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List of Articles by Rene Bonsubre, Jr.


 

Pancho Villa’s Homecoming

By Rene Bonsubre, Jr.
PhilBoxing.com
03 Aug 2006

Pancho Villa (Francisco Guilledo) made history in 1923 with his epic seven round knockout win over Jimmy Wilde for the world flyweight title. He then fought an incredible twenty three times from July 1923 to August 1924. Most of them were non-title bouts. He already had three successful title defenses in the States, all 15 round decisions, over Benny Schwartz (Oct. 1923), Georgie Marks (Feb. 1924) and Frankie Ash (May 1924). Villa was described as a fast, two-fisted battler with a stinging left jab.

Villa’s record on boxrec.com mentioned that on September 16, 1924, the NYSAC suspended Villa for eight months because of his alleged refusal to defend his Flyweight Title against Frankie Genaro on September 23. Villa said he had injured a shoulder while training; yet he remained suspended by the NYSAC. So, thus suspended, Villa headed home to the Philippines.

A few months ago, I came across an old book Philippine Sports Greats by Jorge Afable, which is a compilation of stories on the country’s pioneering sportsmen. It was stated that Villa was diagnosed during this time with bursitis thus would explain his painful shoulder. It also stated that he was eager to return to Manila because his wife, Gliceria, was expecting a child.

On October 1924, he rode the SS President Grant to the Philippines. He was greeted like a conquering hero. There was a ticker tape parade and a Malacaņang palace reception.

It was during his return to the Philippines that he fought his countrymen in the ring. Promoter Serafin dela Cruz brought Villa to Iloilo City’s Lyric Sporting club where he initially had four exhibition bouts and he won all of them. He earned a thousand pesos for the effort.

On March 9, 1925 he fought Francisco Pilapil in Iloilo City in a non-title bout and Villa won by 8th round knockout. Pilapil is reported in boxrec.com as the Flyweight Champion of the Vesian Islands. The islands’ name is actually spelled as Visayan. It is the traditional name of the island group in the central part of the Philippines.

But in Philippine Sports Greats, Pilapil was mentioned as Iloilo’s featherweight titlist. The book’s account of the fight stated that Pancho could have finished off Pilapil in the first round had he not been asked by the promoter Dela Cruz to keep the fight going so that the fans could get their money’s worth. In the third round Villa got a lump on the forehead. So he vowed to get Pilapil in the fourth and he did.

There may be discrepancies but whatever round it did happen, Pancho did knock him out. Villa was regularly fighting heavier men during his entire career.

The author described Villa as clever, fast stepping and had the reach and punching power of a featherweight. His left and right were good. He could throw three punches, one to the side, one to the heart and one to the head in rapid succession.

Then on May 1, 1925, Villa defended his title against Clever Sencio (Inocencio Moldes). The fight was held in Wallace Field, Manila. This fight is historic because it marks the first time two Filipino boxers fought for a world boxing championship. Philippine Sports Greats states that it was a sellout and drew a crowd of 50,000 and 150,000 pesos in ticket sales. It only stated that Sencio was not in Villa’s class and the champion won by a 15 round decision. This was the last victory of his career.

The lives of both protagonists would have a tragic ending. It is well known that Villa died due to complications caused by a dental infection. He had an infected tooth extracted hours prior to his July 1925 bout with Jimmy McLarnin in which he lost a ten round decision. He was a few weeks short of his 24th birthday.

Sencio died in 1926 in his fight against Bud Taylor of the U.S. Boxrec.com states that Sencio held Taylor fairly even for nine rounds, but was near collapse at the start of the tenth. A short right to the chin almost knocked him flat. By then he could barely raise his hands. Sencio died from injuries sustained during this bout.

Another bit of historical trivia: Wallace Field was the name given by the Americans to the park area east of the Rizal monument. It had an athletic field often used for rodeo shows and military parades. It was neglected and abandoned a few decades later.

I have tried to obtain detailed news accounts about Villa vs. Sencio. An internet search yielded almost nothing except for a few paragraphs from the ever reliable boxrec.com and their encyclopedia. I know it is hard to find microfilm or archived articles from the 1920’s. But, if any of our readers has an old magazine, newspaper or book stored somewhere about this event, please share it with us.

( P.S.: This article was originally entitled Pancho Villa’s Civil Wars and posted on philippineboxers.com. Portions are deleted because it was previously written as preview for a possible Viloria-Rubillar match up. But fate had other plans. This article is rewritten as homage to Villa’s 105th birth anniversary.)



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