After several years of failed negotiations, the much-awaited megabout and WBO-WBC featherweight unification title fight between world boxing icons Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. will finally push through at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 2. Many boxing fans eagerly await what is dubbed the fight of the century and the richest bout in boxing history.
Pacquiao’s unprecedented rise to prominence recalls the many Filipinos and Filipino Americans who have delighted their countrymen and the Americans over the years with their remarkable performances and achievements. In the San Franciso Bay Area alone, two FilAms won Olympic gold medals – Victoria Manalo Draves and Natalie Coughlin. In boxing, Pancho Villa (real name: Francisco Guilledo) was the first Filipino world and American boxing champion who fascinated America and the world in 1920s. He was a typical Filipino fighter from Negros Occidental who, like Victoria Manalo stood at five feet and an inch tall. Despite his handicap in height, weight and reach – he never weighed more than 114 lbs (51 kg) – he conquered all his foes in the ring and emerged as one of the most colorful boxers in the world in his time. Pancho Villa was introduced in the US when he fought and defeated Abe Goldstein in Jersey City on June 7, 1922. Then he fought Frankie Genaro and famous boxer Johnny Buff whom he knocked out. Later he fought Jimmy Wilde, and wrestled the World Flyweight Champion title.
Pancho Villa was inducted belatedly into the Hall of Fame of Boxing and considered one of the two best of all time greats in his class. The Filipino, then fighting as an American national, was never knocked out in his boxing career and many acclaimed him as “the greatest Asian fighter in boxing history.” Later came Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, who shocked the Americans on March 16, 1960 when he brought American Harold Gomes to his knees to capture the junior lightweight division crown. Is victory ushered in his colorful boxing career that included defense of the world title in seven consecutive years and aa total of 107 fights, winning 79, including eight via knockout.
Expectedly, the boxing world is now polarized between Pacquiao and Mayweather as their fight nears. Whatever would be the results should be accepted by the losing camp. What is important is that both fighters should demonstrate exemplary sportsmanship as they set the standards of how sports superstars should behave before the public eye. This may yet be the greatest legacy Pacquiao and Mayweather can give to the sport of boxing.