Daily Archives: June 21, 2008

The road to fame and glory

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

MANNY ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao’s rise to boxing fame widely opened the doors for Filipino fighters to penetrate the international boxing scene. However, before this generation, a number of Filipino boxers have made a mark in boxing history, starting in the 1920s.

Military matches

The introduction of the sport by US servicemen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was seen as the potential solution to reduce the rate of crimes and vices among soldiers and sailors. The reason — to train for boxing, fighters had to avoid tobacco, alcohol and sexual activity.

In 1902, the US’ Pacific Fleet replaced its Japanese staff with Filipinos who took up shipboard boxing. Then in October 1928, Francisco “Eddie” Duarte had his first public match at the Olympic Club of Tacoma, Washington. The 20-year-old Duarte fought against a 148-pound American Indian by unanimous decision. Weighing only 128 pounds, Duarte won the match via unanimous decision in only four rounds. He later on fought in Alaska, Canada and the US. Duarte returned to the Philippines and was regarded as a hero. After a number of battles at the Manila Stadium, Duarte won against Antonio Zuzuarrigue, a welter who had gained distinction while Duarte was roaming around the world.

But it was only in 1920 when Manuel Soriano, a Filipino boxer, got as far as the finals for the Bantam Fleet belt in Madison Square Garden in New York, according to The Origins of Philippines Boxing, 1899-1929, written by Joseph R. Svinth for the Journal of Combative Sports. Although he was defeated in the match, the very next year, another Filipino, Jose Javier from the USS South Dakota, won the flyweight championship of the Atlantic and Pacific fleets combined. There were also other early naval boxers like Juan “Johnny” Candelaria, who fought in Honolulu (1919) and Manila (1920), as well as the tiniest of them all, Young Dencio of the USS Mayflower, who weighed only tipped the beams at 100 pounds that time and yet fought with other fighters who weighed as heavy as 116 pounds.

Bootleg boxers

Although a lot of Filipino main event fighters were not very good technically in the 1920s, several from the era still regarded as excellent boxers, including world flyweight champion Francisco “Pancho Villa” Guilledo (see related story). As Norris Mills, the former sports editor of the Manila Daily Bulletin wrote in 1925, most of fighters of the era have been ruined because management rushed them into the main event class before they were even ready. An observation by Frank Churchill indirectly corroborated this in 1924, saying, “There were a great many ambitious Filipino lads who craved ring glory, even at the expense of a broken beezer or a vegetable ear. These boys would storm the club on Wednesday night, begging for a chance to go on. Many of them didn’t have money enough to buy an outfit of ring togs, so we always kept a supply of trunks, shoes, etc., available for them. Lots of ‘em wouldn’t use shoes. There were accustomed to going barefoot and shoes cramped their style.”

So just like moonshine during the Prohibition Era, Philippine boxing came up with bootleg boxers — a haphazard by-product, sloppily produced and rushed out to the ring because of need. Still, there were a number of well-regarded bootleg boxers like Dencio Cabanela, who was of Igorot ancestry. He weighed 128 pounds at the age of 20 and had a 17-inch neck. However, in 1921, he became the first of three Filipinos managed by Frank Churchill to die of ring-related causes.

Others bootleg boxers include the Flores brothers — Francisco, Elino, Macario and Ireneo — who all started fighting professionally at the age of 13 or 14. All of them fought in the US or Australia and were managed by their mother.

Featherweight Sylvino Jamito started his career in 1916 and claimed the lightweight championship of the Philippines. According to the Everlast Boxing Record Book (1923), he only lost five of his career record of 49 fights.

Pete Sarmiento, a bantamweight, was also managed by Frank Churchill. Born in Floridablanca, Pampanga, at age 22, he stood 5’3 and weighed 118 pounds and fought in California during the mid-1920s. Lightweight Macario Villon in 1921 defeated Bud Taylor in Manila in a 20-round fight and Jerry Monohan in 1922. However, in 1923, he lost to Sylvino Jamito and Ireneo Flores but later on knocked out boxer Frankie Farren in San Francisco on June 2, 1925.

Of collegiate and boxing in Hawaii

Dating back to 1923, collegiate boxing was also driven from the US Army. Apparently, then Philippine Governor General Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood wanted to “see the Filipino youth master the manly arts of self-defense – wrestling and boxing.” Gen. Wood realized from experience that sports can develop men to become high class citizens, because as quoted by Pablo Anido in The Ring, “Boxing develops every muscle in the human body, quickens the brain, sharpens the wits, imparts force, and, above all, it teaches self-control.

