Without a doubt, the Philippines is one of the most passionate countries in the world when it comes to the sport of boxing. Boxing is recognized in the Philippines as a major national sport, right next to its beloved basketball.
There’s a boxing gym in nearly every neighborhood, and you can find many young up-and-coming stars training at every corner. Even in the remote provinces, where modern technology and resources are scarce, young fighters train with makeshift equipment and gear, using only what they have available like sacks of rice for heavy bags and socks for gloves.
It’s no wonder that the Philippines has also produced some of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport. Filipino World Champions who have inspired generations have graced the boxing ring over the years, and it’s time we celebrate them.
Let’s examine some of the biggest names in Philippine boxing and their amazing careers. Today, Evolve Daily lists the five greatest Filipino boxers in history.
1) Manny Pacquiao
Ask any boxing fan today who the greatest Filipino boxer is, and more often than not, they will say Manny Pacquiao.
The biggest reason Pacquiao is considered the best to ever do it is because of his body of work. Pacquiao, in his prime, was the complete package. He was the perfect combination of speed, power, and aggressiveness. Not to mention, he was also a physical freak of nature in his best years.
From flyweight to super welterweight, Pacquiao is the only boxer in history to have claimed eight world titles in as many divisions, including 12 major world titles. He’s also the first boxer to win lineal world titles in five different weight classes.
Notable victories include wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto, among others. His hit list contains current and future Hall of Famers.
Pacquiao is considered a generational talent. He’s earned over US $1.2 billion across 25 pay-per-view bouts. Though he still actively competes today, Pacquiao also serves as a Senator of the Philippines.
Needless to say, Pacquiao is one of the greatest boxers of all time, and he tops this list.
2) Ceferino Garcia
Coming in at a close second is the late great Ceferino Garcia. Famous for having been the originator of the “Bolo Punch” (although Filipino boxing historians claim other fighters in the country used it before him), Garcia is the only boxer from the Philippines to have won the middleweight world title.
Competing between 1923 and 1945, Garcia owns the most wins ever by a Filipino boxer, ending his career with a record of 120 victories, 30 defeats, and 14 draws. 76 of his victories came inside the distance.
After his career, Garcia was inducted into The Ring Magazine’s Hall of Fame in 1977 and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1989. He also became an actor in his later years, appearing in a few roles in Hollywood films. He passed away in 1981 in San Diego, California.
3) Pancho Villa
Originally Francisco Guilledo, the boxer known as “Pancho Villa” was a Filipino fighter who competed between 1919 and 1925. He’s an absolute legend, and the first fighter of Asian descent to win the flyweight world championship in 1923. Standing only 5-feet-1-inch tall, Villa never stepped onto the scales at more than 114-pounds.
Still, Villa earned his reputation as one of the greatest flyweights in the history of the sport.
Without Villa, none of the other fighters in this list would have ever made it. Villa made boxing a popular sport in the Philippines.
Villa’s greatest achievement was defeating fellow legend, British boxer Jimmy Wilde, to win the world championship. With his victory over Wilde, Villa became the first Filipino world champion, and he instantly became a national hero. He would go on to defend the belt three times over a two-year span.
4) Flash Elorde
You can’t talk about Filipino boxing without mentioning the name Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.
Competing between 1951 and 1971, Elorde is widely regarded as one of the best super featherweights in boxing history. After winning the lineal super featherweight world title in 1960, he went on to capture the WBC and WBA super featherweight titles in 1963. He holds a record for the longest reign in the division, which spans seven years.
In his prominence, Elorde was a national icon, with millions of fans all over the country. A fiery southpaw with blinding speed and incredible skills, he was the first international boxing champion since Ceferino Garcia. Elorde’s unique boxing style, based loosely on Filipino martial art Eskrima, was once also known to have inspired Muhammad Ali, whom he considered a friend.
Today, the Elorde family name is synonymous with boxing in the Philippines. The family owns a chain of boxing gyms with locations all across the country.
5) Little Dado
Eleuterio Zapanta, more popularly known as “Little Dado,” was listed by The Ring magazine in 1996 as the fifth-greatest Filipino boxer in history.
Although he did not have as long and as glorious of a career as the other names on this list, Little Dado still accomplished much with the time he spent in the ring. He was one of the top fighters in the world during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.
When he ended his career in 1943, Little Dado was ranked among the top five flyweights in the world by most publications, and even clinched the #1 spot in the rankings at a time when the flyweight title was vacant in 1939.
He finished his professional run with 73 wins, 6 losses, and 11 draws, including 22 wins by knockout. Over his career, he captured the California bantamweight title, the bantamweight world title, the flyweight world title, the Hawaii bantamweight title, and the NBA flyweight title.
Just outside the top five: Erbito Salavarria, Little Pancho, Small Montana, Nonito Donaire, Gerry Penalosa, Brian Viloria, and Donnie Nietes.
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