancer on January 2, 1985.

As a tribute to his greatness, the annual Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde Boxing Awards Banquet of Champions has been established by Elorde’s son Johnny. It has now become an inspiring event for aspiring Filipino boxers.

A street that connects F. Llamas to Maria Gochan in Cebu City has also been named in Elorde’s honor, making sure that he will not be forgotten for generations to come. (FREEMAN)

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