This was the reason for introducing boxing at the University of Manila, where it soon became a major sport In 1930, the Philippines sent a collegiate team to Tokyo to compete in the Far Eastern Championship Games composed of Villanueva (flyweight), John Gray and Guillermo Lazaro (bantamweight), Carlos dela Rosa (featherweight), Alejandro Florentino (lightweight) and Carlos Padilla (welterweight). Although the team fared well, they eventually withdrew to protest the Japanese referees’ allegedly arbitrary rulings.

In Hawaii, Filipinos also fought prior to its legalization. Then, prizefighting was illegal in the Territory of Hawaii until 1929, under Section 320 of the US Code. However, this code was widely ignored, as in 1915, the Judge Advocate General of the Army allowed soldiers to box in garrison provided that there were no admission charges, challenges from the ring, announced decisions at the conclusions of fights and obvious gambling. Like in Manila, military fights were not open to civilian spectators, due to restrictions against soldiers fighting civilians. Regardless of the restrictions and annoyed civilian boxing fans, bootleg boxing in Hawaii happened from 1915 to 1929. To twist the law, the legal route done was to reason out that the fights were not prizefights. Instead, 3 or 4-round exhibitions were held solely for private clubs.

Racially segregated, Hawaiian bootleg fight clubs included the popular Rizal Athletic Club in Honolulu. Holding its first smoker in July 1922, the club featured Kid Parco, Patsy Fernandez and Kid Carpenterio. Other Filipinos who fought in Hawaii prior to legalizations included Battling Bolo, Young Malicio, Clever Feder, Pedro Suerta, Moniz, Santiago and Cabayon. However, the only money to made through boxing in Hawaii was through side betting. Because of this, Filipino fighters such as Carpenterio tried to earn money through exhibition bouts with wrestlers and judoka.

It was hard climb up to the mountain of boxing success for many Filipino fighters. But slowly, our Pinoy boxers — like Pancho Villa, Flash Elorde, Dodie Boy Penalosa and Rolando Navarette to name a few — have fought their way up to earn titles and the respect of boxing fans worldwide.


Leave a comment

Filed under Feature

Beach Voice

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – They were there. From ABS-CBN to GMA-7 and RMN, even voices from the past like the legendary sports analyst Hermie Rivera. They were fishing for a story at the Santa Monica Pier. The AJ caught the big ones, from Freddie Roach to Bob Arum.

Manny Pacquiao strode into Mariasol Restaurant and headed straight to the deck that looks out to the Pacific Ocean. He was late. But no one cared, including boxing promoter Bob Arum, who had arrived earlier and was already giving one-on-one interviews to journalists. Even Pacquiao’s opponent, David Diaz, was already giving an interview to Filipino television journalist Chino Trinidad of GMA 7.

Pacquiao never arrives on time, even for a workout at his favorite gym in Hollywood. Maybe he thinks that’s fashionable, but Bob Arum, Paquiao’s promoter, doesn’t seem to mind. He is genuinely like a doting father to Pacquiao, hugging him, and complimenting him profusely after winning a fight.

On one of the tables, a forlorn-looking David Diaz was talking to Filipino television journalist Chino Trinidad. Someone informed me that Chino is the son of vaunted sportswriter Recah Trinidad and I wondered if Recah himself would cover the Pacquiao-Diaz fight this Saturday. He covered the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch last Spring. I got to extract from him an analysis, telling me that he held Barrera in high regard.

I asked my colleague Ricky Morales, ABS-CBN and KSCI 18 cameraman, why Pacquio’s camp needed to call a second press conference (A third is scheduled for Wednesday at Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas). Ricky told me that Mexicans have not totally embraced Diaz because he was born and raised in the United States. Because of this, Mexican boxing fans have not accorded Diaz the same adoration and respect they gave other Mexican pugilists that had fought Pacquiao in the past. Mexican-Americans are mighty proud of their Mexican fighters, and Diaz, who speaks Spanish well, and English even better, is not considered Mexican enough.

