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Pancho Villa: Greatest Asian fighter


Long before the Philippines had Manny Pacquiao, or even Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, there was a Filipino boxer who mesmerized American boxing fans — Pancho Villa, the legendary name used by flyweight boxer Francisco Guilledo, who won the world flyweight boxing championship in 1923, gaining the honor as "the greatest Asian fighter in boxing history," according to wikipedia.org. Villa, before he died at age 24, had 105 professional fights, posting a record of 73 wins (25 KOs), 5 losses, 4 draws, and 23 no-decisions. At 11, Vila was born August 1, 1901, in Iloilo where he befriended a local boxer. The two went to Manila, settling in Tondo. Villa, who stood only 5'-1", would spar with friends and later attracted the attention of local boxing aficionados. His first professional fight was in 1919 against Kid Castro. In two years, he claimed the Philippine flyweight title from Terrible Pondo. In 1922 he went back to Negros after being spurned by a women he courted. He was talked into going back to boxing by his managers. American boxing promoter Frank E. Churchill, who is based in Manila, and Paquito Villa, a Filipino ice plant manager, managed the boxer's career. It was Paquito who renamed him. In may of 1922, Villa was invited by boxing promoter Tex Rickard to fight in the United States. He sailed to the USA with Churchill and Paquito Villa. He immediately made a name for himself by beating Abe Attel Goldstein in Jersey City on June 7, 1922. Afterwards he fought Frankie Genaro on August 22, 1922. After the victory, he was scheduled to fight American flyweight champion Johnny Buff on September 15, 1922. Villa upset Buff, knocking down the champion on the 11th round to win the American Flyweight title. Villa lost the crown to Genaro on a controversial decision. Because of Villa's popularity, Jimmy Wilde, the Welsh-born boxer came out of retirement and pursued the Filipino to fight him for the world flyweight crown. On June 18, 1923, Villa defeated Wilde at the Polo Grounds in New York in front of a 20,000 screaming fans. Villa won by knockout on the 7th round by a single right to Wilde's jaw. Villa defended his title several times and was still the champ until his death two years later. Villa returned to a hero's welcome in Manila on September 1924. He was invited to Malacañang for a victory party. Then on May 2, 1925 he fouth against Clever Sencio in Manila for his final victory. The Filipino boxer returned to the United States for his non-title fight against Jimmy McLarnin scheduled for July 4, 1925, at Ewing Field in Oakland. Days before the fight, Villa's face was swollen due to an ulcerated tooth. Despite his swollen face, Villa fought McLarnin and eventually lost. After the McLarnin fight, Villa went back to the dentist to have more teeth extracted after an infection was discovered. Instead of following his dentist's advice to rest, Villa went out with friends, and on July 13, 1925, he was rushed to the hospital where it was found out that the infection has spread to his throat. While being rushed to surgery, he lapsed into coma and died the following day, July 14, 1925. He was only 24. Villa's remains were returned to Manila in August 1925. He was buried at the Manila North Cemetery's Main Avenue corner 23rd street, just a few meters away from where President Manuel Roxas is buried. Villa's grave is marked by his bust with an angel and a brown pair of gloves. In 1961, Ring Magazine put the boxing legend in its Hall of Fame. In 1994, he was aslo enshrined om the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the second Filipino to be honored following Flash Elorde, who was born seven years after Villa's death. - GMANews.TV
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