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.


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