Hermie Rivera, who used to be a broadcast journalist and sports analyst, joined my group, which included Joseph Pimentel and Andy Tecson. Now in his seventies, Hermie told us that Paquiao has the edge in all departments, calling the General Santos City boxer a 4-1 favorite. “Hindi madedehado si Pacquiao diyan,” he said. Hermie is semi-retired and has five grandchildren. In his prime, Hermie was was one of the stalwarts of RMN, one of the television networks in Manila. He had worked with Joe Cantada, Ed Tipton, Milt Alingod, and Ronnie Nathanielz, the Ceylonese journalist who was accorded Philippine citizenship by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hermie told us that he would be interviewed by GMA reporter Lei Alviz.

Pacquiao is upbeat about his coming bout with Diaz, although his mien, almost always composed, did not show it. He was given the opportunity to speak first and I noticed his English has improved considerably. I had watched him address the mainstream sports press on several occasions, and had noted that he had gained the ability not only to speak English better, but he had also acquired an endearing savoir faire when fielding the questions of American boxing journalists.

“Here we go again,” he told dozens of photographers and reporters. “I am looking forward to a good fight between me and David Diaz. I will do my best to make people happy,” he said. “Don’t miss it. Please watch the fight in Las Vegas or watch it on Pay-Per-View.”

“My job is to make big fights available even though they (Pacquiao and Diaz) are both my fighters,” Arum declared. “I have to make them available.”

I talked to Ben Delgado, who, I was told, is always with Pacquiao in every important bout. Mang Ben, who is from Davao, told me that Pacquiao is a creature of habit and a very religious man. “He prays always and go[sic] to Mass on Sundays,” Mang Ben said. Mang Ben had been with Pacquiao since 2001. A former boxer himself, he fought professionally from 1959 until 1963. After his boxing stint, be became a trainer and had trained three Filipino boxers who all became champions — Rolando Pascua, WBC junior flyweight champion in 1990; Bernie Torres, IBF junior bantamweight champion in the Philippines; and Manny Pacqauio, who defeated Lihlo Lebwaba in the junior featherweight division in 2001.

Would Pacquiao win this match? As a creature of habit, there is no doubt that he will.


Leave a comment

Filed under News

Requiem for a champ

Along with Pancho Villa and Filipino Super featherweight slugger Manny Pacquiao,Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, WBC Junior lightweight champion of the 60’s. He was named “The greatest world junior lightweight boxing champion in WBC history” in 1974. The junior lightweight division has since then evolved into what is now the super featherweight in the World Boxing Council.

According to Wikipedia, Elorde was the WBC Junior lightweight (Super featherweight) champion from March 20, 1960 until June 15, 1967, making him the longest-reigning world junior lightweight champion.

“In the fascinating history of boxing, Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde stands out as the greatest of all time, not merely for his incredible skill and raw courage but even more so for the exemplary human qualities that shone like a beacon among the heroes of our time,” Ronnie Natahanielsz wrote about the boxing champ. Elorde had 44 title fights, 15 of which were for world titles.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) regards Elorde as the best fighter not only in the Philippines, but in the Asia-Pacific region as well. Elorde and Villa are the only two Filipino fighters to join the ranks of IBHOF in New York.

Born on March 25, 1935 in the farmers’ town of Bogo,Cebu in the Philippines, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was the youngest in a family of sixteen.

Elorde was no stranger to poverty. Ronnie Natahanielsz, a close friend of Elorde, wrote in an article that “Elorde worked as a pier hand, a dishwasher on an inter-island cargo boat and a pinboy in a bowling alley to punch his way to the world lightweight crown, in the process winning international acclaim and hearts of millions of his countrymen.”

At barely 16 years of age, the famed southpaw became a professional fighter — a champ that cut across the whole spectrum –from bantamweight to lightweight.

At 17, Elorde won the oriental bantamweight title against Horishi Hiroguchi in Tokyo, Japan. He won by unanimous decision with all three Japanese judges scoring the fight in his favor. Elorde has since then earned the respect and admiration of Japanese boxing fans.

In a non-title bout, he outpointed all-time featherweight champion Sandy Saddler in 1955. A 1956 rematch in Cow Palace in San Francisco, this time with Saddler’s featherweight title on the line, left Elorde with a cut eye. He lost the fight TKO on the 13th round. The eminent Carlos P. Romulo, Philippine Ambassador to Washington, told Elorde “you may have lost the fight, but you won the hearts of Americans by your gallantry.”

Although still a ranked contender, Elorde never got another title shot for the rest of the decade. In 1957, Elorde won the Philippine lightweight title over Tommy Romulo and the Orient lightweight belt a month later after beating Hideto Kobayashi of Japan in Nagoya.

In 1960, during the inauguration of Araneta Coliseum (regarded as the Mecca of Philippine sports and entertainment), Elorde won a seventh round knockout victory over Harold Gomes, world junior lightweight champion of the United States.

Elorde was afforded a ticker-tape parade and a courtesy call from President Carlos P. Garcia after the match. The whole nation, including celebrities, ubiquitously rejoiced his victory as world champion.

However, his inevitable decline came in 1966. He lost the oriental lightweight title to Yoshiaki Numata and a rematch with Carlos Ortiz at Madison Square Garden. In June 1967, Elorde lost the world junior lightweight crown to Numata, a title that he held on to for almost seven and a half years.

After he retired, Elorde became a prominent commercial endorser and is fondly remembered for his famous line in a San Miguel Beer commercial –“isang platitong mani” (a saucer of peanuts).

The champ was only 49 years old when he succumbed to lung cancer on January 2, 1985. He retired with a record of 88 wins (33 KOs), 27 losses and 2 draws and a career that spanned for more than ten years.

In 1993, Elorde was enshrined in the Boxing Hall of Fame.


Leave a comment

Filed under Feature

Lord of the ‘ring’

A SHORT but great life — this is how we can describe legendary Filipino flyweight boxer Pancho Villa.

Born as Francisco Guilledo on August 1, 1901 in Iloilo, his nome de guerre “Pancho Villa” was given to him by Paquito Villa, a Filipino ice plant manager who managed his career along with American boxing promoter Frank E. Churchill (although some reports claim that he adopted his name after the famous Mexican revolutionary). Touted by the Associate Press as the greatest flyweight of the century, Villa was also the first world champion from Asia.

When he was 11 years old, Villa befriended a local boxer and later on went to Manila with him. Later on, the 5’1″ Villa would spar with friends, which attracted the attention of local boxing afficionados. In 1919, Villa had his first professional fight against Kid Castro. In two years, he claimed the Philippine flyweight title from “Terrible Pondong.”

Explosive and unrelenting in the ring, Villa placed the Philippines on the map by defeating the toughest flyweights in the US and Europe. In 1922, he received an invitation from famed boxing promoter Tex Rickard and won his first international fight against Abe Attel Goldstein in Jersey City. He then later on fought and defeated Frankie Genaro the same year. By this time, Villa had caught the attention of boxing aficionados.

Having been in the American phase of his career for only four months, he fought and defeated American flyweight champion Johnny Buff on September 15, 1922 in the 11th round. However, Villa lost his title the following year to Genaro on points that were widely criticized by boxing fans. His defeat to Genaro proved to be the fateful twist in his boxing career. Jimmy Wilde, a Welsh-born boxer and former world flyweight champion had decided to get out of his recent retirement and sought the then vacant world flyweight championship in a fight to be staged in the US. Although Genaro was the logical choice to fight against Wilde, Villa’s growing popularity convinced promoters that the latter would prove to be the better draw.

On June 18, 1923 at the Polo Grounds in New York, Villa was cheered to victory by over 20,000 screaming fans. It only took Villa seven rounds to knock out Wilde — via a crashing right to his jaw.

The death of the king

Being the king of the ring, Villa also lived a lifestyle that is fit for royalty. Rising from rags to riches, he was famous for his magnificent wardrobe, his collection of silk shirts, pearl buttons, gold cufflinks and his royal entourage. He had his own group of servants — one to massage him, another to towel him, a valet to put on his shoes, another to help him to put his trousers, still another to comb his hair, powder his cheeks and spray him with expensive perfumes. Loved for his extravagance, he was adored by Filipinos but was perhaps more idolized as a showman rather than as a boxer.

Although he successfully defended his title several times in the US and the Philippines, and was considered as an invicible force, Villa’s death was outside the kingdom of the ring. During a scheduled non-title fight against Jimmy McLarnin in July 4 1925 at Oakland, Villa’s face became swollen due to an ulcerated tooth. On the morning of his fight, Villa’s tooth was extracted and despite the pain and swelling, he still insisted on going ahead with McLarnin and lost. Three days later, Villa had three more tooth extracted after an infection was discovered. In spite of being advised to rest, Villa went on partying with his friends. His condition worsened and by July 13, 1925, he was rushed to the hospital where it was found out that the infection had spread to his throat. While in surgery, Villa lapsed into a coma and died the following day at the young age of 23.

His fights were legendary, his brief life as colorful. Villa has continued to be one of the greatest fighters in the world. In 1994, he was enshrined into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame, one of the only four Asians. (www.asianjournal.com)

Leave a comment

Filed under Feature

It’s TIME!

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

NEW YORK – Arnel Pineda and more and more Filipino Artists are making that journey into the mainstream

The Arnel Pineda phenomenon continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

First up was GQ, then now Time Magazine. Of course, there’s also the Ellen de Generes Show and CBS News’ Sunday Morning.

It’s not everyday that we get to see fellow Filipinos being featured by these mainstream publications (and T V shows) so when GQ devoted seven (seven !) pages to Pineda’s rise to mega superstardom, I had to buy my copies and I had to tell my friends about it.

This week, it’s Time Magazine which chronicled Pineda’s ascent to fame. The article entitled “Journey’s Filipino Frontman Welcomed with Open Arms” delved on the band’s 33-year history, and their future now that they have found their main man.

“Thirty-three years after its birth, Journey is getting a second wind from an unexpected place. In December, the band signed on new lead vocalist Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer who they found leading a Manila cover band on YouTube. Six months later, the band has kicked off a tour of Europe and the U.S. and released Revelation, a new album featuring original songs and re-recorded classics that has already shot up to the fi fth highest-selling album in the U.S. since its debut two weeks ago,” the article said.

Time also likened Pineda’s discovery as that of Cinderella’s.

We all know what happened. Neal Schon turned to the internet to find their band’s vocalist. CBS News said, “Schon searched the web for a voice that could take Journey into the future by doing justice to its past.”

After two days of surfing, he came upon video files of Pineda and his band The Zoo on You-Tube and he was surprised to see (and hear!) Pineda nail all the high notes of the power ballads that the band covered. The band covered everything and everyone from Sting to Led Zeppelin to the Beatles to Styx to Journey. He contacted Pineda and asked him to come to the US to audition.

Pineda could not believe his luck. He could not believe that Neal Schon himself was calling him. “I’m just a guy from the Philippines,” he quipped. Pineda applied for a US visa. That one in itself is an inspiring story.  It was serendipity working its magic on one deserving soul.

His path to Journey

Arnel Pineda’s journey to Journey was not a smooth ride at all.

By now, we know what Pineda had to go through to be where he is right now. To say that he struggled would be an understatement. When he was 13, his mother passed away due to a lingering illness. Medical expenses drained the family’s coffers.

“Not wanting to burden his father, Pineda struck out on his own, collecting newspapers and bottles, and living on the street for nearly two years. When he was 15, a friend encouraged him to start singing again, beginning Pineda’s 25-year career as a cover band singer in the Philippines and Hong Kong,” Time Magazine described.

GQ’s article, aptly titled He Didn’t Stop Believin’, focused not just on Journey’s history but also on The Zoo’s story, Pineda’s band before he hit it big time. A great part of the article dwelled on Pineda’s past life.

“Pineda may have the most Dickensian backstory in rock history,” the GQ article said.

This is the rags-to-riches analysis of Pineda’s past. He used to collect scrap metal, bottles and old newspapers. He used to sleep on the park benches in Luneta, “alone or with a group of other homeless kids.” They also drank and bathed from a park’s fountain. What Pineda faced and conquered were tough challenges that could easily break one’s weak soul. He was however, different from the rest. He was strong and he had resolve.

What endears him to his millions of Filipino fans around theworld is that he persevered and he rose from adversity. He was given a hard time but he didn’t complain. He worked his butt off and now he’s reaping the rewards.

The band may have gotten him as a replacement for Steve Perry, and that’s where a lot of web discussions abound. Steve Perry is Steve Perry, and Arnel Pineda will never be a Steve Perry (although he can sound like him) because he has his own style, his own way to charm his audience.

As author Alex Pappademas wrote in the GQ article, “…he is a professional lead singer and a good one, which means he is a virtuoso whose instrument is his own charisma.”


Leave a comment

Filed under Feature